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Truphone 3.0 improves call quality, unifies IM

The latest version of Truphone's VoIP app makes calls sound better and instant messages easier to manage. Plus, it lets you add funds to your account with just a few taps.

Truphone 3.0 gives Skype a run for the free-call money.

A new version of popular voice over IP app Truphone just hit the App Store, offering better call quality, single-screen instant messaging, and various interface improvements.

In case you're unfamiliar with it, Truphone leverages Wi-Fi networks to provide free voice calls--worldwide--to other Truphone users and to your Google Talk and Skype contacts. In other words, if you're in range of a hotspot, you can gab all you want without spending a penny.

Truphone also lets you call landlines and cell phones at low rates--great if you routinely burn through your allotted AT&T minutes and don't want to rack up massive overages, or if you're looking to make international calls on the cheap.

Calls to India, for example, cost about 10 cents per minute--less if you sign up for one of Truphone's monthly plans (which can quickly pay for themselves if you make a lot of calls).

In addition to "radically improved" call quality (which is hard to gauge given how many variables come into play for a VoIP call), Truphone 3.0 lets you manage all your instant messaging from one screen. The app supports all the major services: AIM, GTalk, MSN, Skype, and Yahoo. You can also access your Twitter account, though that happens on a different screen.

Truphone now lets you see the rates for a call before placing it, view call history, and top up your account from within the app--all nice perks.

Still, truth be told, there's nothing too earth-shattering about Truphone 3.0--it feels more like a 2.5 release. And I had lots of trouble staying connected to my various IM accounts, and frequently received errors when trying to send messages.

Even so, Truphone trumps Skype for iPhone with its multiplatform calling and chat support. The app itself is free, and you get a $5 credit when you create a Truphone account--more than enough to test the VoIP waters.