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Groove IP vs. Talkatone

I thought I would share my experience on my  Samsung Galaxy S2 Epic 4G Touch running Jelly Bean (4.1) with both Groove IP (and Groove Forwarder) and Talkatone (free version).  

Really, in my mind, it comes down to features and ease of use (Groove IP) vs. call quality (Talkatone).

Groove:  I downloaded the paid version ($4.99) of Groove IP plus Groove Forwarder ($.99) from the Google Play store.  Groove allows you to use it only on WiFi.  When you are on WiFi, the settings allow all you to use the native dialer (one built into the phone) to place calls over Google Voice with Groove IP.  Incoming calls when on WiFi are received via Google Voice/Groove.  When not on WiFi, the phone works as if you did not have Groove, and uses your minutes (which is what you want - not data).  I LOVE the way that everything seamlessly integrates between your native phone app, Google Voice, and Groove IP/Forwarder.  HOWEVER, the call quality (at least for me) what not good at all.  I tried all the different settings, and even emailed tech support and tried their ideas, but when I placed calls it would cut in and out between being clear and being jittery/garbled.  I had my wife call me with my phone using Groove and I went into the garage on our other cell, and I had great difficulty understanding her half the time.  There were some issues with hearing the other person, but they largely were with the other person hearing you.

 Talkatone:  I downloaded Talkatone (free) from Google Play.  There is an option for $9.99 where you can get it without ads (see later for disadvantages) and an option to upgrade to Talkatone Premium for $1.99/mo, which I didn't see any features on that would benefit me.  The big advantage with Talkatone is call quality.  I did the same thing with having my wife call me on my phone with Talkatone, and it was MUCH clearer - almost as good as over the cell phone!  I also called a family member for about a half hour with it, and while they said they occasionally might hear a slight breakup or stutter, it generally was good and we have no trouble having a conversation, and to me the other person sounded perfectly clear.  I think there might be a little bit of a lag, but nothing that you notice unless you are thinking about it.  However, there are a few feature disadvantages, but are some workarounds. 

  1. Ads.  When Talkatone is up, there is usually a small ad banner that displays, but it integrates well into the app and is not distracting.  Also, I can’t figure out the interval of this, but every so many calls it will display a full-screen ad that you have to clear out (like many websites) before making a call.  However, for $9.99 per device, you can pay to have the app run ad-free.  My recommendation is to just run it with ads to make sure that you like it and if you love the app and hate the ads, spend the $9.99 to get rid of them.
  2. Incoming calls.  Unlike with Groove, when you are connected to Talkatone, it essentially “rings” two phones (Talkatone and the phone operating on Ting).  Talkatone’s solution is to only have Google Voice forward to Google Chat – however, if you do that, if people call your Google Voice number and you are not on WiFi, it will receive calls over data (less reliable and more expensive) or will not receive them at all if you have the WiFi only setting set.  If you have Google Voice set to forward to Google Chat and to your Ting cell number (which is what you want), it will ring both phones and “fight” over your phone.  When somebody calls you, the Talkatone app will display and allow you to answer, ignore, or send to voicemail.  However, after a few seconds, the native caller app will overtake Talkatone.  IF YOU ANSWER WITH THE NATIVE DIALER APP IT WILL USE YOUR CELL PHONE SERVICE AND YOUR MINUTES.  However, if you swipe the red “end” button, you will see the Talkatone app again and can answer with Talkatone, and use your WiFi.
  3. WiFi Only.  There is a WiFi only setting, however, it will cause problems if you try to use the device to make phone calls when not on WiFi, so this function is essentially useless.  My workaround is having the phone require you to select “Phone” or “Talkatone” each time you make a call.

My decision:  Talkatone.  Call quality is more important than functionality.  I can live with the workarounds.  However, due to call quality, I might not be able to take advantage of WiFi calling as much as I hoped, but using it will save me $17/mo if it tosses me to a lower bucket.  I also plan to save money by using Google Voice for texting, but I will have to pay $40 to port my cell number and my wife's cell number to Google Voice - we don't want to mess with people having two numbers to contact or be confused.

