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Skype vs. Gizmo: Very Similar, but Different
Skype has long been the leader in free VOIP services, but it is not without competition. One such competitor is Gizmo, which was recently acquired by Google. Gizmo is a very similar service to Skype, but as always there are small differences between the two.
The question is - is Gizmo actually better than Skype? The battle of Skype vs. Gizmo is on!
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The interfaces of Skype and Gizmo and very similar in some places, and very different in others. In terms of basic layout, both Skype and Gizmo have many similarities. When either program is loaded up you are presented with a central screen which provides numerous options. However, while Skype tries to incorporate almost everything into the central interface screen, Gizmo sorts things into tabs.
For example, in Skype making a call doesn't require navigating to a new part of the interface but rather introduces a new element on the existing interface. This isn't always less confusing, however. For example, finding the number pad while on a call is confusing in Skype because there are actually two number pads - one for making a new call and one for dialing numbers on your existing call. Gizmo simply has a single dial tab, which is more intuitive.
Skype looks much slicker than Gizmo, which uses a fairly ugly interface which brings back memories of Windows 98. Skype makes better use of graphical elements to make the interface appear more professional, but this also appears to have an impact on the memory the program uses. Gizmo uses around 15,000kb on my system, while Skype uses closer to 25,000kb. This victory rings a little hollow, however - realistically, neither takes up enough memory to cause a significant slowdown even on a netbook.
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Call Quality and Features
Finding a difference between the call quality of Gizmo and Skype is very difficult. Both services allow for calls to span continents and both allow for conferencing. Conferencing is handled differently, however. Gizmo uses a system in which a central conference number is created which must be dialed into by all participates, while Skype essentially puts the responsibility of hosting a conference call in the hands of a single user, who must call others to introduce them to the conference. The Gizmo system is more flexible, but the Skype system is more intuitive. There is no apparent difference in conference all quality.
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While Skype is an excellent program, it suffers from a lack of openness. Skype acts as an instant messenger and call service which is not compatible with other services. Gizmo has a major advantage in this regard because it does allow integration with other instant messenger services. Gizmo isn't the only program to offer the ability to consolidate multiple instant messenger programs into one program, but it is the only VOIP program to do this. However, the free VOIP services only apply to other Gizmo users - this integration doesn't give you the ability to call AIM contacts, for example.
Gizmo also offers a few other interesting features. Livejournal users can use Gizmo for voice posts, for example.
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Pinning down a comparison based on pricing can be difficult because it is constantly fluctuating. In general, Gizmo offers better rates than Skype when it comes to per-minute charging of phone calls, although the difference is often only a few fractions of a cent per minute.
Gizmo offers two services for free which Skype does not. These are voicemail and inbound calls from landlines. These are both services which Skype users must pay for. Gizmo also allows for free calls to phones which use the same connection protocol, called SIP, although it is fairly rare for landlines to use this.
This isn't a clear-cut win for Gizmo, however. Gizmo's voicemail service isn't as fleshed out as Skype's. Also, while Gizmo allows free calls in from landlines, Skype's subscription packages are fairly robust, reasonably priced, and offer additional features which still make them attractive compared to Gizmo.
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Drawing a clear verdict is difficult. Both Gizmo and Skype offer robust services which are similar in many ways. The question of which is best for you may come down to simple personal preference over the interface.
It should be noted, however, that you may be limited in your choice simply because of Skype's popularity. Gizmo remains the underdog, and that means it is less likely that your friends already use it.
In any case, this is a verdict which is still undergoing revision. Gizmo has be bought by Google and is awaiting a "relaunch" of the service. It is likely this will involve dramatic updates and possibly even a name change. Skype will at that point have a serious battle on its hands.