Add VoIP Calling To Android Phones Now

Built-in support for Voice over IP (VoIP) is one of the new features coming in Android 2.3, but I have that capability today on my Nexus One, and you can add it to your Android phone too. Back in October Doug Simmons wrote a great article that explains how to set up VoIP and Android and configure it to work with Google Voice. I have been using the configuration for a month to send and receive calls on my Nexus One in my home office that is in the basement of our condo, where I have very sporadic T-Mobile coverage.

I won’t rewrite the instructions that Doug provides, but at a high level, here is what you do. First, create a free Sipgate account. Sipgate is one of several VoIP providers that provides free phone numbers for in-bound calls, and charges about 2 centers per minute for outbound calls. One nice feature about Sipgate is that you can configure what number it displays on caller ID when it makes a call, and I have configured it to display my Google Voice Number. With the free Sipgate phone number, it is fairly straight forward to configure Google Voice to route calls to that number.

The next major step is to install a SIP Android app on your phone, and you will find a free app called CSipSimple in the Android Market. Doug provides the instructions for configuring CSipSimple to work with Sipgate, and after you follow all of the steps you will be able to receive calls on your Android phone over WiFi. I have calls dialed to my Google Voice number routing to my SipGate number that rings on my Nexus One during the evening and on weekends, when I am likely to be home. While I could receive calls on a 3G connection, I have configured CSipSimple to only use WiFi connections.

In the basic configuration, you are able to receive VoIP calls for free but pay for outbound calls. I have kept this configuration, but Doug also provides instructions that use Google Voice Callback to enable you to make free outbound calls as well using Google Voice. You might recall the original Callback feature with Google Voice, Google Voice Callback enables that feature. You initiate the call and Google Voice calls your number, which you configure to be your Sipgate number, and then completes the call.

I have found the entire set up works very well. CSipSimple has the ability to use the proximity sensor to turn of the phone display like the native phone app, but that I have found that feature does affect call quality, so I have turned it off, so I either use speaker phone or a Bluetooth headset to for VoIP calls.

One nice feature that CSipSimple provides is integration with Contacts. When you tap a number you get a menu with options to complete the call using CSipSimple or the regular phone app. There are times when CSipSimple is not able to connect to Sipgate, but so far this has not been a significant problem for me.

According to the Android 2.3 User Manual, it’s built-in support for VoIP will work very much like CSipSimple, so the instructions that Doug provides will be useful to those who get Android 2.3 and wish to use VoIP. Like I said before, I am surprised that Google isn’t enhancing Google Voice to support VoIP, but I wouldn’t be surprised if some time soon Google where to provide such services, which we know they have after their aquisition of Gizmo. In the mean time, you can start using VoIP today, and for me the effort of setting it up has been time well spent.