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Ask HN: Why doesn't Google allow free calls for Android?
6 points by Cieplak 1930 days ago | hide | past | web | 3 comments | favorite
From my desktop computer I can make calls to landlines using Voice and Video Chat for Gmail: www.google.com/gizmo5/

I was under the impression that Google Voice for Android offered similar functionality, and would be able to route calls over Wi-Fi. However, Google Voice routes calls with a phone's minutes, rather than 3G or Wi-Fi.

Why do you think this is the case?

My guess would be that telcos don't allow free voice apps on their network.

Since Android is an open platform, I'm sure there's a technical solution. I'm sure that you could make an app that records on the microphone and transmits the data over some kind of encrypted tunnel (likely SSH, SSL, or TLS), the person on the other end of the tunnel is running the same app, and when the two apps talk to each other they play the audio from the remote microphone on the local speaker. You probably just can't put it on the App Store, and I've heard tales of providers rejecting packets that use known VoIP protocol ports (which is why the app would be more reliable with an encryption layer, to jump directly to the end-game of the cat-and-mouse between VoIP protocols and 3G/4G providers' blocks).

I'd imagine any reasonably skilled developer could write the above app in an afternoon, so I'd imagine that tons of people have already done so. I'd also imagine that Google might block such apps from the official app store, so you might have to search on alternative app stores, install from the developer's personal website, or build the app yourself.

I'm not sure how intrusive Google would be about enforcing a ban on third-party VoIP. For example, the most draconian way to turn the screws on such apps would be scanning your phone periodically for blacklisted apps, and terminating your contract and bricking the phone without refund or recourse if a ToS-violating app is found. Since I haven't read any articles complaining of such practices, I assume that Android implementations don't go that far. But I have heard tales of blocking of traffic on known VoIP ports on 3G / 4G networks.

If you want such an app to connect to the telephone network, you'd just have one endpoint be your phone, and have the other endpoint be a server running standard VoIP over a wired Internet connection and just proxying that connection to the app over SSH.

I'd imagine any reasonably skilled developer who was familiar with VoIP could make the above extensions to the app in an afternoon, so I'd imagine that tons of people have already done so.

Like I said, such apps probably exist, but are also probably hacky enough that ordinary people can't be bothered with them (non-official app download plus set up a daemon on your personal server equals too technical for most people). So they're probably only used by a niche community.

Google allows free calls => Providers lose revenue. Then you open a whole can of worms. Providers provide the 3G and 4G access. The providers could drop packaged deals with Android phones, or obscure usage of Google Voice through custom firmware - just a few possibilities.

I don't see this as possible until Google can provide the telephony access itself, so it does not start unwelcome competition with it's own partners.

If you're looking for this functionality (over Google Voice), there's always GrooVeIP.

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