VoIP Softphones are software applications which, in combination with a speaker/microphone or a headset, can be used to make phone calls over the Internet without a physical phone.
All these phones use Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) technology, offering considerable cost savings for users who conduct voice communications and multimedia sessions over an Internet Protocol network.
VoIP is a technology rich in jargon, technical terms and acronyms. For this reason, let’s start by defining a few of the most common terms used to describe different softphones.
Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) is the most common communications protocol used for IP-based multimedia communication sessions, such as voice and video calls. The SIP protocol is also used for video conferencing, instant messaging and media distribution. SIP is a protocol standard governed by the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF).
Softphones also referred to as SIP Phones or VoIP Phones. There are two types of SIP Phones. The first is a physical handset, purpose built for making calls over the Internet. The second type is the type of software described in this article. These allow people to use their computer in combination with a headset to make phone calls.
Different protocols can be used to process and transfer data using VoIP technology. The VoIP softphone you select must support protocols that your VoIP service provider uses.
Inter-Asterisk eXchange (IAX) is a communications protocol (like SIP) used with the Asterisk private branch exchange software. Some softphones use this protocol to carry VoIP communication sessions between servers and softphone devices.
SIP trunks provide the connection between a private branch exchange (PBX – a telephone system that serves a particular business), and the public telephone network. In doing so, SIP trunking replaces the need for legacy phone lines. Users install an IP-PBX server which removes the need for traditional phone lines and carrier agreements. SIP trunking enables connection between remote network nodes.
Most softphones support common telephone features such as:
This Linux-based softphone handles voice calls and instant messaging. Voice calls can be connected to other IP phones. Used in a network, it can also be used to route calls and messages.
To view the full and comprehensive list of features, refer to the Twinkle About page.
Version 1.4.2 supports integration with Diamond Worldwide Communication Service for making worldwide calls to regular phones and cell phones, and to send and receive SMS messages.
This Linux-based softphone is developed by the Canadian company Savoir-Faire Linux. The softphone is designed to connect to the Asterisk open source PABX. Is is available under the GNU GPL license, version 3.
For a full list of SFLPhone features, visit the SFLPhone features page.
This softphone is classified as a unified communications client that is the default chat client for the Gnome and Fedora Linux desktops. It provides support for text, voice, video chat and file transfer using different protocols.
Empathy uses Telepathy for protocol support. Because Empathy is the default chat client in Gnome, it becomes easier for other Gnome applications to use Telepathy collaboration functionality.
Voice and video support can use different protocols like SIP, XMPP, Google Talk and MSN.
For a full list of features and download instructions, visit the wiki.gnome.org page.
Apart from voice calls, this softphone offers features such as conference calling, call transfer, Instant Messaging and more.
Visit the Freshtel Firefly page for a detailed list of features and a download function.
This softphone is compatible with Windows XP Vista, Windows 7 and 8. It is designed for use by Internet VoIP service providers who require customised SIP software.
For a full list of technical features and download instructions, visit the Minipax download page.
This softphone uses the standard SIP protocol and is designed with an intuitive interface for use on the Windows operating system. You can connect to any SIP server on the Internet or on your local area network.
For a full list of technical specifications and download, visit the Mizutech website.
This is a German-made softphone for the Windows platform. It provides voice calls to landline numbers and to cellular networks.
The main difference between Phoner and PhonerLite is their graphical user interfaces.
Preconditions for using this softphone include a full duplex sound card, a microphone and speakers or a headset. A user account with a SIP VoIP service provider is also required. This softphone can work with most VoIP providers and can also be integrated with the Asterisk PBX software.
Ir relies on a Microsoft Windows API which provides computer telephony integration and enables PCs running Microsoft Windows to use telephone services.
This softphone will integrate with your Mac OS address book, importing all your contacts and making them easy to find. It also has a few more advanced call-handling features, such as call transferring, recording and echo cancellation.
Classic users may upgrade to Pro to enable video, and app users may purchase an In-app to enable video.
A Call Panel provides quick access to all management functionality such as echo cancellation, call recording/transfer and more.
Formerly known as GnomeMeeting, the Ekiga softphone is an open source voice, video and instant messenger client. It support video up to DVD size and quality and HD sound.
See the Ekiga page for detailed features and download link.
This softphone carries VoIP phone applications over 3G or Wi-Fi. It provides voice calls, video, fax, and instant messaging.
It is a standalone VoIP phone application not associated with a VoIP service provider. Clients need to subscribe to a SIP or IAX service provider to use the application.
For more information, visit the ZoiPer website.
CounterPath’s X-Lite helps you seamlessly transition from a traditional phone environment into the world of Voice over IP. This softphone can be downloaded for free at Counterpath.com/xlite.
This softphone offers free basic calling and three-way conferencing and instant messaging.
To use this softphone, you need a SIP enabled PBX or access to an Internet service provider.
A paid version called Brea4 offers additional functionality and is available for purchase at the Counterpath.com website.
This softphone is available for Windows and, as an application, for the iPhone and Android mobile devices. The different versions are labelled with the name Communicator. It provides PC-to-phone, phone-to-PC, and PC-to-PC services.
The mobile application works with a 3G or Wi-Fi connection.
Using this softphone, users can communicate over the Internet on any desktop computer, notebook, PDA, stand-alone IP phone, mobile phone, and even a conventional landline.
The different applications are compatible with most Internet Telephone Services Providers (ITSPs).
It provides voice and video calls and instant messaging. To get started, Adore provides a testing account.
For a full list of features, visit the Adore Softphone webpage.
This softphone is supplied by 3CX Innovative Communications and offers an intuitive interface with a dial pad and buttons.
The company also offers VoIP clients for iOS and Android mobile phones.
The 3CX platform also includes Fax, Voicemail to email, Web conferencing and instant messaging. With the integrated 3CX clients, users can access the unified communications features without any need to download additional software.
A PDF product brochure can be downloaded here.
The free version of this software is only available for non-commercial use.
Voice calls can be made to any other computer that has a softphone installed. An account with a VoIP service provider will add the additional functionality of calling landline numbers.
Up to six telephone lines can be configured with the softphone attached to a VoiP provider or an office PBX.
Download links are listed here.
This is an audio/video and chat communicator supplied as a software solution. The product was formerly known as SIP Communicator. It is an open source program supplied under the LGPL license conditions.
Visit the jitsi.org website for information about development issues.
This softphone can be integrated with services offered by SIP providers and used on a LAN with Bonjour.
Full feature list, download instructions, and inquires available on the Blink webpage.
The software for this softphone can be built in a few simple steps. Instructions are listed on the YakaPhone website. A download link is on the same page.
This softphone app is available for Android devices and the Apple iPhone.
Visit the SipCity webpage for more information and installation instructions.
This is a free mobile application the can be used to make both free and paid phone calls.
The Viber application is available for Android, Apple iOS, Blackberry and Windows Phone.
This is a built-in softphone for Mozilla Thunderbird and Firefox. It can be used with any SIP service provider.