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Truphone Review: Good effort, poor execution

** Please note that since this post was written, Truphone support has been amazing, and completely resolved the issue!

Before my trip to Europe, I decided to look for a good VoIP app for my iPhone. It bugs me that Skype wasn't (and still isn't) available for it, as that would be the perfect solution. Since then Fring has been released, which I have yet to really try out. But at the time, only Truphone was available, so I thought I'd give it a shot. At first I was quite excited about the app. The pricing looked awesome:

  • Calls to a number of European countries for around $0.05/minute
  • Calls within USA and Canada for only $0.015/minute!!

All that you had to do was pre-pay to buy time. The quality was decent, and it was moderately easy to find WiFi hotspots all around Europe (at some McDonald's you can buy anything at all and you get their WiFi for free).

As far as my trip to Europe was concerned, this saved me a lot of money. I had to make a few calls to Canada and some to Switzerland while in Italy or Greece. This literally cost me pennies, which was nice. I wholeheartedly recommend the service if you make regular long-distance calls from your mobile, and have regular access to WiFi (such as in a home office).

The other really nice thing about the service is that when you call people, it shows your cell phone number in the call display! This is much better than Skype, whose numbers often look fake, and get ignored as telemarketers.

The interface is very easy to use – you scroll through your contacts and make calls almost identically to how you would with the native iPhone phone feature.

However, there was one MASSIVE downside to their service, or rather, to their rates. In order to qualify for the USA/Canada pricing, you had to pre-pay $15. I had no problem with this, as it bought me 1000 minutes, which would have cost me $400 on my regular cell plan. I was quite happy to be able to save all that money. But the truth is, I didn't.

I'd had the plan for almost a month, and I got the following notice:

Your American Tru Saver bundle is about to expire. Buy a new bundle now for more minutes and to keep your remaining 953 minutes for next month.

Are you kidding?! I'd used 47 minutes that month, and it was going to expire if I didn't buy more? The whole purpose of me buyig it was to save money, not spend more each month!

So I sent them the following:

Why on earth would 1000 minutes expire after one month? I'm sorry, but that takes this from being a great service to a virtually useless waste of time. You're forcing me to spend $15 per month, when I wouldn't even have spent that much on long distance anyways.

This is ridiculous.

Justin

I was hoping that this would get them to seriously consider that their prcing plans may not work for the average North American, and it was time to re-strategize. But, two weeks later I received the reply:

Dear Justin,

We are sorry for our delay in getting back to you!

We appreciate you taking the time to submit feedback on our first bundle
offer. We are sorry to hear that our bundle is not suited for your usage.

If you have any further queries please reply to this email for assistance.

Regards,
The Truphone Support Team

Wow. That's pathetic. The extent to which they gave consideration to my email was exactly… none at all.

So here's what it came down to: I paid $15 for 47 min. That's $0.32/minute. I saved a whopping $0.08/minute overall, or about $3.76 in one month. Was it worth it? Not at all.

So, to sum it all up: Truphone is a great idea, and a great product. I would love to see it work over 3G, but it's not likely. The standard pricing is decent, but if you're going to for for the North American Tru Saver bundle, make sure you're going to use those minutes!

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8 Comments

  1. Hi Justin,

    I'm in charge of Customer Service at Truphone and I'm genuinely shocked at the poor response you received. Our recent support issues related to speed of response (which we have dealt with by growing the team rapidly) and I'm working hard to make sure responses like this don't happen again. Apologies.

    The introduction of the American Tru Saver bundle, 1000 minutes at $0.015 valid for a month, was the first step in offering monthly bundles for high volume callers to and in the US. Typically these are sold in the mobile industry with recurring subscription payments and rollover minutes but as soon as you stop subscribing you lose the minutes. We followed this formula in all but hte repeat subscription. In hindsight we could have made the expiry clearer in the sales literature and I have already passed this feedback on to our marketing team to improve this.

    From a support point of view everyone gets a receipt sent to their email containing full details on the bundle including expiry date and how to get help. Whenever a customer has a problem we always look for the best solution for the customer…keeping a happy customer base is essential.

    The great news is that even though you hardly used the bundle it still offered savings on your carrier….

    Send a reply to your customer support email and we will sort out your problem properly…… that's a promise!

    Regards,

    Gavin

  2. This is from Truphone support:

    I can confirm that i have successfully completed your refund for the American
    Tru Bundle back onto your bank card.
    Please note that it may take a few days to appear on your bank card depending
    on your bank process times.

    I hope that you continue using the Truphone service and take advantage of some of new features soon to come!!

  3. This is a very intresting story. I love this website. I hope you can have time to go to my website.

  4. Thanks for the review. I just downloaded this app for my Turkey assignment in January. Looking at ur review I can assure myself I can save some bucks.

    I wish Truphone could come up with more flexible plans, personally I didn't like the idea of truphone coming up with a plan which makes u purchase everymonth. If Truphone wants to survive skype and yahoo(I guess both will definetly come up with an app for Iphone in no time) they should seriously consider your review.

    PS: Calling plan on Yahoo is much cheaper than skype. I use it on my Laptop though.

  5. Justin,

    Skype can be used via s4iphone.com, this is a web service by ShapeServices – http://www.shapeservices.com/s4iphone/

    The service charges monthly or you pay a one-time fee, while it is not the best and cheapest it seems to work out pretty good.

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  7. I have been with Truphone since their inception – and was on their 1st ever plan with free unlimited landline calls. I have steadily watched their prices increase, with the net result that they now have the most expensive VOIP rates in the industry.
    I finally decided i have enough after their TruUnlimited fiasco, whereby they offered a flat rate – £27, charged every month, with no rollover minutes to call landline/mobiles in specified countries. Truth is it was actually 3000 minutes, also because of an extremely complex prepayment system, i was charged £40 upfront, instead of £27, and the whole service was withdrawn after 5 days. They cited unfair usage amongst customers as the reason, but could not confirm why i was amongst those customers, though i had only used 250 mins out of 3000. They dithered for 2 weeks in resolving the issue, constantly fobbing queries off, telling me i had been moved to the TruStandard tariff, and could use my existing credit there, which of course i refused.
    The whole idea was ill thought out. There were no records of specific call details (number/date/time) of call made on the tariff, no minute counter, and a shite online charging system that always overcharged your card.
    Gavin from Truphones reply neatly sums up their incomprehensible thinking. He declares as "great" that Justin saves $3 over his cellphone tariff in the month.
    They see themselves as competing against fixed voice carriers, rather than other VOIP providers!
    Truphone is a great app. Its easy to use, integrates beautifully with the phone and has excellent voice quality. They try to position themselves as the premium brand in the VOIP market. This is all well and good, but ultimately their pricing is not justifiable.
    I predict their pricing model will ultimately be their nemesis, and it will all come unstuck very soon.

  8. I've been using truphone for a while now on my bb 8900, I've had pretty good service except for the occasional call with bad Audio. Still very worth your money if you're doing ALLOT of long distance calling it really cuts your bills down, compared to other carries. I'm personally very happy with this service and would recommend it as a long distance calling solution for people with unlimited local minutes, my fav's program or free minutes nights and weekends. Only thing to watch out for is not violating their Fair Usage policy, which is usually not too much of a pain, and so far they have been reasonably flexible with it.

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