An impartial review of Fongo phone service

Posted by amcink October 22, 2015 26 Comments 22537 views

I’ve been using Fongo exclusively as my mobile phone service for coming up on two months.

For the first few weeks, I treated Fongo like an experiment. I forwarded calls from my main mobile number over to the number Fongo assigned me. I also kept an old phone on and plugged in so that it could forward text messages. I wanted to make sure I wasn’t about to make a big mobile mistake.

Once I was satisfied that the Fongo service would work as my cell phone plan, I went all-in and ported my mobile number over to Fongo. It cost me $25 to do so. I cancelled my Wind Mobile service once and for all about a month ago now.

I did this at the most inopportune time imaginable because I apparently like living on the edge. This experiment began right as we were selling our home and buying another. I have been dealing with contractors and renovators, lawyers, movers and all manner of service providers on the phone (and via text message) for weeks.

Call it a trial by fire. So far, it’s been working out quite nicely.

What is Fongo?

Fongo uses the Internet protocol for voice communication (VoIP or voice over Internet protocol). It’s a Canadian-based service company that provides customers with a Canadian phone number from one of a large number of available area codes. Fongo lets users make and receive calls for free across most of Canada. International calls, including those to the US, are billed at a variable per-minute rate. You can buy international calling credit starting at $2 as an in-app purchase within Fongo.

Fong also lets you send and receive SMS messages within the Fongo app. Incoming text messages are free. Fongo to Fongo messages, sent or received, are free. To send text messages to outside numbers, you’ll need a monthly texting package which can be purchased in the app for about $2 for 30 days unlimited texting within Canada.

Fongo call quality

I’ve found inbound or outgoing calls to Fongo indistinguishable from calls made via other means. When I’m on the LTE network, calls are crystal clear. Coming from Wind Mobile and using the service in Toronto, I’ve found the quality of calls in Fongo via the Bell LTE network to be far superior to the quality of calls made on the Wind network.

I’ve made calls on the 3G network too, though not as extensively as I’ve used LTE, and have found the call quality to be excellent here too.

Fongo calls use about 0.5 MB (500 KB) of data per minute. That’s not a lot of data throughput by today’s standards and so even outmoded 3G will have little trouble keeping up. I have yet to try a call using data over a 2G network. I can’t imagine that would work very well.

If you’re on a Wi-Fi network, Fongo will route all calls or text messages via that connection, which means you’re not incurring mobile data use. Depending on your mobile data plan, that might mean more savings.

Ironically, the place I have the worst call quality is within my office, using the local Wi-Fi network that was set up, at least in part, with mobile phones in mind.

Biggest downside

The worst thing about Fongo as your only mobile phone service is that you have to pull yourself away from the great calling and text messaging experience built into your phone.

They don’t exactly feel cutting edge, though there’s nothing actually wrong with the Fongo dialler or the Fongo messaging sections per se. Since neither app can offer the rich, “core function” experience of the native apps, they’re a bit hamstrung. While you can replace the default phone and text messaging app icons in your phone’s dock for their respective Fongo shortcuts, leaving the system phone and text messaging apps behind is jarring.

A little less so on Android, where you can choose which app is the default for phone numbers or text messages, for example, but still an adjustment. A little more so on iPhone, where the system wants to default to using the system dialler and iMessage apps whether you like it or not.

Conclusion

If there’s interest in this topic, I will go more in-depth into my thoughts on Fongo. For now, though, suffice it to say that I’m happy I made the switch. My cell phone plan now costs me about $22/mo. (1 GB of LTE data) and I get a consistently good level of phone service. Ironically, call quality has actually improved over my previous traditional mobile phone service.

While my Wind Mobile plan was cheap by Canadian telecom standards (let’s not get started on “Canadian telecom standards” just yet) the level of service received was disappointing at best.

My $45 “Holiday Miracle” plan included unlimited pretty much everything, but the call quality is so consistently bad, message delivery unreliable and data throughput far from guaranteed that even $45 felt like money for nothing.

Moving to Fongo hasn’t felt like a step back in call or messaging quality at all. While I wish I could still use my Motorola Moto G’s native dialler and messaging apps, the overall experience on Fongo has been a big improvement.

