Save your Canadian cell phone bill by switching to Fongo

I have always been seeking ways to save money on our Canadian phone bills. I used to spend $79 CAD per month for my 3GB data and unlimited voice and text from Fido each month. Now my monthly bill is $17.41. How? I first heard of Fongo a few months ago from CBC, and I said why not give it a try?

Fongo replaced my phone app on my iPhone
I replaced my phone app with Fongo app on my iPhone

What is it?

Fongo is a company based in Waterloo, Ontario, Canada. They are a VOIP (Voice Over IP company), essentially, you are using internet to make a phone call and text. Works just like Skype. The only differences? You get a Canadian number, or you can port-in your existing number,  you can send/receive text message to/from any Canadian number.




How to sign up: Get.Fongo.com

Base Cost: Free. Only if you wish to send SMS text message using your number, then you can subscribe to a texting package with Fongo.

Functionality: Works just like any Cell phone service. Free Canadian Local Phone number (or you can port-in your existing Canadian number), Call Display, Voice Mail, Call to any phone including landlines, Call Waiting, Conference Calls, Unlimited Text/Picture Messages (if you sign up text packages from Fongo). See the feature link here.

Pros: You will be assigned with a Canadian number of your choice.  This is perfect as your 2nd number. Or, you can still keep your existing phone number by port-in your number to Fongo. If you lost your phone, go to another phone, download the app, and there you can make a phone call and receive and send a text. You can use Fongo app on iPads or any Pad. So you don’t need an actual phone to make calls. You can be reached anywhere as long as you have data or wifi.

Cons: You will be using Fongo‘s interface to call and text. It might not as pretty as native phone or message app came from your phone. Also, you cannot receive Picture/video message sent directly from SMS. It works with Fongo-to-Fongo number. Most of us are all using all other options like WhatsApp, Line, Wechat..etc anyways. Some shortcode verification may not work with Fongo number.

Some people who do sales for work or do a lot of talk time on Cell phone, sometimes the quality of calls are not 100% there (depends on the strength of your data, and wifi), so it might be better that you don’t completely switch to Fongo. Fongo can be great as your personal number and have the other number as your business number.

Fongo Menu Fongo Dial Pad Interface Fongo Text Message Window Fongo Phone Call Interface
Fongo Menu Fongo Dial Pad Fongo Text Message Window Fongo Phone Call

Additional Cost: Port-in your existing number $25 one-time fee. Takes about 3 weeks to complete. Texting packages from Fongo. 1 month $2.79, 3 months $5.49, 6 Months $9.99. You can get free texting package if someone signs up through you.

You will need this in order to send text messages to people who do not use Fongo. And not everyone uses internet on their phone. So SMS still rules these days.

You might need to buy a data-plan-only simcard, if you are outside of Wifi a lot and wish to receive phone calls.  Currently, I use Fido’s Flexible Data plan, and my phone bill is $15 per month. Because with Fido’s Flexible Data Plan, essentially. It is data plan for tablet up to 3GB is $15 (promo period Sept, 2016), more than 3GB usage, it is $10 per GB.

Who is this for?

  1. The best customers for this app are probably someone who do not wish to pay a hefty monthly phone bill to Canadian phone company. You need a non-contract phone to port-in your number.
  2.  Fongo is also perfect for someone who is slightly more technology savvy, who uses more texting/messaging. Voice call is fine, however, the quality depends on your data/wifi strength.
  3. Travellers or anyone who is on Work Visa visiting Canada will find this perfect. You don’t need to sign a contract plus you are getting a local phone number and also you are paying really cheap for mobile data only. All you need is a Smart phone to download the app.
  4. Travellers like me who do not wish to tie my phone plan with any company. I can travel with my Canadian phone number when I am aboard too.

The experiment:

My father uses pre-paid Fido number which he pays about $15.75 per month to just keep the number, and each call is $.30 per minute. There’s no data included. He travels outside of Canada for 6 moths in a year. So, I convinced my father to port his existing pre-paid Fido number to Fongo. So when he is outside of Canada, he can still receive phone call/text through Fongo.

The probability of my father actually uses that much data is so low that I said to him that he does not need to get the data sim until he really needs to. The Fongo app will work on any Wifi spot.

