VoiPod: making Wi-Fi calls with an iPod

John Walton
Cell Phone Editor
| June 17, 2009

I realized a few months back that I should find a way to make calls at home without using our monthly cell minutes. So I got T-Mobile at home. It's $10 a month for unlimited calling, and it hasn't caused any problems. But until the other day, my wife was still using calling cards for international calls.

Skype's rates are close to those of her calling cards, but she doesn't like sitting at the crappy built-in computer mic we have to make a call. I never got around to purchasing a cordless VoIP phone or any other alternative. We both run Linux, so many of the common solutions don't apply to us. The ones that do usually cost too much.

I decided to look into making calls with my iPod Touch. There are a number of sites offering microphones for the purpose of iPod VoIP calls, but I quickly settled on touchmic.com. It's a dedicated site, and they provide software compatibility information for 1st and 2nd gen iPod Touches.

VoIP calls on your iPod

I was initially attracted to the aesthetics of the Macally iVoice III (pictured above). But it requires a separate set of headphones be plugged in for audio. Who wants to hold the mic up to their face when they have headphones in? Everything I've read says that the iPod's speaker cannot reliably be used for listening to phone calls. I wanted an all-in-one solution, so I went for touchmic's top-of-the-line Maximo Isolation Headset with Microphone and button for music control (shown below). I've blown three sets of buds since getting my iPod, so why not?

I've been making some calls via Skype, and while I'm happy with the results, I'm not exactly blown away by the call quality. Don't get me wrong, the set up works well: I can make *and receive* calls on my iPod - if I have Skype open - with no problems. But the tone isn't quite what I had hoped for. The calls lack clarity for whoever we're calling. They sound great on our end.

No problem. The S and T sounds aren't a crisp as we'd like for the person we're talking to, so we have to annunciate. The audio is definitely acceptable - especially for international talks where quality suffers anyway. We haven't had any irritating "What? ... WHAT??" episodes yet. What we've experienced is better than your average bluetooth call. Ah, bluetooth! I'll get to that in a minute.

I can't make any specific recommendations for this or any other mic, as so many factors could have played into my tests. I did switch up the telephones I used for testing, but they were all Skype calls. So Internet congestion in my apartment complex could have been a factor.

Making calls with your iPod

I've only had the Maximo headset for 2 days, so until I've spent more time on the VoiPod, I'm fine with blaming muffled calls on Skype. I have recorded directly to my iPod with the mic, and it sounds pretty darn good.  When it comes to listening to music, the buds are killer. However, I'm planning to sell them very soon. Why? Because the $9.95 3.0 software upgrade for the iPod Touch is reported to awaken dormant bluetooth harware! I'm not sure if it will work with Skype, but I'll let you know as soon as I do.

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