Pros:

Inexpensive
Excellent call quality
SMS messaging

Cons:

Lives separate from the core phone experience
No Wi-Fi to mobile network switching for calls in progress

There are 26 Comments

  1. - November 20, 2015
      -   Reply

    Fongo drop my bill in have What could be
    Thay inuculd free Voice Mail free callforwarding confrice calling
    From us To Canada 2$ per call
    But wont keep this form you there some down
    Some public wifi suck and and home but over all saves you money but some times the parity
    Cant here just your home Internet is week
    That’s down point pay for satlite calling
    Or towers Pau use it 3$ mothe
    Just go To http://www.fongo.com

  2. bonjoey
    - December 8, 2015
      -   Reply

    I’ve ported my main line to fongo about a month ago. Since I have pretty much unlimited data at work (voice/text disabled), I never worried getting over every month. But from my experience with fongo, voice calls sometimes doesn’t go through or my phone wont ring. even sms have issues. within a month using it, their service interrupted twice. Im now testing voip.ms which my phone (xperia) has a built-in sip and voip.ms has an app for sms. So far can’t comment on voip.ms since I just started using it.

    but yes, fongo will save you $$$ from these ridiculous cell plans from the big 3’s

    • amcink
      - December 8, 2015
        -   Reply

      I’ve looked in to VoIP.ms. Recent versions of Android (or at least the version on my Motorola Moto X Pure) have gotten rid of the integrated SIP stuff. I was looking at it as a way to get inexpensive service without sacrificing the native phone dialer. No dice.

      On the call quality and messaging: I have had a few issues here and there but they’re the exception as opposed to the rule. The quality of service has been better than Wind was for me (in Toronto). I dealt with calls that didn’t work more often than they did so maybe that colours my judgment here.

      Thanks for commenting.

  3. Elaine
    - January 8, 2016
      -   Reply

    My husband just switched to Fongo+data only plan. I estimate his total costs to be around $15 a month (vs $60/month with Rogers).

    Yes, there are some call quality issues (switch to data if you are on a bad wifi connection) and not everything was as smooth as we hoped. Never have any problems with texting though, so that’s a good backup. At worst, he can use other means to make more expensive calls (since it would be rare, we still save a lot of money in the long run).

    We discovered (after the switch) that a new local area code is not part of Fongo free calling cities. He can text those numbers for free, just no calls. So right now, I am watching annoying adds to earn credits. He doesn’t call those numbers often, so maintaining 30 cents – $1 worth of credits should be sufficient. If this becomes too inconvenient, we can pay $5-$20 for a bunch of credits.

    It does stink not to be able to use the native phone/text in the iPhone since we haven’t been able to figure out how to copy and paste numbers. It’s a bit of a hassle, vs just pressing on a phone number on a website and the call going through.

    Also, we haven’t found a way to really customize Fongo phone settings – (change ring tone, change number of rings, etc).

    So yes, there are some inconveniences to be aware of. But saving $45/month has us laughing all the way to the bank!That’s $540 a year or $1620 over an avg 3-yr contract!!!!

    • Stan
      - January 18, 2016
        -   Reply

      I use fongo but I also use the magic app. Can call numbers in Canada that fongo can’t. I no longer have to earn or buy credits to make calls. I think it was 9 bucks a year to get a phone number for magic app but I can call Canada and the states. Got a buffalo number so American friends with unlimited US calling can call that number for free instead of my fongo number Some of my American friends even installed fongo with a Canadian number

  4. Randall in calgary
    - February 18, 2016
      -   Reply

    Anyone try this in Calgary? I’m going to experiment with this for a month on wind. Actually like wind but a few times oitnof the city a month really ads to my bill. I would also love to a faster data. I’ll comment next month if I move over to an LTE network.

    • amcink
      - February 18, 2016
        -   Reply

      I experimented with Fongo on Wind when I first thought to switch. I didn’t have a great experience because Wind’s data network is spotty and slow at best in the GTA. The best bet is to see what Fongo is like on good Wi-Fi connection to get a sense of how it will work on a good LTE network.