Bradley Yoder

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Question - if you are using 3g will GrooveIP still make and received calls?  I use Freedompop using the Overdrive Pro device... when I am in 3G Talkatone will not work but it works great if I'm in 4G.  I have not been able to test enough to know if GrooveIP will at least work a little in 3G.  With Freedompop I get 500gb for free a month, 1GB for $10... and up.  It makes for a super inexpensive mobile phone.

John Hewett 0 votes
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    Google Voice only uses the G.711 mu-law Voice over IP codec, which is designed for wired, not wireless (WiFi) IP use, and does not use compression to save bandwidth.  Therefore, it depends on sending a clear, clean stream of data over a reliable connection.  It will break up and distort often over WiFi, because it assumes a relatively robust, low-latency connection, and it can't easily recover from WiFi issues.  Talkatone and GrooveIP can't do much about this, and call quality will be unreliable.  If this may frustrate you, forget about using it over WiFi or Data.

  

  All the applications use some form of access to Google Voice's VoIP network over the G.711u codec.  It's not whether the application (Talkatone, GrooveIP, or GMail Chat) is reliable or not, it's whether or not the NETWORK connection is reliable or not.  The 3rd party apps have to "fake out" GV to make outbound calls, as if you were telling GV to call your phone (inbound to the app in this case) and then place a call outbound. They work the same way as GMail Chat works when you use the "click to call" feature. This extra hop lengthens the network traversals and adds opportunities for call quality degradation. 

If you happen to have a very strong WiFi or data connection, you may be satisfied with using those apps.  If not, then it's pretty certain that call quality will be degraded.

Alternatives include Skype which uses the Silk codec or SIP which has several codec options

I use SIP and Google voice but it's still only fair on WiFi (Not moving about during a call helps) and I don't even try over a Data connection

Robin Lewis 0 votes
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Robin, thanks for the awesome technical breakdown on why some of these apps work well in some situations... and not in others.  I use Freedompop w/ 4g  for my data connection (because it is super inexpensive!) and if I get a good strong signal.. it works great but if not... nothing.  So this tells me why this is not a great substitute for cellular.  Freedompop has a device that gives you a 3g/4g data connection but if you are in 3G the Talkatone and GrooveIP  they become super iffy.  I'll look into SIP to see how that works and if that is a step in the right direction.  Going back to cellular is just too expensive at this time...so I need to "make it work" w/ Freedompop... or nothing.

Thanks again.

John Hewett 0 votes
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As cheap as mobile service is these days it hardly seems necessary for personal use. I think I just got caught up in seeing what I could do a few years ago and seems it's probably the only reason it's still set up.

If it's for business use I would recommend that you spend a few dollars to assure a good connection because loss of communications for any reason could quickly effect your profit margin.

Robin Lewis 0 votes
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As a heavy Google Voip user, and purchaser of a few apps for it, I wanted to throw my opinions/experiences in.

GrooveIP used to be so good to me, but over time it seems what ever improvements the dev has worked on ruined its quality for me no matter how it is configured.  I keep it as a back up, and to test new versions for improvements in my circumstances, but it just has not been as solid as it was last year for me.

One I don't hear often enough, but works BEST for me is Spare Phone.  It works just like GrooveIP, but however he has coded it makes it much more solid on calls than GrooveIP ever was.  Greatest feature to me with Spare Phone is that if you temporary loose wifi for a few seconds it won't just end the call, but will keep it active so you pick right back up with out being dropped.  9/10 Spare Phone has worked best for me.  

Talkatone... just isn't an option for me.  Between the UI, the ads (I would pay for no ads in a heartbeat), and the inconsistent quality for me I had to ditch it.

