TALK GETS EVEN CHEAPER

Talk is cheap, and getting cheaper. We took a look at VoiceStick, a memory stick that does phone calls. It turns out to be very popular with soldiers overseas, but anyone can use it.

It’s literally a memory stick, a 64MB thumb drive or flash drive or whatever you want to call it, that plugs into a USB port. The company’s special softwareVoiceStick resides on that stick, or you can download it separately. Either way, it’s another way to make low-cost Internet phone calls, but with a lot of features we haven’t seen before.

As with other so-called VoIP services, calls to other VoiceStick users are free and other calls are 1 or 2 cents a minute. The calls can be made to any phone, not just Internet phones.

The most unusual feature is a piece of software called the I2 Bridge. With this, you can register your land line or cell phone number with VoiceStick.com and then use any phone, wherever you are, to make low-cost calls through the VoiceStick service. The key difference here is you do not have to be at a computer or be somewhere with wi-fi Internet access to do this; any phone will do. In fact, if you use a T-Mobile service with unlimited calling to five numbers, you can use your VoiceStick number as one of them, and from there, call the world.

The lowest level service is free, but you must register with a credit card or PayPal. You get $5 worth of credit to start out. You can call most major cities for less than a cent a minute, though calls elsewhere in the United States are 2 cents a minute. For $10 a month you get 400 free minutes in the United States and Canada; for $20 you get unlimited minutes in the United States and Canada; for $25, you get unlimited service to major cities in 40 countries.

We liked the fact that you get a free VoiceStick phone number that sticks with you anywhere you travel, though you have to be at a computer or have Internet access to receive calls. The service provides call-waiting, caller ID, voice mail, call forwarding, conference calls and other features at no extra charge.

Can You Hear Me Now?

A Web site called TestMyVoIp.com tests your high-speed Internet connection against several sample cities, like London, Boston, Vienna, Sydney, etc., to see how well your call would go through. If the rating is high, you can probably count on a clear call overseas.

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