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New Details Emerge About RingTo Becoming a Paid Service

RingTo Apps on Android and iPhone
RingTo is a call forwarding service that has been very popular with prepaid phone users who have multiple phones or switch operators frequently. It's similar to Google Voice in that after you port your phone number to RingTo you can make and receive calls and texts using that number from whatever phone you are currently using. There are also RingTo Android and iOS apps that, like Google Hangouts, let make and receive call and texts with your RingTo using WiFi or cellular data.

RingTo has been completely free to use since it launched several years ago. Yesterday PrepaidPhoneNews covered RingTo's announcement the service was going to cost $18 per year effective January 1, 2015, although current users have until February 15 before they have to start paying. The announcement left a lot of questions unanswered. Now RingTo has revealed more details about the changes in a post to its private, invite only Google+ Group for users of the Beta version of RingTo's Android app. A member of that group reposted the message on HowardForums. I've reposted the message in its entirety at the end of this post, but the key points are:

  • The $18 (plus unspecified taxes) annual fee will be per account, not per number. There is no limit to how many numbers can be attached to a single account.
  • RingTo's terms of service will limit the maximum number of minutes per month to just 300. The current limit is 5,000 minutes. RingTo doesn't say if that's 300 minutes per line or per account. They do say that they won't actually enforce the 300 minute limit and that the real, but undisclosed, limit will be much higher.
  • The RingTo service is going into "maintenance mode" in 2016. After the last new feature, contact list integration, which is currently in development, is released development of new features will end and the RingTo service will be supported by a skeleton crew.   
  • RingTo might shut down if not enough people sign up for paid service

My take is that Bandwith, RingTo's parent company, has decided it doesn't want to subsidize RingTo any longer. I'm not surprised. This is what happens to free services from businesses, they either find a way to be profitable or they get shut down.

I'm disappointed that RingTo broke a promise to its users that had been posted on one of their support pages up until sometime yesterday:

How can RingTo be free? Are you loading this up with ads? What’s the catch? 
Bandwidth, the company behind RingTo has over a decade of supporting disruptive communications companies. We believe that your phone number is a powerful asset and by using the RingTo service, you are actually helping us refine our systems that are commercialized in other areas of Bandwidth’s business.

The RingTo service will be completely free for the foreseeable future.

Don’t worry – we won’t hit you with a bill by surprise, and there will always be a free tier to our service when / if we decide to charge for the service.
That post has disappeared from the RingTo site but you can still find it in the Google Cache.

I'm also disappointed by RingTo saying the there's a 300 minute per month limit in the terms, but they won't enforce it and the real limit is much higher. Why state a limit if you aren't going to enforce it? Why not just say what the real limit is rather than scaring and confusing users?

If you are looking for an alternative to RingTo, Google Voice is still mostly free although it costs $20 to port a number into Google Voice. You can't port RingTo numbers directly to Google Voice either. Because Google Voice only supports port-ins of mobile numbers, you have to first port your RingTo number to a mobile operator and then to Google Voice. Porting to T-Mobile Prepaid is generally considered the cheapest and easiest route because T-Mobile lets you port a number in and out without ever funding or using the T-Mobile service, although you do need to buy a T-Mobile SIM.

There's also a lively discussion about the change and alternatives to RingTo happening on RingTo's public user forum

Here's the text of RingTo's post on the private Google + RingTo Beta Users Group as it was reposted on HowardForums:
Earlier today we notified about 11,000 users that RingTo will be moving to a paid service in 2016. As beta users, you are usually privy to information before the general RingTo population, but the particulars of this announcement made it challenging to stage the information.

What most of you really want to know is.... how does this affect me?

If you ported a number into RingTo then you are one of the 11,000 that got an email blast from us earlier today. You are the 1% (figuratively speaking). You put your trust in us with your phone number. You were part of the sometimes painful lessons we learned about porting. We want to make sure your number still has a safe home.

If you did not get the email, but are part of this beta group, it means either we messed up our record keeping (possible) or more likely, you signed up with Groove IP and use the RingTo app only for account management and SMS/MMS.

