A Primer on VoIP, Virgin Mobile, Android, and Unlimited Calling’s Holy Grail

PhoneNews.com is going to be the first to walk you through step-by-step how to achieve free, unlimited calling using VoIP, Virgin Mobile, Google Voice, and Android.

But first, a primer on how Voice over Internet Protocols (VoIP) works. VoIP is still rather new. If you like seeing beta stamped on stuff, you can skip to the next article. If you don’t (and can afford the luxury), Sprint’s Simply Everything is only $99 per month.

If you’re somewhere in-between, continue reading. Consider this our pre-tutorial boot camp.

First, VoIP depends on routing calls over the internet. Some of you did not know this, we apologize for the redundancy for those that did. To make a call over the internet, you must have a constantly-active data connection.

That has a few benefits. For example, you can call over Wi-Fi and have better-than-ceullar call quality. You can also surf the web while you’re on hold with outsourced customer service. It does, however, have drawbacks as well.

First, battery life is impacted. You will lose hours of standby time, because your phone constantly has to ping the network. Second, signal matters. If you have one bar of signal, you’re going to want to either use Wi-Fi first, or switch over to your 300 free minutes that are included with Virgin Mobile’s base $25 plan to make that call.

Finally, there’s something called latency on the internet. To pull this off, your call is routed from the caller, to the Google’s servers, to a VoIP provider, to Virgin Mobile, to your phone. That creates what gamers call lag. Now, from our experience, the lag is acceptable if you have a reasonable signal strength (3-5 bars on the Intercept, with an EVDO signal). If you don’t have that level of reception, VoIP isn’t going to do as well, and critical calls should go over Wi-Fi or your 300 minute bucket.

In conclusion, VoIP is new. VoIP is the future, and today, it will let you offload that 3 hour investor conference call off your minute bucket. It shouldn’t be used for many marriage proposals, unless you’re on Wi-Fi or have a good signal.

Can it replace your 2 year contract enslavement? That depends on who you are. Most only use a few hundred minutes each month of critical calls. And, with Wi-Fi, you can offload a lot of those critical calls onto VoIP too. But, if you talk all day long, you may be better off taking the lowest minute contract with your provider, and having Google Voice route outbound calls as inbound calls.

If you have no idea what the last sentence meant, don’t worry, you’re now ready for our guide on how to pull all of this off. So please, continue on to our guide on getting unlimited free calling using Virgin Mobile and the Samsung Intercept.

Update: After a few weeks of testing, issues, and patient waiting, we’ve posted our follow-up article.

Christopher Price is the Founding Editor of PhoneNews.com. Today, he leads the team building Console, Inc. - a new kind of Android™ device. He still likes to pontificate... a lot. You can visit his personal blog at ChristopherPrice.net.

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31 responses to “A Primer on VoIP, Virgin Mobile, Android, and Unlimited Calling’s Holy Grail”

  1. Nick H

    Where is the link to the guide??

  2. Bill

    Just curious if the process is the same as the one listed here:


    Also, does anyone know if the Sprint Airave will work with the Virgin Mobile devices? My Airave is currently open to all Sprint devices.

  3. Yankees368

    I’d love to continue on to your how-to guide, but where is it?

  4. Jon

    HAHA….they are probley re typing how to geeks as we speak. the “first to offer” this site is a joke.

  5. JJ

    If this site is a joke then why are you reading it or even posting a comment? Go somewhere else if you don’t like it.

  6. Christopher Price

    We did post on Twitter that we would be rolling this guide out over three days. Understand, PhoneNews.com writes to a broad audience, and some people who read PhoneNews.com have never made a VoIP from a cell phone ever before.

    The only thing holding up our guide is quality; we’re giving you the step by step with photos, and that should be online some time tomorrow.

  7. Vic

    Come on now, admit it you forgot to say “More coming soon!”.

  8. Jason

    FYI, I got a version of this up and running on the handset using Sipdroid, GVoice callback and a Gizmo5 account.

    Latency was horrible(>1/3 of a second, with full bars) and line quality was very bad according to the person on the other end.

    Also, there is a problem with the coding in Sipdroid and the Samsung handset. Audio is routed to the external speaker. Only way around it I found was to plug in an iphone headset.

    I’m still interested in your solution to see if it’s any better.

  9. jd

    yes the newest version of sipdroid is terrible. older versions work fine.

  10. Jason


    Can you recommend a version of Sipdroid that works better?


  11. Kabuki Kid

    The guide at How To Geek works, but due to whatever limits, the Samsung Intercept is only capable of routing sound through the speakerphone (it has the same problem with Fring and Nimbuzz). Supposedly you can get around that completely by using a compatible wired headset, but unfortunately it does not come with one so I could not try it myself. After plugging in regular headphones, though, I could hear the person on the other end (albeit barely) but the mic on the phone would of course not work. Without a headset plugged in the mic works. Unfortunately your voice will come across as very, very quiet to the recipient, to the degree that more than half the time you will be asked to repeat yourself. I wouldn’t be surprised if the guide here at PhoneNews is being delayed to see if there’s a way around the speakerphone and volume issues.

    My latency is very low on wifi and 3g, so there was not much lag, but the sound quality is pretty bad. There isn’t noticeable static, feedback or anything else that I typically get with voice chat over Fring or Nimbuzz. As I said above, however, the volume is so low that it’s almost unusable on both ends.

    I’m not going to elaborate here, but my overall assessment of the Samsung Intercept is that it’s really only a good phone if you can make use of what it gives you out of the box, namely an inexpensive android phone with the cheapest unlimited data plan in the country. Additionally and surprisingly, the regular, non-voip call quality is above average, easily beating the N and E series phones from Nokia that I’ve owned and currently use (e72 atm).

