Phonehog.com: A Phone Card Befitting the Internet
Written: Oct 9, 2000
a Very Helpful Review
by the Epinions community
Pros:Free phone long distance, 2 options of involvement, good for several uses (emergency, LD, international).
Cons:Dubious, possible access line charges (from free minutes), unhelpful website.
One day, while going through my daily business, I spied a poster with large lettering: "FREE LONG DISTANCE!" A simple advertisement, it got right to the point: "Zero cents a minute. First minute, last minute, all the minutes in between, from any phone, any time." I was intrigued, and that evening, I was introduced to PhoneHog.com.
With the inundation of the internet market with services for voice communication over PCs, another website for it makes as much splash as a teardrop in the ocean. There are PC-to-PC services, like buddyphone, as well as PC-to-Phone services, the most popular being DialPad.com. So, is PhoneHog.com worth it?
PhoneHog does not share the PC-to-anything market with anyone. As the poster stated, this is calls from any PHONE, free. So, the question is, what does this entail? PhoneHog works by assigning a member a PIN and an 800 access phone number, which is nothing less than a phone card. However, you don't actually receive a card, except by email. When your PIN arrives (via email), it is available for use. Signing up credits you with an initial 10 minutes. Obviously, that isn't enough to make this whole venture worthwhile. That's where PhoneHog's scheme comes to light. Referrals and ad links.
PhoneHog, as many web services do nowadays, rewards you for referring new members. 5 minutes per referral. Which isn't bad. However, I, for one, am not a big one for referring people. So, after gaining 10 minutes for signing up and 5 minutes for referring one person, I hit a wall. How would this even be worth my time if all I had was 15 minutes? Hence, PhoneHog offers another option included in their plan. If anyone is familiar with websites such as mypoints.com, etour.com, etc., this will ring a bell. PhoneHog sends, through email, occasional ad links that, by clicking through and merely viewing the site, credits your "virtual phone card" with 2 minutes each. It's convenient, one every other day or so, so they don't backlog your email. So, after a month of passive ad-clicking, my calculations show that I should have 35-45 minutes on my "phone card."
Now, enter the problems. One cannot access PhoneHog.com to view how many minutes are on an account. The website is very simple and unhelpful. You can log in, and you are immediately routed to a "Refer Your Friends!" page. That, a page where you can change your email address, and a page with a couple of ad links are the only accessible pages. This does not imply underhandedness, but instead poor web page construction and unhelpfulness. But, one must keep in mind that the ideal use of this service is credited minutes by ad links and the use of an access number.
Which brings up the 800 access number's problems. As I stated, my calculations show 35-45 minutes credited. I have checked my account by phone (the only way) twice, once right after I received my 5 minutes for a referral. The large menu structure of the access number includes long distance call, international, and account info. After 3 or so minutes of experimentally exploring the menu structure, I accessed account info. It stated my minutes as "9 minutes available." Does this mean that calling the access number reduces your minutes? I am not sure, but it seems either that or there is a connection minute charge. The second time I called, at about 25 estimated minutes, it listed it as "14 minutes available." Maybe it's just that it takes a week to register the full changes to an account.
So, perhaps the questions, vagueness, or inconveniences outweigh the advantages of PhoneHog. For those who refer many people easily, this would be ideal. For people who don't mind an infrequent ad click-through, it may be beneficial. Myself, I will pile my credited minutes, and keep the info on my person for those pay-phone moments when 1-800-COLLECT just doesn't seem like the way to go. And, it seems to have promise for international calling, although I haven't experimented with that. So, the phone time's free, first, last, and in between, and at a varying degree of involvement, one could really enjoy the benefits.
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