App makers are increasingly finding ways to undercut the traditional cellular service provider models. SMS messaging has been slumping as messaging apps grow in popularity. The writing is on the wall for the standard text message — with an always-on Internet connection there are simply better options. And now, more services are interested in cutting out the middleman for phone calls too.
Google Voice already provides email to SMS conversion for free, as well as offers free calls to any cell or landline in the U.S. from any Gmail account accessed through a computer. Users don’t necessarily have to change their number, and there are a host of other features like voicemail and call screening. While these services don’t enable users to eliminate cell service entirely, they are indicative of where calling could be headed.
Ringo, a calling app, is the logical progression — somewhere between an international calling card and an inexpensive VoIP service from Skype or Google Voice. These services cost less than standard carriers, but Ringo costs even less than they do.
For example, a Skype call to the U.K. from the U.S. would cost $.08 per minute, while Ringo would only charge $.06 cents per minute. While these seem close, Ringo’s site pegs a standard phone call at $1.69 cents per minute, so even if you didn’t choose Ringo, you’re more likely to go with a service that costs cents per minute instead of dollars.
Google, Skype and Ringo are all poised to render cellular providers obsolete, just as cell phones did for the landline. As each new service comes online, the smartphone gets smarter, and the phone part of the handset becomes more peripheral. You can now text 911 in certain areas, so maybe we’re not that far from emailing the fire department.