      Please do let us know how it works out for you and what you decide 🙂

  5. Elaine
    - February 18, 2016
      -   Reply

    An update on my earlier note – the connection is often spotty with Fongo, it takes a while for the call to connect, and we still haven’t figured out the whole notifications thing well. It does ring, but it won’t ring if a call comes in while you are using the phone – a little popup bar comes up instead. So it is slower to receive calls since you have to go through a couple of steps. If wifi/data is particularly bad, the phone will not work.

    Text has been pretty seamless and works even if wifi/data is not as good.

    All in all, the cost savings have been well worth it the relatively minor annoyances.

  6. Elaine
    - April 20, 2016
      -   Reply

    Another follow up – connection is still often spotty. When we tried using it in Florida on both a paid data plan and wifi, signals weren’t strong enough for Fongo to work in most places.

    All in all, we’re still pleased and although these are inconvenient and annoying, it is still worth the savings. By and large, Fongo works.

    For US calling, we installed Talkatone, which gives us a free US phone number.

    Another app that provides a free Cdn number is Freetone. My kids use that over wifi. My husband mainly chose Fongo for the ability to port his existing phone number.

  7. Frank
    - July 16, 2016
      -   Reply

    just noticed price difference between France and Canada :

    Rogers canada :
    https://www.rogers.com/consumer/wireless/share-everything
    free mobile France :
    http://mobile.free.fr/

    15 times more expensive in canada, Wow !

  8. Laura
    - July 20, 2016
      -   Reply

    Has anyone tried to make calls using data and WiFi from Europe to Canada? I have registered for a Canadian number and got it. Now I am moving to Italy and want to place and make calls using a Canadian number.

    Help!

    • Stan
      - August 10, 2016
        -   Reply

      My Son was all over Europe a few years ago and used fongo through the hotels wifi and had no issues.

    • Tim
      - August 23, 2016
        -   Reply

      I made calls with Fongo from the top of sand dunes in Africa over 3G (not even LTE) and it worked fine.

  9. Elaine
    - August 10, 2016
      -   Reply

    @Laura I have made calls to Canada using Fongo over data/wifi while in the USA if that helps. It worked perfectly. I’m pretty sure it should work from Europe as well.

  10. Marco
    - August 17, 2016
      -   Reply

    @Laura I’m Italian but I spend quite some time in Canada too and I’ve been doing what you want for the last six months without any flaws. Also receiving calls from Canada on my fongo number while I was in Italy worked without a hitch. Great service and app! Highly recommended.

  11. Jimmy Dean
    - September 6, 2016
      -   Reply

    You can save some money by switching to Fido right now. 3GB of data for $15/month. (September 2016)

  12. Jeremy
    - September 29, 2016
      -   Reply

    @amcink
    It’s been about a year since you switched to Fongo. Are you still happy with the Fongo service? Do you have any words of advice for other potential switchers? Thanks.

    • amcink
      - October 14, 2016
        -   Reply

      Sincere apologies for the late reply. I have indeed been using Fongo for over a year now. The experience has been good overall. I have noticed some delays in text messages being delivered and having to buy a texting plan to reply to a couple of messages a month is a little frustrating (there are only a few people that ever text me… most of my text communication is via Hangouts or WhatsApp).

      I ended up sort of switching away from this solution but also sort of not. Let me explain. I activated a new line on Wind but I kept my main number with Fongo. I still use Fongo, just with my Wind data connection. I went back to having a dedicated phone solution because I had a couple of important calls where people complained they had a hard time hearing me in the first part of the conversation. The issue would usually seem to resolve itself but it was embarrassing to be on a conference call and be the one who’s having a hard time hearing or being heard.

      Another reason I activated a new line was to use the deeper integration that a SIM-based number offers. Uber, for example, was a bit of hassle without an integrated phone number. Bluetooth calling in the car was another feature I missed on the rare occasions when I drive.

      So, it’s been largely good but ultimately, the couple of “gotchas” ended up pushing me back to a more traditional plan. Irony is, I just had a call from a Uber driver yesterday where he was complaining he couldn’t hear a word I was saying (Wind + cinderblock office = less than stellar call quality).

