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Written by
Katy Ratican
13 Mar 2023
8 minutes

Save money, stay connected: The best calling apps for budget-conscious users

Looking for a cost-effective calling app? Here’s a detailed guide to help you make the right choice.
Best calling apps

Are you a small or local business owner, gig worker, independent creative or entrepreneur looking for a calling app? One that has all the tools that will help your business grow but will be easy on the pocket? This detailed guide on calling apps for budget-conscious users will help you choose the one that gives you the edge.

Why are calling apps becoming popular?

Calling apps – also known as virtual numbers – are becoming the smarter alternatives to landlines and mobile phones. They’re cost-effective, particularly for long-distance and international calls, easy to use, flexible, feature-rich and technologically superior to the older phone systems.

Based on VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol), calling apps use the internet to connect callers. The pandemic and the associated rise in remote and hybrid work made them more popular among both regular and business users. The landline phone switch-off, happening in 2025, is another reason for the rise in the popularity of calling apps.

Types of calling apps

There are three types of calling apps that you consider. These are designed for distinct target audiences and come with user-specific features.

Calling apps for personal use

The primary purpose of these calling apps is to allow users to make and receive calls and send texts. Other than calling, texting and file sharing, they may not have advanced business tools to centralise, monitor and improve your communication.

Most of these apps are from tech giants who don’t want their users to leave their ecosystem. Or they’re from standalone firms that offer free calling with ad support. If you need a calling app to stay connected with your friends and family, especially if you want to make international calls, they could be the right option for you.

Calling apps for medium and large enterprises

Medium and large enterprises aren’t looking for calling apps as much as unified business phone systems. The virtual phone systems for such companies come with extensive tools and would need in-house experts for support and maintenance.

These calling apps offer an entire bouquet of functionalities from calling and texting to high-definition video calling, conference calling features, call centre support and advanced analytics to monitor and improve the performance of hundreds of customer support agents across multiple locations. However, this type of calling app is often expensive and cumbersome for regular users and small businesses.

Calling apps for small and local businesses

These apps are designed exclusively for small and independent businesses, startups and independent entrepreneurs who have a specific set of communication needs. For example, with Chalkboard, you get HD calling, business texting, auto-reply, number sharing and other business tools in a cost-efficient way.

These VoIP small business phones don’t have complex installation or maintenance requirements. In other words, they offer all the tools a small business needs and none of the complex functionalities that only large enterprises need.

Popular calling apps

If you’re thinking of switching to a VoIP service, these are the most popular calling apps you can consider.


With Chalkboard, you get a phone system with calling, texting and communication management features without the need for a physical phone system. Made for small and local businesses, this advanced calling app allows your team members to share their numbers or keep them private. With group broadcast, you can send the same message to multiple contacts. This means your marketing can now be amplified at no cost.

You can add multiple types of media to your conversations and set auto-reply for calls you can’t take. This virtual number also comes with voicemail transcription and shared inboxes. It doesn’t have contact centre solutions for large enterprises. But this calling app is the ideal option for businesses on a budget.

Google Voice

A calling app from the Google ecosystem, Google Voice is popular primarily because it’s free. Although the free plan is limited to numbers registered in the US and users in the US, you would get a local area code to make your business seem credible. This calling app allows for number porting that’s part of the free plan.

Google Voice has support for ring groups or hunt groups that allow incoming calls to ring on multiple devices. But it suffers from unreliable customer support. Plus, there are texting limits, which will hamper your text marketing. Moreover, the paid plans can be expensive since you have to pay $10 for the starter plan and an additional $6 per month to access Google Workspace.


One of the first calling apps in the market, Grasshopper has been around for two decades or so. This virtual number allows you to choose from toll-free or vanity numbers. You get call forwarding and real-time notifications of missed calls, which would suit businesses.

The app also transcribes voicemails and voicemails and forwards these as emails. This is a handy feature that gives you a complete view of your communication. But the app is expensive for small, local businesses and most of its features are for medium and large enterprises.


If you’re a budget-conscious user looking for a calling app, TextNow is another option you can consider. To begin with, the service is free. Just download the app, select an area code, and you can make calls and send texts for free to anywhere in the US and Canada.

For those who have to make international calls from the US, TextNow is particularly attractive. Calls to Mexico are free but you would have to get a subscription to call other countries. Unfortunately, TextNow is ad-supported and doesn’t have any business tools for marketing and collaboration.

Choosing the right app

The right calling app can transform a business. If you’re looking for a virtual business phone system, these are the factors you should keep in mind:

Specialisation: As a local or independent business, what you want is a calling app that’s built for your unique needs and not one that’s complex, expensive or challenging to maintain.

Budget: Free virtual numbers have sketchy customer support, few business tools and could be unsafe. If it’s a paid number, ensure that you only have to pay a subscription fee and no additional fees for business tools.

Features: As a local, independent business or freelancer, you would require auto-reply, voicemail transcription, business texting, number sharing, a centralised phonebook etc. Don’t pay for complex features that you won’t need.

Devices: Identify the total number of devices you would be using the calling app on. See if there are any software mismatches or access issues before you get started.

Security: Your calling app needs to have end-to-end encryption. This is necessary especially if the connected devices have any sensitive financial information or customer databases.

Number porting: If your customers associate your business with a number, it would make sense to select a calling app that allows number porting.

Customer support: If it’s for personal use, you may not have much problem in case you have a problem with your phone and can’t quickly reach customer support. But if a business phone system is down, you’re looking at lost revenue and aggrieved customers.

Free trial: If your calling app comes with a free trial, you can test everything from product features to ease of use and customer support.

Getting started

Most calling apps make it easy to get started since there’s no need to buy an additional device, hardware or SIM. With Chalkboard, for example, all you have to do is:

  • Download the app: First step is to download Chalkboard.

  • Port your number: You can port your current number in a few simple steps.

  • Choose your new number: Select from more than thousands of numbers and personalise them.


Here are some of the problems that you might occasionally face while using a calling app and what to do about them.

Internet connectivity

Check your bandwidth speed and make sure that your internet bundle is powerful enough for VoIP calling.

Voice and phone quality

If you have a reliable internet connection but still face poor voice and phone quality, move your router away from power strips, fans and computer monitors.


It’s important to regularly reset your passwords, set up firewalls, limit access based on user needs and train employees on security protocols.

Why Chalkboard?

A calling app that meets the needs of a large enterprise or one that’s right for personal use won’t be the ideal solution for small businesses. If you’re an independent business, you need a calling app designed to address your concerns.

With Chalkboard, you get a virtual business phone system that’s simple, affordable, flexible and exceptionally easy to use. This isn’t another number for your business. This is the only number your business will need.

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