Softphones

Softphones- A lot of people often wonder what softphones are. Best VoIP Review has written this tutorial on softphones so you can understand what softphones are and how to use a softphone. Softphones are a key component of Voice over Internet Protocol.

The word softphone is a compound word formed by combining the words software and telephone. A softphone is a software program that enables voice calls over the Internet, allowing the use of a computer to initiate a phone call, freeing callers from always having to use dedicated telephone hardware. The technology is referred to as Voice over Internet Protocol or VoIP. Softphone software may allow the use of IP phones or USB phones instead of a computer. This article explores the topic of softphones.

Using a Softphone

To use a softphone, one needs several components:

  • a computer
  • an Internet service provider
  • an Internet telephony service provider
  • speakers or a headset
  • a microphone

The Internet telephony service provider controls what types of connections are available and whether there are charges. There are more likely to be charges when calls are between a computer and a telephone, no matter which one initiates the call, whereas calls between two computers are more likely to be free.

In addition, it is important to realize that Internet telephony service providers do not necessarily provide the means to integrate with other service providers, computer users who have different operating systems, or those with different telephone hardware. This means that you and the person you’re calling or you and the person you’re receiving a call from need to be aware of the phone (dedicated hardware or computer) and its operating system, the softphone, the Internet telephony service provider and any other specifications.

Types of Softphone Clients

Softphone clients can be considered as belonging to two categories. General softphone clients are designed for computers. They may be particularly for a single operating system, such as Windows, Linux, or Mac OSX, or geared for interchangeable use by computers using several different operating systems. Several other important characteristics differentiate the softphones.

• General Softphone Clients

Type of license: some are freeware, some are closed proprietary, some are a GNU General Public License.

Type of protocol: there are a number of protocols both in use and that the general softphone clients are made to interact with, including Session Initiation Protocol (SIP), Real-time Transport Protocol (RTP), Extensible Messaging and Presence Protocol (XMPP), Session Traversal Utilities for NAT (STUN; NAT stands for Network Address Translators), Skinny Call Control Protocol (SCCP), and Interactive Connectivity Establishment (ICS), for example.

Type of encryption: some have encryption and some do not.

Additional capabilities: Softphones have a wide variety of additional abilities besides simply carrying voice. Here are some of the key ones:

  • File transfer
  • Video chat
  • Screen-sharing
  • Voicemail
  • Co-browsing
  • Instant Messaging (IM); Text Messaging
  • Call Forwarding
  • Call Transfering
  • Call Recording
  • Integrate with other Internet telephony service providers
  • Conferencing
  • Security
  • Address Book
  • Video Mail
  • Web browser
  • E-mail

Sample clients include AOL Instant Messenger, Cisco IP Communicator, Empathy, Gizmo5, Google Talk, iChat, Lotus Sametime, Mumble, Skype, Windows Live Messenger, and Yahoo! Messenger.

•  Mobile Softphone Clients

Mobile softphone clients are designed for one or more mobile phones, including those with Symbian, Windows Mobile, iPhone, Android, Motorola, Nokia, and Blackberry.

Type of license: some are freeware, some are closed proprietary.

Type of protocol: there are a number of protocols both in use and that the mobile softphone clients are made to interact with, including mainly Session Initiation Protocol (SIP), but also AIM, ICQ, Google Talk, MSN Messenger, Skype, Twitter, Windows Live Messenger, and Yahoo!, for example.

Type of encryption: some have encryption and some do not.

Additional capabilities: Softphones have a wide variety of additional abilities besides simply carrying voice. Here are some of the key ones:

  • File transfer
  • Video chat
  • Voicemail
  • Call Through
  • Call Back
  • Wi-Fi VoIP

Sample clients include fring, Gizmo5, Nimbuzz!, Skype, Truphone, and Windows Mobile 6.

 

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