The technical term ‘Softphone’ is used for software applications which run on any device (mobile, laptop or desktop), and has telephone like functionality. Soft Phones are used to place VOIP calls which are generally cheaper when making international calls. Most of those applications actually run on hard phones(phones made specially for VOIP purposes) but there are planty also made for mobile and pc. The softphones work similar to any actual phone, with functionalities like outgoing & incoming voice calls and outgoing/incoming Video calls. They are basically IP based phones, providing VoIP ( voice over IP) functionality, governing protocols such as SIP( session initiation protocol) , or H.323 or SCCP or any other similar proprietary protocol.
Examples of softphones for desktop and mobile: X-lite, zoiper, Pindo, vChat, Whatsapp , Skype.
Procedure & Functionality :
There is quite a big diversity in soft phones . Some are made to serve the masses, and they are mostly free, while others are business and enterprise oriented with license versions. Softphones can be classified as a type of IP-phone with no hardware. The software supplication of the softphone available based on the OS platform basis Linux, WINDOWs, MAC like X-lite, etc. Following are the procedure steps for setting up the softphone:
- Software Installation
- License key configuration, if any
- After successful installation, License key is entered to within the application of the software to make it working.
- Few trial version of the softphone are available with limited edition i.e., once softphone installation is installed and running, it bind itself with the PC/Desktop/Laptop MAC address and this information is send to centralised server of the software.
- This is done to avoid multiple installation of softphone on same machine.
- Once the tenure of license expire, softphone stops working until license is renewed again.
- Post License key configuration, desired network and dial plan related configuration is done in order to get it registered with server, which is VoIP server.
- The IP –address of the system (PC/Desktop/Laptop) is used as the IP-address of the softphone itself.
- Initial configuration of the softphone after installation also involves providing the IP-address of the proxy server which will be anchoring all services of the softphone like registration and call.
- Softphone does its registration with the VoIP network in which Softphone Address-of-record (AOR) is populated in the VoIP location server database, and now softphone ready to send or received any call.
- Most common usage of such softphone to test the network functionality.
- Another usage of such softphone to perform load and stress testing of the network.
In Public network for mobile user: softphone is generally available as a mobile application. The software applications are uploaded to public server like PlayStore or AppStore, from where the user can download it on his mobile. Most such apps require the user to have stable internet connection to operate (with the exception of Pindo and Rebtel). In the mobile market softphones are dominated by free apps and there is almost no paid versions.. Following are the procedure steps for setting up the softphone on mobile:
- Software Installation
- User Profile creation
- Softphone application is downloaded from play-store in a single click and get installed automatically on the supported version of the Mobile OS/Platform.
- After successful installation, softphone application is brought up on the mobile by a click and user profile is created. Since such softphone is available for public use, hence the user profile creation steps generally involves linking with public social network, like twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn etc, and name/password, and OTP verification to authenticate user mobile number
- Upon successful completion of the user profile, installed softphone is available to function as per designed functionality/feature.
- Most such softphones doesn’t require any pre-configuration of network details.
- The Server/Network details is in build within the software downloaded and ready to use more readily
If I have to make a bet I would bet on softphones with html based user interface. They are mostly used for commercial purpose like Video-Conferencing, license based conferencing for entrepreneurs, meeting, three-way calling etc. They come with Pay-and-Use functionality, and most of them are based on SIP protocol for session creation and media streaming.