Virtual phone numbers – Index
What is a virtual phone number?
A virtual number is a phone number that isn’t associated with any physical phone line: all the incoming calls are redirected to another number (for instance your mobile number)
Why you may need a virtual phone number
Have you ever used a roaming service while you were abroad? I did it when I just arrived in China and I ended up paying a huge amount of money (at the time my family needed to contact me quite frequently and I was often offline). After the first crazy expensive bill I decided to find a solution to this problem. This is how I stumbled upon virtual numbers.
Using a virtual number to redirect calls from a local number in your country to your Chinese mobile number is probably the best option to receive calls in China or wherever you are. It’s cheap and you won’t have to teach your grandma to use Skype!
How does it works?
It’s easier if I explain it through an example.
Imagine that you move from New York to Shanghai and you get a Chinese mobile phone number. Now, if you aren’t online, your family, friends or customers that are located in New York only have two choices: call you at your old U.S. mobile number or at your new Chinese mobile number. This is a classic “devil’s choice” as both options are extremely expensive for both you and the person who is calling you.
However, there is a third option: you can purchase a virtual phone number located in New York, U.S. Now, when somebody calls you at this number, they will pay U.S. local fees (almost nothing). However, the number won’t be real in the sense that the call will be redirected to your Chinese mobile number and you’ll pay a fee that will depend on the virtual number company of your choice. The good news is that this fee may be as little as 0.04. USD/minute.
So, after you set up a virtual number, anyone can call your Chinese cell phone from the U.S. (or any other country) and both that person and you will pay a quite small fee. Now that’s interesting!
This is the system used by most 24 hour call center services: the people on the other side of the line often have an Indian accent because the call center is located in India. Even if you are calling a local U.S. number, your call is being redirected through a virtual phone number service.
This is especially useful if you handle an international business and your customers need to call you from any country while you are in China.
Comparison of the best virtual telephone number services
|Main advantage||Cheaper, complete and flexible||Most flexible||The cheapest in the USA||It depends on your needs!|
|Monthly price||15 USD (including calls)||0 to 35 USD||5 USD|
|Free minutes||150 minutes||No||No|
|Countries with local numbers||120+||50+||Only in the USA|
|Toll-free numbers||Yes||Yes||Only in the USA|
|Price per minute for transferring a call to China||0.040 USD||From 0.048 USD||0.007 USD|
|Free trial period||30 days||No||No|
|Try Tollfreeforwarding➤||Try Call Hippo➤||Try Kall8➤|
Reviews of Virtual Phone Services
Toll Free Forwarding
Toll Free Forwarding is one of the best services that I have found and is ideal for both individuals and companies with customers in multiple countries.
The good thing about this service is that it’s very flexible with a lot of different plans that are appropriate for both individuals and companies, as well as the ability to choose local or toll-free numbers in many countries in the world. In addition, basic plans only cost 15 USD per month, and give you 150 free minutes. Also, it is very easy to purchase and use.
The only problem that I see is the price per minute if you exceed the minutes in your monthly plan, as these rates are the most expensive on the market, which means that you have to be careful not to exceed your plan.
Kall8 is an ideal service for individuals and companies that receive calls from the United States, as it is a service that is relatively complete and is one of the cheapest on the market.
The main problem is that it’s a company exclusively focused on the American market, which means that if you receive calls from other countries, its services will be of no use to you.
This service is ideal for small companies with a strong international presence, since it allows you to contract a wide range of services in a flexible way. Call Hippo is ideal to pay for the services you exactly need.
The main problem is that unlike other services you are charged both for receiving calls and for redirecting them to other numbers. Even if the rates are relatively low when you sum the two charges it usually comes out a little more expensive than other similar services.
It is also important to note that they offer a portability plan so if you are using another type of virtual phone service you can switch to Call Hippo without having to lose your previous number(s).
Twilio was founded in 2008 and has one of the most popular and cheapest virtual phone number services in the world. In the past years, the company has received several rounds of funding worth millions of dollars.
What makes Twilio different from other similar service providers is that they primarily work B2B, while other operators work B2C.
For example, if you have used Airbnb, Netflix, or Lyft, then you have probably used Twilio, according to the website. Why? Because it’s often used by other service providers and by 40,000 businesses all over the world.
In short, Twilio is a developer platform for communications. This means that companies can use the APIs provided by Twilio to add functions like video, voice, or messaging on their own websites and applications. The benefit here is that businesses can provide better communication experiences for their clients. Customers can get reached in the way they want and you can contact and engage with them effectively.
Third Parties that Use Twilio
There are plenty of other providers who use Twilio’s API when building their own services. These companies are referred to as “third-parties” by Twilio and include famous brand names such as:
- Cisco WiFi
Zoho, for example, is a multinational company that focuses on web-based business tools and IT. With 50 million users worldwide, Zoho has plenty of renowned customers, including Amazon, Facebook, Netflix, KPMG, Renault, and HP.
What do third parties need to work with Twilio?
Third-party companies have to prepare the following Twilio-supplied information if they want to work with Twilio:
- A Twilio Account SID and Auth Token: The Account SID and project Auth Token serve as your API access credentials; you get these automatically when signing up for a Twilio account. Find them under “Project Info” in the Twilio Console
- A Twilio phone number: Free with a trial account, but needs to be picked out. For help getting a number, see our article here
Twilio is comparatively cheap and offers the following prices depending on the service:
Programmable Voice – Starting from USD 0.0085 per min to receive, USD 0.013 per minute to make a call:
- Global Low Latency
- Unlimited capacity
- Advanced call control
Programmable SMS – Starting from USD 0.0075 to send or receive a message:
- Ship 50% faster with Copilot software
- Real-time reporting & insights
- Automatic content encoding
Twilio SendGrid Email API – Starting from USD 14.95 per month, up to 100,000 emails. It’s free for up to 40,000 emails for 30 days:
- Quick integration via API or SMTP
- Real-time data and analytics
- Tools to optimize deliverability
For more information about Twilio’s services, you can also visit this page.
Frequently asked questions
Not to forget, as you don’t need to provide your real phone number, it gives you more privacy. Service providers often give you the choice to have several numbers, which can be a great advantage.
[Photo Credits (Creative Commons License): www.flickr.com/photos/jhcaspers/]