In 2016 RingTo will be entering a maintenance period. What that means is you should not count on new features. The last "major" feature will be contact list integration. After that we'll address critical bugs, should any arise. There will be a skeleton staff to ensure the service remains up and running.

After a lot of number crunching and analysis of user call trends, we saw that the average use of minutes across the entire RingTo base of monthly active users is about 100 minutes. Based on that we crunched some more numbers and determined that if enough people sign up at $18/year, we are willing to let the service continue. We made it affordable in the hopes to attract as many of the 11,000 users who ported their number in.

The email blast was light on details. I'll try to hit the common questions here:
1. Cost - $18/yr per account. Not per number. Tax is not included.

2. Usage - The Terms of Service currently sets a limit of 5,000 minutes of use per month. In order to keep costs low at $18/yr, we will be reducing the limit to 300. Your initial reaction will be WTF! Go back and re-read the part about the average use across the entire base. The limit is to protect against abuse. Have we ever enforced the TOS for abuse? Yup, but only in the most egregious cases. In other words, this is not something that we really want to enforce. If the group average creeps up, the highest users will be getting a note from us, along with possible suspension of service. If you dial into a party line all day long (you know who you are AND I KNOW who you are), RingTo is not for you.

3. 911 support – Nope. As a pure OTT app and call forwarding solution, there will not be any e911 support unless there is an FCC mandate.

4. Obihai – If you use an Obi, you are not only in the 1%, you are in the 0.01% (again, figuratively speaking). You are a very special group of users who tend to be highly technical and very familiar with the nuances of VoIP. You generally don’t want a pre-packaged solution, you want the flexibility of mixing / matching your device and VoIP providers. You want to save money and you want a rock-solid service. Based on the small number of users we have on RingTo, there was no reasonable price point we could offer that would allow us to support Obi devices while also offering 911 capabilities and the extra support overhead on our side for managing the tickets we get from Obi users. Rather than offer an unreasonably priced service, we’ve elected to be up front and are committed to helping you find an alternative provider that will support your Obi device. We are working with Obihai to help identify partners that would like to roll out the welcome mat for existing RingTo users. Which leads to the next point.

5. Anveo 911 – Did you just renew? Wondering if you’ll actually get a year of e911 service for that $15? We’re working with Anveo right now to sort out how to best offer a transition period. More news will come.

6. GrooVe IP – GrooVe IP will be sending out a notice in the near future about their new and improved app experience. GrooVe IP and RingTo will be parting ways in 2016. It has been an incredible partnership that has brought value to both parties.

7. Timing – RingTo is marching towards a February transition for users that are interested in continuing. While the actual dates may change, the direction of the service will not. For both GrooVe IP and Obi users, the timing of a transition will be announced in January.

8. Betas – There will likely be one more beta before the end of 2015, focused on contact list integration. No plans for more betas in 2016 at the moment.

Is $18/yr worth the price? That is a personal decision for each of you to make. I will put on my “sales” hat and just remind you of the following:

1. Most people have a cell phone and really just need a simple / cheap place to park/forward their number. If that sounds like you, RingTo is probably going to be one of the most cost effective solutions for you.

2. RingTo has NEVER inserted ads or sold your information to advertisers. Monetization through advertising is just not in our DNA.

3. RingTo is the only app on the market today that allows you to dynamically select your outbound number. No other app does it. In fact, we have a patent pending on that feature. If you have multiple phone numbers, RingTo is likely still a good deal for you.

Is this goodbye? Hopefully not. For those of you that have been part of RingTo for over six months know that we try to give you as much transparency as possible. If there is no interest from our community in seeing RingTo as a service worth paying for, then the alternative is an orderly shutdown for everyone.
Source: HowardForums


Comment Page :
  1. there had been discussion about whether forwarded calls count in that 300 minute limit. I found out that they do count because forwarded calls are considered an outgoing call.

  2. its better to port out than losing the number

  3. Was considering porting a number to them. Glad I didn't. Number is currently parked on Pageplus, once it's near expiration, will just port to google and call it a day.

