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Get friends or family on a group call for free

Conference-call services aren't just for business, and they're also not expensive. Here are two ways to get everyone on the line without spending a dime.

Ever try to coordinate a group for something? A party, an outing, soccer practices, all that stuff -- it can be a serious challenge to get everyone on the same page. Email tends to be slow, with threads often veering off in unwanted directions. And group texts can be utter chaos, especially with more than a few people participating.

Sometimes, a phone call makes the most sense. But what's the best way to get everyone on the line at the same time? Simple: use a conference-call service. You might look upon these as business-only tools, but they have practical personal applications as well -- and at least a few of them are free.

Why not just string together a bunch of three-way calls? Because that's a huge hassle, and sound quality tends to degrade the farther out you drag the chain. Instead, just give everyone a dedicated number to dial and a PIN to punch in. Presto: conference-calling for friends, family members, activity groups and the like.

uberconference-for-ios.jpg
Screenshot by Rick Broida/CNET

Below I've wrangled up two extremely easy options for your next group call. One works with up to 10 people, the other with a virtually unlimited number.

Calls for up to 10 people

Got a relatively small group? Start with UberConference, which works like this: Using your browser or the Android or iOS app, you can schedule a conference call or start one straight away. The apps let you choose contacts to invite to the call, though you can also send the details via text or email to anyone not in your address list.

Those details consist of a dial-in number and PIN code. You can also provide your dedicated Web address, because UberConference also offers a screen-sharing option. Cooler still, once the call is under way, you can use the app (or browser) to see who's on the call, and it'll even highlight who's speaking, which is fairly amazing.

Calls for more than 10 people

If you're dealing with a larger group, turn to FreeConferenceCall.com. It's not nearly as slick as UberConference, but it gets the job done, and even offers features like call recording. What's more, anyone who installs the FreeConferenceCall app can easily dial into a call without having to manually dial the number or enter a PIN (which can be challenging, to say nothing of unsafe, while driving).

Given its total cost of $0, this is a surprisingly robust service. It can broadcast your call in real time as internet radio or play a prerecorded message. It can even search recorded calls for transcribed keywords. Much of this is probably overkill if you're, say, planning a weekend rafting trip with the guys, but it's still pretty cool.

Have you found a group-calling service you like better than either of these? Name it in the comments!