Wouldn't it be nice to make international VoIP calls right from you iPhone? Raketu is a VoIP service that has been around for quite some time but is now offering a way to access its VoIP services on the iPhone and iPod touch. While it works with any phone that can access the Web page, Raketu was specifically designed for the iPhone and touch. Instead of releasing a VoIP handset like its competitor Skype has, it created a Web-based application that will let you dial out to any country directly from your handheld. But even though the thought of making VoIP calls from your regular handset--and saving your cell phone minutes--seems compelling, the process is not as fluid as it could be, and the idea of placing calls with your iPod touch is misleading.
Once we registered and bought credits from Raketu's Web site, we visited iphone.raketu.com on our iPod touch. Though the Web site is specially formatted to fit the iPhone or touch's Safari browser, the text could be larger.
To make a call, you have to enter both a "call from" number and a "call to" number. When we first attempted dialing, we were told we didn't have any credits (which is a misleading term; they're really just prepaid minutes)--even after purchasing them 10 minutes earlier. The minutes cleared roughly 2 hours later. This was certainly frustrating, as Skype offers instant recognition of a payment.
You can buy credits for Raketu through the iPhone's browser, so loading up more on the go is easy. Unfortunately, at many times during our testing, we found that the "Buy more Credits" page was down, often for days at a time. So don't get too comfortable making long phone calls; you won't always be able to refill your account.
After an initial payment of $9.95 or $24.95, users receive up to 1,200 minutes worth of calls per month for 3 months to 40 "free" locations, where they're not charged an additional per-minute rate. With Skype, you can buy credits only in $10 increments. Raketu's "credits" are really just a monetary allotment for phone calls. The payment goes toward calls outside the free locations. Raketu's free call-to countries include Spain, Singapore, Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands, and Hong Kong, among other popular destinations.
In terms of per-minute-calling rates, Raketu is a solid alternative to Skype. Using Raketu, a call to Morocco will cost you 17 cents a minute using Raketu but about 29 cents a minute using Skype. On the other hand, a call to an Israeli landline costs 8 cents a minute, far more than Skype's rate of 2 cents a minute. SMS rates range from 5 to 10 cents per message.
After dialing out our first number (within the United States) we were pumped thinking we'd be able to make a VoIP call using our iPod touch as if it were a real phone. We were wrong. You enter your cell phone number and the number you want to call. Raketu then calls your cell phone, and when you pick up, it calls out to the second number. It still consumes your cell phone minutes, but it lowers international calling rates. The iPhone will be able to access the Raketu Web page from any location that has cellular service, and then you can answer calls on it directly.
During our tests with a BlackBerry Pearl 8130 from Verizon Wireless, our calls to a co-worker were clear, and we were able to hear the person on the other end without any popping or static. However, quality is dependent on your cell phone service provider.
Overall the Raketu software is easy to use, and the company offers competitive rates. Still, we much prefer IM+ for Skype, which lets you make Skype calls directly from your iPod touch and iPhone via Wi-Fi.