The outstanding Line2 voice over IP app for iPhone from Toktumi now includes SMS text messaging in addition to its existing calling services, providing a full second mobile telephone line over WiFi or cellular data services to Apple smartphone users who may be having trouble getting good AT&T coverage for their primary line.
Line2 3.0, which was released in October, adds what Toktumi bills as carrier-grade SMS messaging, which I found to be a rather humorous goal, given carriers' long-standing treatment of SMS messaging as a bulk-rate mechanism with nonguaranteed delivery.
Unfortunately, users may find the price a little unwieldy, given that the service works only on the iPhone, and cannot be accessed from a PC, Mac or other device. The application is a free download from Apple's App Store and comes with a 30-day free trial of the Line2 services, which includes unlimited free calling and texting within the United States and Canada. But after the 30-day period, Line2 costs $10 a month, which is a marginally expensive cost for a VOIP service that works on only one device.
By comparison, a monthly SkypeOut plan costs $3 a month and works on a cornucopia of different devices, even though Skype's messaging doesn't work as well and has per-message costs associated with it.
Line2 offers iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch (second-generation or better) users a full telephone line for their device. For iPhone users, this acts as a complete second line, with its own number (which you choose when registering for Line2) that operates in parallel with the native AT&T extension. While the iPad is currently supported, expect Line2 to work better on that device once Apple lights up background tasks on its slate in the forthcoming iOS 4.2 software release.
When placing calls, users can dial numbers directly from the Line2 on-screen keypad, or access the iPhone's contact directory through Line2 to place calls. A toggle button on the dial pad allows the user to select whether to place the call via the AT&T line or the Toktumi line.
However, I tested version 3.0.1 of Line2 using my SIM-less iPhone 3GS (I had happily quit AT&T earlier this year)-making my iPhone the equivalent of an iPad or an iPod Touch-so I didn't have access to an AT&T line to try these features. I did find the call quality of the Line2 VOIP line over my office 802.11n WiFi network to be excellent, with no noticeable distortions or jitter effects, nor any unusual delay effects. iPhone users can also configure Line2 to place VOIP calls over AT&T's 3G data network, although mileage may vary depending on the data coverage and network performance.
Once a VOIP call had been connected through the Toktumi line, I found I could easily transfer the call to other land or mobile lines, and I could also conference in additional parties with just a few clicks.
I found Line2's SMS messaging worked quite well, as I was easily able initiate conversations with mobile phones in my contact directory. Like the iPhone, Line2 keeps a threaded view of text conversations, tracking my recent conversations and allowing me to easily drill back down into prior conversations to see what was said, and when.
MMS is not currently supported, however, so Line2 can't be used to share pictures or videos.
For customers looking for a more robust, small business class VOIP offering that works across multiple endpoint devices, Toktumi also offers an upgrade to its full Toktumi Hosted PBX Phone Service. For $15 a month (or $80 for five prepaid months), the full service offers an auto attendant, conference calling, customized greetings, and visual voice mail, among other features.