  1. I have to download the Fongo app on his Android phone. It just happens that my father’s Android phone was set to Google Play store in Taiwan. He has to pay a little fee to purchase the app. (It is called Fongo World Edition).
  2. Email Fongo Support to Port his Canadian number from Fido. Apparently because of this “World Edition”, they don’t have an online store like we have if you are located in Canada. So I had to write to Fongo several times to port his Canadian number. And this has to be done manually.
  3. Once we got the porting sorted. We waited about 3 weeks. Once it is port over, my father’s current Fido sim card is automatically cancelled. The reception says “No service”. He was okay having no data outside of the house for about few weeks, and after few weeks he realizes he still needs the number when he is outside. So I took my father to Metrotown’s Fido store. I told them that we want a Data-plan-only sim card, which is “Flexible Data plan“, we were given a free sim card, and $15 per month up to 1GB if he uses more than 1GB then it is another $10 up to 2GB and another $10 up to 5GB.( This data plan was back in May 2016). The data plan is month-to-month plan, so when he is ready to head back to Asia. He can call Fido to cancel the data plan, and whenever he is back, he can resume the data plan.

The result:

Works perfect. There is no problem with receiving or making phone calls. He did not subscribe to a text package from Fongo because he doesn’t use text messages.

How did I switch to Fongo?

After 3 months testing on my father, I decided to move on to Fongo myself too. I am using an iPhone 6.

  1. I downloaded my Fongo app from App Store. It will come with a Canadian number. Now I go to Fongo.com, log in with my email and pass. There is an Online store. Initially, I have to click on it and it will ask me to send a ticket to the support to “unlock” the store. Which I did. Once it is unlocked, it will ask me to fill in all my information about my existing phone service provider. And I pay $25 to process the port it. It will send me the message when the port-in will be ready. At the mean time, I can still use my existing number and services from Fido.
  2. After about 3 weeks, Fongo port-in my existing number. It will replace the first number Fongo had assigned me. As soon as the port-in is successful, my current Fido sim card service is automatically cancelled.
  3. I go to Metrotown, go to Fido store. I told them that I need a Data-only sim card for Flexible Data Plan. The store lady is more than happy to help me with setting up this. Essentially it is setting up a new account with the new sim card.  The old one is tossed out. There will be no voice and text message included in this new sim card. However, because it is still a sim card, so it will come with another phone number, if you accidentally used it, it is $1 per call and $.50 cents per text message. So I put away my native phone app from iPhone, and I just have Fongo app on my dashboard instead. And I never pick up any phone call that calls to this new number associated with the new sim card.
  4. I subscribed to 6 months texting package with Fongo. It is $9.99 for 6 months. So far so good. I did not have any problem with texting or even text verification through some websites or services I sign up online.
  5. Now my phone bill is $15 + tax = $15.75 + $1.66 per month for text package from Fongo = Total of $17.41 per month.

Few months after using this Fongo app. No problem at all.  I even go hiking with my phone and I still receive my phone call up in the mountain. As long as there’s phone reception there is data. Perhaps I missed out the “wonderful” native Phone app from iPhone but heck, I get to save over $700 a year on my phone bill!! Plus now I can take it everywhere with me. If I am travelling to another country? As long as I have wifi or data, I can receive call/text everywhere. This service is such a god bless.

Maybe there are some minor technical issues…??

Some people said they have trouble with the interface or sometimes they can’t receive a phone call. Sometimes you might have to check if you have power saving mode on, or if you allow Fongo to run in the background while the phone is not in use.

Sometimes people find the app crashes or stall when the phone automatically switch from LTE (mobile data) to WiFi, so what? Just close the app and re-start it.

A friend of mine use Sony Xperia, and it was constant that Fongo didn’t connect to mobile data, or it just never boot up. He has to shut off his phone and restart it to get it going again. I blame that to his crappy phone, it has nothing to do with Fongo.

Some people are worried about it will consume more power and the phone running out of power. I did not have that issue but I also have a super-duper backup battery in my purse all the time just in case I ever running out of juice.

I use an iPhone and it did not have a problem. I find people with Andriod have the most problems. Fongo is also built for people with Android so it has tons of options and settings compare to iPhone.

But heck, it is free to keep the number, that money you saved really worth that little hassle sometimes.

Tips:

  1. For those who are uncomfortable switching, then try to download the app first. It will assign you another number. It means you would still have your existing number and a number from Fongo. Test it out for a while to see if you live with only Fongo app. Perhaps you will want to subscribe Fongo’s text messaging service first to try out. The interface, as I mentioned before, it is not the same as the phone or message app that came from your phone, so perhaps get used to it first before you make the switch.
  2. Pick a different ring tone for your Fongo app to compare to your original phone app. So you can tell which phone you are picking up. And once you port-in your number, then you can tell if there’s some misc phone call to your new data sim card so you won’t be accidentally picking it up.
  3. Please make sure you put away your native phone app (the phone app that came with your phone) after you set up your Fongo and get your data-sim card. Sometimes I accidentally will click on number of a business that I searched on Google (e.g. restaurants) and it will use my native phone app to call. Each call you make is $1!

*Disclaimer: I am not affiliated with Fongo. I am using their service and just spreading the money saving-tips as Canadian traveller and frugalist. 🙂

Feature Photograph: Maurizio Pesce/flickr

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