WinGizmo is Gizmo5’s Windows-based softphone client for Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP). The company (Gizmo5) offers softphone clients for Windows, Mac and Linux, as well as dedicated clients for mobile phones and Nokia tablets. The features are very similar between the different operating systems, and this review will focus on the Gizmo client running on Windows (WinGizmo).
Gizmo5 also offers dedicated phone-in numbers, credit for calling out over their proprietary VoIP network, and offers basic configuration information for using other softphones with these services. They were the first company to officially support linking to a Google Voice account, and were acquired by Google a few months after that. So far little has changed about their basic operating in the wake of the acquisition.
The Gizmo5 softphone for Windows offers a straightforward interface and is a free download. It is not of much use without either the Gizmo5 service or the Google Voice service for the VoIP bridge.
Using the basic Gizmo services, much like Skype, peer to peer (e.g. Gizmo client->Gizmo client) calls are free. Additionally, the linking of one’s Google Voice account with the Gizmo client effectively provided the ability to reliably make free VoIP calls in and out to practically anyone – landline, cellular, and any open VoIP network (e.g. not a closed system like Skype’s). Users needing to contact Skype-based users can purchase special Skype credits from Gizmo5 if they wish.
The user interface (UI) is similar to a standard instant messaging (IM) type of application, and the software also offers integration with the contacts in IM clients you may be running such as AIM or MSN. The UI looks slightly dated, almost like a Windows 3.1-based application, but it performs well and is efficient in its use of memory and resources. The UI holds up visually compared to Skype, for example, but suffers when compared to Counterpath’s X-Lite.
Gizmo5 is still making updates to the application to improve performance and call quality, and at least one update has come out since the Google acquisition. This is actually encouraging in my opinion, as development is obviously ongoing. The most recent versions are extremely stable, so this is not a matter of constant security or stability patches, but rather seem to be continuous improvement in their applications.
The quality of audio during a VoIP call using WinGizmo will, naturally, depend to a large degree on the VoIP network you use for a provider of service. I have used Gizmo5’s native network and found the quality and strength to be very consistently solid.
Gizmo5 is similar to Skype in many ways, though they also offer some features that Skype does not. For example, you can conference multiple calls between computers together in their client applications. Where Skype has sought to increase market share by bundling their client software on many new computers, Gizmo5 has steadily sought to increase market share with a more open architecture and array of services. Their rates for the various premium services are quite competitive, and with their acquisition by Google it is very likely they will be in business for quite some time (see Google’s acquisition of Grand Central for an interesting history).
Support for the application is somewhat limited, and is primarily available from online forums with other users posting in their message boards. The company maintains an FAQ system that is fairly average for the industry. If you are fairly new to VoIP and softphones, you may find Skype a bit better at “hand-holding” – but if you enjoy playing with technology, Gizmo5 can be a lot of fun.
While their network is not completely open architecture, I find them to be more transparent than systems such as Skype’s.
The UI of the application definitely does not thrill, but ff you are looking for an affordable, quality VoIP soft system, Gizmo5 may very well suit your needs – especially if you have a Google Voice account. If you are already on Skype and rely a lot on contacting other Skype users, it may not.