Skype finally gets some healthy competition from the very polished and user-friendly Gizmo Project. Like Skype, Gizmo is a phone service with free service between fellow users. Resembling a well-evolved VoIP client, Gizmo's interface is laudably clean and clear. It contains any other Gizmo users in your contact list, and can even scan Outlook and find any current Gizmo users. Once click initiates a call, and the voice quality is fair.
As a basic PC-to-PC voice tool, Gizmo Project is every bit as good as Skype, except that the community of fellow users is limited for now. We also like the superior premium options that make Gizmo a real VoIP alternative. Gizmo Call Out is a sensibly priced 1-cent-per-minute, pay-as-you-go plan for calling domestic landline and mobile numbers from your PC. You can also call internationally for very low rates. The Call In service is $3 per month, which includes a dedicated number in your area code that will ring your PC from any real phone. We tried both products and found that voice quality on the landline phone end was as good as the PC headset could produce, but the audio incoming to the PC was acceptable with mild distortion.
Where Gizmo really excels is the interface, which is exceptionally easy to decipher and manage. The Home tab includes all your account info, complete call history (including missed calls), and your Call Out balance. The Contact tab provides quick access to an IM client. One of the coolest Gizmo value adds, however, is the Record feature, which lets you store calls in WAV format. An automatic warning announces that a call is being monitored. In addition to the usual customized voicemail and ringtone options, Gizmo can send your phone an SMS alert when calls come in and even forward incoming voice mail to your e-mail address.
With a passel of neat special features, all highly usable and easy to set up, Gizmo could make the ubiquitous Skype a little less, well, ubiquitous.