    For those that may not be in the know, you can use the same destination number with multiple google numbers. It's important NOT to classify it as a mobile number, rather work or home. Text messages will not be forwarded though.

  4. Interesting. What are the odds that Bandwidth eventually just folds RingTo into Republic Wireless? Has RingTo just been Bandwidth experimenting with BYOD for Republic? And now that BYOD for Republic is getting close to launching are they attempting to kill RingTo now that it is no longer needed?

  5. Why do people even need these services, I guess I don't get it.

    1. One reason I saw explained today is for small businesses that want numbers in several local exchanges so their landline callers don't have to call long distance, and the business doesn't have to fund an 800 number. Calls from any of the inbound numbers can be forwarded to one or two manned numbers.

    2. I use Google Voice as a complete OTT cellular interface service. Google provides a number, voicemail, sms, mms, Android dialer integration and most importantly, call forwarding to my cell number. I only use my carrier's talk minutes and cellular data. I do everything through Google Voice/Hangouts. The dialer uses carrier cell minutes when dialing through Google Voice so I'm not bound by VoIP only. This set up allows me to change carriers at will looking for the best quality/cost available.

    3. Anon (12/17/15, 5:19pm) is exactly why I have a RingTo number. My cell phone (my only phone) is a long distance call for my parents. I got a RingTo number in their area code so that they could call me for free.

    4. Mike - if your parents are the only ones calling the Ring.To number, I would suggest get a free Google Voice number in their area and simply exchange that contact number for them. Why pay anything for such a limited scope when it can be had for free? Especially with Ring.To's own admission the service might terminate if not popular enough.

    5. Here's how I use these services. I have one number at GV. I have it forwarded to two different cell phones. Cell #1 is on Lyca paygo that has excellent voice quality in my area. Cell #2 is on RingPlus 1200/1200/1200 free plan - but voice on Sprint is not so great here. I'm at home most of the time and have WiFi data there. I talk very little on the phone. Mostly I text using Hangouts and chat using Skype. The two phones are set up identically - same apps, same account, etc and pictures are synced to Google photos. It doesn't matter which I have in my hand.

      I use cell #1 at home so most of my (infrequent) calls are excellent quality. When leaving to go out and about I grab cell #2 because it has free data. If someone says they can't understand me I simply call them back when I get home. It's a compromise but my cost of cell service is always less than $5 month.

  6. The reliability of all IP calling platforms is close to zero anyways, so even for free they are not worth anything.

  7. I think the part about "skeleton staff" and them shutting down if not enough sign up is essentially an admission that Bandwidth wants to close up shop on RingTo.

  8. A free, ad-supported R2 would've been much better than the pay-4-service model that sounds all but doomed.

    It not like advertisers don't already have everyone's information.

    The only place I'd draw the line is malware-injecting ads and "WATCH THIS VIDEO TO CONTINUE!" ads, both of which only get people angry at advertising itself.

  9. Of course nobody can explain why when I text from google voice it always shows some other phone number and area code, confusing recipients,And with google voice set to "always use google voice " 95% of the time it uses my carrier number. I switched all the stupid repeatative Google voice hangouts stuff off and now people don't think I'm so weird.

    1. It sounds like the short answer is that you're doing something wrong. Lots of people (including me) use GV as their primary public-facing number with none of the issues you describe.

    2. Thanks for that answer. I'm been struggling with a way to say it politely. I think you nailed it.

  10. "You nailed it" unman okay...

  11. A RingTo employee mentioned on their forum earlier this week to "expect that Feb 15th will be adjusted." No new firm date yet as they're coordinating with Groove IP.

  12. Got a text that my account will be shut down 3/31/18 and that my number will be lost if I don't port out...

    Not sure if there are other free call forwarding providers?

    1. Yes, this was first announced the beginning of February and has been discussed at length on comprehensive discussion sites (namely Howard Forums and DSLReports). Most users there are discussing either paid options and/or porting to a pay-as-you-go prepaid cell phone plan.

    2. Some are went to Talkatone which is free. But it looks like it's too late for that. Talkatone | RINGTO PORTING TO TALKATONE

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