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Definition: softphone

(SOFTware PHONE) An application in the user's computer for making phone calls over the Internet. Known as a "voice over IP" (VoIP) service, computer users have a choice of audio hardware, including microphone and speakers, headset, Bluetooth phone or an IP phone connected via USB (see USB phone).

Softphone functionality is also available for smartphones and tablets, and these mobile devices only require the installation of a VoIP app.

Softphones can work stand-alone or be part of an IP PBX family. They offer the full range of phone features, such as call forwarding and conference calling. They may also interface with applications such as Outlook for automatic phone dialing. See VoIP, IP phone, IP PBX and IP telephony. See also software-defined radio.

One of the First SoftPhones
Launched in 1996 with ads to support its low rates, Net2Phone was one of the first software-only VoIP services. (Image courtesy of Net2Phone, Inc., www.net2phone.com)