There is a newer app called Mo+ GV Phone that I am testing out. So far it is very nice, because it also supports Google Voice SMS (no need for seperate Google Voice app just for texting), and and a pretty slick UI and low memory usage.  Only ad is for you refer people to try the app itself. Sadly no pay version.  The only thing holding me back from TRULY recommending that one is the appalling lack of settings. As in there are not ANY. No options for calls, quality, network preference, texting, UI, dialer, NOTHING.  It works pretty well for me, but if it doesn't for you there is nothing to tweak to improve it sadly.

There is my two cents, sorry if its worth only one!

Josh Bray 0 votes
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I installed GV and Spare Phone on my Galaxy Victory yesterday.  I was debating about whether to purchase an Airave for my home because I often had pretty poor mobile reception in my home, but the reception was not "poor enough" to flip over to Verizon-roaming.  That would solve my problem but it would cost a chunk of change.  I reading reviews I thought a better option might be to piggy-back off my wireless network and make calls using VOIP.  To do this required installing GV and an app such as Groove IP, Talkatone, or Spare Phone.  I paid three dollars for Spare Phone, and I must say it's working great so far.  Calls placed from my home sound clear and crisp to others, and I can easily hear them as well.  I am a novice and it was still easy to download and set up.  So far, this seems to be a very nice work-around to the Airave issue.  You need an internet connection for Airave anyway, so why pay the extra money for the device and pay for the mobile minutes when you are talking at home?  Of course, this also provides the added ability to talk on any open wifi connection (I presume).  I plan to try this out at work later on today.      

Patrick Scott 0 votes
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As a follow-up, I've now been using the Spare Phone App in conjunction with Google Voice on my Samsung Galaxy Victory for a couple of days.  Making calls over my wi-fi connection at work was quite easy.  Had no problems receiving calls or dialing out via wi-fi, and the connection sounds great on both ends.  

This is a DEFINITE work-around to the Airave, plus I end up saving minutes on my phone plan.  A little extra digging around has so far saved me about $275.00.         

Patrick Scott 0 votes
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One slight caveat - this app works fine if you initiate a call using a wireless connection, but receiving calls this way is not so easy after all.  People can dial your Google voice number and you can easily receive the call, but if they dial your Ting number, it will be over the cellular network and allocated against your bucket of minutes.  If you are a "minute-miser" like me, then simply do not receive the incoming call and call your party back using Spare App and a wireless connection.  

Patrick Scott 0 votes
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AutoAP, free app,  will put your phone into airplane mode when you are connected to your WiFi. That will stop the minute usage when connected to the WiFi.

Jim Connell 0 votes
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I have found that Groove IP doesn't work for me. Was going to try MO+ but not sure I want to share my gmail password despite their saying it is encrypted.

James Cummings 0 votes
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R E

I already use 2 step auth. I am assuming, perhaps incorrectly, the password info passes through MO+ somehow and despite it being encrypted I am not comfortable with that.

James Cummings 0 votes
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James Cummings:

You indicated that you tried GrooveIP.

Whats the difference whether you log in using your Google credentials in GrooveIP or MO+ ?

Neither are Google products.

Robin Lewis 0 votes
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GrooveIP, Spare Phone, and I'm pretty sure Talkatone supports OAuth logins as well as traditional while MO+ as of this moment does not.

 

Some users may prefer to use OAuth instead of having the potential of their keystrokes logged.  Not so much about it being a 3rd party app, but the method you would like to log in with.

Josh Bray 0 votes
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Robin, I agree. I have come to a point where seeing daily news reports about hacking into supposedly secure systems has me a bit gun shy about this. I tried Groove IP months ago, it didn't work well  and thus I don't use it.

Separate question. Blue tooth headset wouldn't work with Groove and doesn't with MO+. Anyone know why?

James Cummings 0 votes
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Josh Bray:

Thanks for the info about OAuth. I've seen many happy comments by Spare Phone users as well.

I use SIP with some free Grandfathered stuff from a few years ago. it's not as simple to set up but that's what there was at the time and it still works very well.