    • Usando
      - December 2, 2016
        -   Reply

      No issues for the past 6 months of using Fongo. Call quality seems OK. I have had some calls that wouldn’t connect and voicemail that was delivered hours later but that only happened a few times. I don’t use voice calling that much so it’s hard to say how frequent the problem is. I text a lot and that seems to work just fine.

      • Jeremy
        - December 3, 2016
          -   Reply

        Well, I took the plunge and switched to Fongo. Bell called the very next day to try to get me to stay with them. I told them they couldn’t match the deal I was getting. The Bell rep didn’t try very hard to get me to stay, either.
        It’s only been two weeks with Fongo, but so far, so good. I have noticed that the caller ID has worked perfectly for all incoming calls. It was hit-and-miss with Bell. Call quality has been good. I think the caller actually sounds louder, so much so that I turned the phone volume down a notch. Overall I’m happy — and saving ca$h.

  13. Joe
    - October 12, 2016
      -   Reply

    Fongo does work in Europe using a Canadian Fongo number

  14. Phil
    - October 13, 2016
      -   Reply

    Been using fongo as main cell phone provider for the last 3 ‘m verry happy with the service.

    Also keep in mind that in the setting menu of the app there are options to get better call experience. Play with them and find what wors best for you.

    In my case I can use my cell phone in lots of places where cell phone towers won’t reach (trough a house’s wifi connection)

    I can say that data conection quality is the main factor that can afffect call quality (might want to invest in a wifi repeater around the house). Also some internet conections have to much ping (sattelite internet connection for instance) to offer a good calling experience.

    One thing I like a lot about fongo is the voice mail feature. The voice mail is unlimited in number of message that can be left by callers and their lenghts are also unlimited. Most provider charge an extra for a larger than 3 message voice mail and some provider have 30 sec or 1min message duration.

    I f you forget you cell phone or if your batterie is dead you can also go on fongo web site and listen to your message remotly or check if someone called you while your cell wasnt available trough call history available online.

    From the web site (or the phone app) you can also active call forwarding to one or many phone numbers simultanioulsy.

    Thanks FONGO

  15. Elaine
    - October 14, 2016
      -   Reply

    I agree – uber is a massive hassle. I can easily request and pay for rides – but drivers having a hard time finding me CANNOT call/text me and I have found no way to call/text them either. One drive got so annoyed he just sat in the parking lot and eventually we found him. Thankfully, we only use uber on vacations and just spend a bit more time waiting when necessary.

    Also, we found out that it is impossible to setup WeChat through Fongo. Not sure if WhatsApp has the same issue (we set it up BEFORE the switch to Fongo). Hmmm…come to think of it, we should have just paid a bit extra to use our tbaytel SIM number to set up on Whatsapp. Always forget about that option.

    Call quality has gotten worse over the last few months. We are just gritting our teeth and dealing with it for now.

  16. Shaun
    - November 30, 2016
      -   Reply

    I’ve had Fongo for about 9 months. Originally I had installed it on my Samsung Galaxy S4 on Bell and it worked fine. Later work gave me a Galaxy S6 on Rogers, and I’ve had nothing but problems with it. I use it as a personal number on a work device to save carrying two phones and paying for a data plan.

    With Fongo sometimes people I call can’t hear me. Sometimes I can’t hear the caller. It’s gotten to the point where it’s useless for calls, but I mainly use it to text so I soldiered on. Support has been less than helpful each time I’ve opened a ticket.

    I had also set up Fongo my wife’s phone (Asus Zenfone 2 Laser) with a Bell data only plan and it worked, until she ported her number out to Wind. Since that happened, I can’t text my wife from Fongo either. Fongo blames Wind for not porting the number properly, but I can text my wife from Rogers without issue.

    Anyone know a _working_ alternative to Fongo? It would be worth it to me to pay a few bucks for a service that works.

  17. - January 7, 2017
      -   Reply

    Fongo not care about custumer, i try to reach it two times, and i have no answer in one week… If you have a answer or a problem, forget it, no service number…

  18. tom, Surrey, BC
    - January 28, 2017
      -   Reply

    Have been using Fongo for over a year, very pleased. The call quality is as good or better than on Rogers. I am saving tons if money. Can’t believe it’s completely free. Never had any issues.

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