    Personally I will probably not use it (most likely giving it to my girlfriend or sister), but the Intercept is easily worth the purchase/plan price. Just don’t try to do anything fancy with it. And think about it–if unlimited calling truly did work passably well by exploiting the technological capabilities on the Intercept, we would have heard about it from a much bigger news outlet first.

  12. Jerry

    Will this phone have the same performance issues that the user reviews indicate on the Sprint web-site?

  13. hibob

    “PhoneNews.com is going to be the first to walk you through step-by-step how to achieve free, unlimited calling using VoIP, Virgin Mobile, Google Voice, and Android.”

    Um, might want to actually post the walkthrough before claiming it is the first.

  14. darcyheron

    where is the link to the guide

  15. Vic

    It’s on Twitter! J/K.

    We did post on Twitter that we would be rolling this guide out over three days. Understand, PhoneNews.com writes to a broad audience, and some people who read PhoneNews.com have never made a VoIP from a cell phone ever before.

    The only thing holding up our guide is quality; we’re giving you the step by step with photos, and that should be online some time tomorrow.

  16. MC

    You started a article, then encouraged everyone to follow along leaving us wanting more information. Then, Fring decided to list an application that is already posted everywhere on the net. You follow that up by saying your contemplating puting a hold on the details of the “first walk-through.” It’s great that you could decide for yourself which application you like better or provide an opinion that it may be better. But, you should leave tht up to the reader to decide. Ya think? And I think I’m missing something with regards to the three day roll out. Was there a final decision made as to weather or not you going to finish the article? I’ve check the “Twitter” and no mention.

  17. Lucky

    I have been checking your site and twitter several times a day since this article was posted, hoping that the guide you promised might be completed. However, each time I check it gets more disappointing. I understand and appreciate that you are working so hard to get the CTIA news out there for us, thank you! With all due respect, I was wondering if you might be able to provide us with an ETA for this much anticipated guide. Thank you!

  18. jack spade

    just use the how to greek post that bill post for now its works i try it just only thing u will need to use your headset being thAT VIOCE ONly come out from speaker on phone but it works other than that been useing it on the 25 dollar plan over wifi n cellular network

  19. Jeff

    I picked up that phone for wife. That guide does work, but my call quality wasn’t the best, could have been my signal. Is it OK to use the Apple corded headset or are those not compatible? I like the AnDroid interface better than my work provided Iphone 3GS. I see on twitter the guide is closer to completion. Look forward to reading it. I don’t care if it involves a low charge type setup (FringOut or other).

  20. darcy

    2 weeks later and still no link. hmmmmmm

  21. Lucky

    Here’s a bit of news! The Samsung Intercept is officially SOLD OUT on the their website http://www.virginmobileusa.com (as of 10/18). Pretty big deal since it’s only been available online for about a week. Perhaps this spike of interest means that the VoIP guide should get bumped up to high priority! (HINT HINT). j/k

  22. Jeff

    On related news,where is the new Yahoo messenger for Android? Version 2 I believe that supports voice / video chat?

    I heard they were released to Apple and Google at the same time. Is Google holding it up? I already have it on my Iphone. Want to get it on the Intercept so I can test voice chat.

    This was breaking news around 10/11 10/12, now there is nothing. No app, nothing, just died.

  23. Kabuki Kid

    I’m curious to see if you guys can get this to work at acceptable levels of quality. I haven’t been able to get it to work any better than I mentioned above, so it still has the significant volume issues. And others are telling me the lag is still simply unbearable, though personally I haven’t had as much of an issue with that.

    I thought Fring would be a viable alternative, especially with the introduction of FringOut, but there is no way to get the mic to work. As usual, everything is routed through the speakerphone, but the real problem is that the mic on the phone and the mic on a wired headset don’t work. It’s pretty useless since you will only be able to hear and not make any contribution to the conversation!

    The only option I have found that works passably well is Nimbuzz. Unlike Fring, Nimbuzz actually reads the mic input, whether on the phone or through a compatible wired headset. If most of your calls are with other halfway tech savvy individuals, you could feasibly use Nimbuzz for voice chat and take the load off your voice minutes.

    The only thing I don’t like about Nimbuzz is that like every other voip solution on the Intercept, all audio is routed through the speakerphone. That’s why I use a wired headset. If you don’t mind that, it works. I’ve done it over data and wifi, and both work well. I tested data on connections ranging from 3 to 6 bars, and it’s pretty good quality-wise. The only thing you have to deal with is upwards of 2 second lag in the call. But since the lag is present on both ends anyway, it probably won’t be noticeable if the person on the other end is out of earshot (I tested it with my girlfriend in the next room).

    Has anyone else been trying to leverage the data plan like this? I think my best bet for now is using Nimbuzz with the few people who take up most of my monthly minutes (mine follow the traditional 80/20 rule). If Skype fixes the resolution problem on certain Samsung models, that could work too, if you get a copy with the 3g hack. But so far they won’t divulge details on future plans for the Android version.

  24. Jeff

    Heck I’d be happy with the new Yahoo messenger even if I have to pay a few pennies a minute for calls to a number and maybe pay the $2.50 month for a yahoo phone # for calls in. That is if it worked good.

    But where is the new app? Is google holding it up because they don’t have it?

  25. Kevin

    will checking in daily. this sounds great

  26. darcyheron

    still checking in everyday. Still nothing. Whats going on with this guide. Are you still working on it or have you scrapped it. Would be nice to know.

  27. MC

    I agree with “darcyheron”. I too, have been checking everyday and have been waiting patiently. Also checking twitter to see if there was an update.