Far as Bluetooth support, that's on the app developer, I use Csipsimple and it supports Bluetooth and I used Acrobits on my old iPhone and it supports Bluetooth too.

 

 

Robin Lewis 0 votes
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Going back to Robin's point about codec support, he states that Google Voice uses G.711u, and GrooveIP's FAQ ( http://snrblabs.com/snrb/Apps/GrooveIP/FAQ.aspx) agrees with that.

But  https://developers.google.com/talk/open_communications#codecs claims an array of available codecs:

PCMA, PCMU, G.722, GSM, iLBC,  Speex, ISAC, IPCMWB, EG711U, EG711A.

(PCMU = G.711u)

Talkatone has implemented OPUS, whilst SparePhone has licensed  WebRTC which contains OPUS and PCMU

Perhaps a lack of these more modern codecs are why GroovIP is sounding inferior. ( I've used their paid product for a year or two, and often hear complaints that my voice is breaking up, even though I hear them clearly).

Also, there is likely an issue with Groove Forwarder, whereby if you move from wifi to an area that has cell but not data service (rare these days) the software will not be able to signal to the server that calls should go via cell, hence you will not receive calls. Better, as suggested above to enter airplane mode when in wifi - I use Tasker for this.

Jake

 

Jake Lewis 0 votes
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@Jake:

Google talk which is now being replaced by Hangouts and is very suited for making calls from a computer but presently only supports peer to peer on the smart phone app.

Things are still in the works though :)

I know it says Google Talk in the settings, Google voice actually uses Google chat unless you upgrade to hangouts. presently you can still toggle though.

Robin Lewis 0 votes
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I just downloaded Talkatone and so far I love having it on my I pad... my question is this; you say that if I use 3 or 4 G it will use my minutes.. I have unlimited talk and text on my cell phone account with AT&T... but I do not have unlimited data.... so If I use  3or 4G is it affecting my data ? so confused !!!!

Johanna Albarron 0 votes
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Johanna Albarron:

Talkatone uses data. 

The end of life for Google chat is May 15th and the replacement is Google Hangouts which means that Talkatone and Groove IP will no longer work.

As well as some other apps and devices that use Google chat [XMPP] to function.

Robin Lewis 0 votes
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Yes these 3rd party apps will not work with google voice after May 15th.  You would need to find a VOIP company that has an app that works over Wifi, 3G or 4G and use that system.   What you have to do is get a VOIP account and have your number forwarded to your new VOIP number.  Then all is good.  Vestalink is a great VOIP  company to sign up with.  They offer just about everything that Google offered and more.  Keep your google number and spoof the outgoing number so people will never know you changed -- you could also port your number over if you want.  That is what I did after just a week.  They also offer a free 60 minutes or 30 day trial period to test it out.  Works great.    Works with your existing obi -- and it is super simple to set up. Cheapest one I have seen so far with everything you want.  They are working on getting texting but for now you can receive text but not make them.   Click to learn about them. http://www.vestalink.com/#_l_8q

You other option is to have your google number ring your ting number and then you would just be using your cellular minutes for all your calls. 

Jean Burgess 0 votes
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I know these previous postings are old, but maybe someone can help.

I have been facing one Catch22after aanother.

I am in Thailand soon headed back to Seattle. I want a WiFi only service, no 3g or data, to save money.

Here are my difficult conditions.

1. I want to call landlines and I want them to be able to easily return my calls. Think businesses, govt agencies, schools.

2. This means I need a valid local Seattle area phone number.

3. Google Voice cannot be configured except from the local area whose number you want. Certainly not Thailand.

4. Talkatone assigned me a number in South Dakota. They cannot change it.

5. Magic Jack only gives numbers to iPhones.

Can anyone suggest better solutions?

Cliff Sloane 0 votes
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I want to use Talkatone while I'm in Japan and Malaysia.  Just wifi calling.  Won't be able to use standard voice.  Is this possible, and can home call my phone while i'm using only Talkatone over wifi?

Michael Mayfield 0 votes