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Is there a VoIP app for iPhone which doesn't need to be open to receive calls and is continuously on? I'm after something similar to the Skype app. I've tried Zoiper and Bria but neither have this feature.

The app should support the standard SIP protocol and allow connecting to any VoIP/SIP provider.

  • Bria works much better with their pay-for push notification service. Zoipe also has a similar (payable) feature. – David Balažic Jan 26 at 12:31
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I know that there is an app that behaves similar to your mention. The case is, that the app I'm talking about is well known in DACH and is only working with routers of a specific company 'avm'. The app is called 'Fritz!App Fon' and empowers you to receive and make calls. Even when not opened, the app receives incoming calls. Unfortunately you need those routers 'Fritz!Box' to take advantage of that feature. VOIP providers can then be set in the router's settings and be bound to your device - very simple and not complicated at all.

Edit: Via VPN you are able to make those calls from any place on the world - internet connectivity required :)

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I tried several SIP client apps (in beginning of 2019, with iOS 12.1.3 on iPhone SE, with my SIP provider; your mileage may vary). Only free apps (with the exception of payable push notification service, where noted).

First a note: one of the biggest issues is availability while the app is in the background, or when you just put the phone down and it locks the screen and kills most apps. So the app can not receive incoming calls (or messages). This is solved by the app making/tricking the OS to run the app in the background all the time, or using push notifications (the "official" way, supported and endorsed by iOS).

Second note: All apps can and do use the phones contact list. To match incoming calls, allow selecting a contact to make an outgoing call, etc...

"Winners"

Bria Mobile (version 5.5.2)

I enabled push notifications, costs about 1 EUR per month, there is a week or two free trial period.
I did not test background mode (instead of push notifications) although the app has some settings for that (and they all warn about increased battery usage).

  • (++) works, with almost zero issues (unlike others)
  • (--) push notifications are payable (they are payable for all apps, to be honest, at least the ones listed here)
  • (--) the missed call notification sometimes shows only phone number and no contact name (even if caller is known and in my contact list)
  • (--) in received SMS messages it converts some character combinations to smiley icons

Grandstream Wave (version 1.2.9.3)

  • (++) works also in background
  • (--) therefore increases battery usage
  • (--) still sometimes not receiving incoming calls, rarely (I guesstimate around one in 20 incoming calls to fail)
  • (--) many incoming SMS messages are unreadable due to a graphics glitch
  • (--) incoming calls phone number often not matched to a known contact (see details here)
  • (--) sometimes receives the same SMS multiple times
  • (--) after restart of phone, incoming calls don't work even if app is still running (is shown in the active app list), have to start it manually
  • (--) back (arrow) button in the GUI is very unresponsive, have to tap it several times to work

"Losers"

Linphone 4.0.3 (inside the app it says 4.0.2)

  • (--) not showing received SMS message content, only time and sender
  • (--) outgoing calls don't work!
  • (--) sometimes changes in settings/preferences are not remembered
  • (--) does not match incoming call phone numbers to contacts

Zoiper Lite v3.21.1

  • (--) bad support, both free/community and premium. No response for weeks.
  • (--) annoying popup that is has no access to camera on each start of app. Also a different popup informing that there is a mobile or wifi network available. (can maybe be turned off)
  • (--) can not login/register to SIP server in some (WiFi) networks (where other clients I tested work fine)
  • (--) does not match incoming call phone numbers to contacts (later in history they are paired correctly)
  • (--) plays the default ringtone for a second after I reject an incoming call. Even if I select another ringtone. And set the phone to silent mode (there is no ringing during the call, but after I reject it)
  • (--) often the other party in a phone call can not be heard. Or vice versa. This seems almost random. Sometimes all works, sometimes not.
  • (--) several times, when the app was running in foreground and was registered to the server, incoming calls (or SMS messages) did not work

Not tested

Acrobits Softphone

Is praised by some, but is not free, also no free trial period, so I did not test it.

Honorable mention

Adore SIP Client 7.0

  • (++/--) ancient GUI :-)
  • (++/--) works, but not in background
  • (--) no SMS message support
  • (--) some trouble accessing contacts, seems only some of them are accessible from the app
  • Thanks for a well-researched answer! If you have the time, could you add links to the AppStore? – nohillside Feb 7 at 8:11
  • You removed the pros/cons distinction. Why? – David Balažic Feb 7 at 8:28
  • Ah, was focused on the formatting, put it back in now. Sorry, thanks for reminding me. – nohillside Feb 7 at 8:37
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If you're looking for a good, full featured VoIP app (i.e., with a secondary phone number assigned), I'd highly recommend TextNow. Ad-supported version works well (you just have to use it regularly); and you can even turn it into a "real" phone if you want down the road.

  • Are you sure this is a VoIP client app? It is not even listed in app store (probably due to location restrictions). What VoIP providers does it support? – David Balažic Jan 28 at 7:59
  • Ah, yes, its +1 (US/Canada) only. I think you might get better answers if you clarify what you mean by VoIP, which is a very broad term; when you say "which providers", to me that makes me think what you're after are apps that are clients for hosted SIP providers? To me, VoIP generally means any type of PSTN bridging software.But I also know lots of others who consider calls over WhatsApp or Messenger or FaceTime (etc.) "VoIP". Which technically, they very much are! – Geoff Nixon Jan 31 at 1:41

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