As you are are probably aware, VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) is a technology with which you can make telephone calls over a broadband internet connection instead of an ordinary fixed-line phone service provider, or Plain Old Telephone Service (POTS).
There is a large number of devices and services that enable users to take advantage of the cost savings that this technology puts in your pocket. I will introduce three of the highest profile ones : Vonage, magicJack, and Ooma Telo.
Vonage is the most well-established of the three. It provides all the benefits of a traditional land line, and more.
The most widely subscribed to calling plan they offer gives you unlimited calls in the U.S., Canada and Puerto Rico; low international rates to 60 countries; and many other handy benefits like voice mail, three-party calling, caller ID, existing number portability, the ability to take your number with you should you move, and numerous other features.
Vonage really only has one draw back, but it’s a big one: the phone bill you receive every month . Their popular “Vonage World” calling plan will put you back $25.99 per month. That sounds quite reasonable compared to a fixed-line phone, but then again , the main point of acquiring VoIP is the relatively lower cost. Bearing that in mind, $25.99 a month seems a little steep. Vonage also has business phone plans that are a little more expensive , but still seem like they could save the average office a considerable amount of money. I would say that Vonage is a good option for an office , but not so attractive as a home phone service provider.
While Vonage is in many ways similar to a fixed-line telephone service, magicJack is radically different. The magicJack itself is a telephone jack that you can plug into a USB port on your computer. From there, you just need to set it up by following the prompts that automatically pop up on your computer screen. A soon as that is done , you can plug your standard RJ-11 phone jack-equipped telephone into the magicJack and start making phone calls.
The best thing about the magicJack is just how affordable it is. The initial investment required is only $39.95, including the $20.00 purchase price and the first year’s service charge. After that, there is an annual service charge of $19.95. You heard right: $19.95 per year.
Another advantageous the magicJack has is its portability. At 113 x 55.56 x 13.65 mm ( 4.45 x 2.19 x 0.54 inches), It can easily be put in a pocket. You can use it for making unlimited calls in the United States (including Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands) and Canada from anywhere that you can access a broadband internet connection–even if you’re out of the country. Say for example you are vacationing in Italy. You’d still have to pay magicJack international rates to call anybody there (currently $0.02 per minute to a fixed line phone, and $0.28 to a mobile), but you could call home for free.
One weak point is that it does not offer portability of your existing land line phone number. That means that you can’t transfer your home phone number to the magicJack. On the other hand, you have a wide choice of area codes and telephone numbers when you first set it up and, once it is set up, you can receive calls at that number from anyplace in the world.
A more annoying downside is the fact that it’s impossible to turn off the magicJack’s advertisements. The following is an excerpt from the terms of service agreement:
“You also understand and agree that use of the magicJack device and Software will include advertisements. Advertisements will be served through the magicPage Software or the magicJack softphone – the software/softphone attempts to serve local advertisements and classifieds using a completely automated process that enables us to effectively target dynamically changing content. Our computers may analyze the phone numbers you call and your registration information in order to improve the relevance of the ads. We do not provide any personal information to our advertisers or third parties.”
Sounds irritating, to say the least, but I guess it’s like a bad smell: with the passage of time, you barely notice it. But that’s not the biggest disadvantage of the magicJack. The biggest downside, when it’s thought of as being a replacement for a regular land line, is that it doesn’t work when your computer is off .
As our final product review, let’s take a look at the Ooma Telo. From the point of view of its being a replacement for a traditional home phone, the Ooma Telo has the all of the good points and none of the bad points of the preceding two phones.
Like Vonage, it works independently from your computer, so it doesn’t matter if your computer is on or off, or even if you have a computer. It’s also more or less stationary. That’s a good thing for anyone who has young children. These days, most people rely on their cell phones most of the time, but if you have young children in the house, it can be reassuring to have a phone easily accessible to anyone who may be taking care of them, like parents or a baby sitter.
Like magicJack, Ooma Telo does not charge monthly phone bills. As a matter of fact , there are no phone bills at all. After you buy the Ooma Telo box, you only have ot pay tax and regulatory fees of $11.75 a year, which is for taxes and regulatory fees.
Also, the Ooma Telo is a modern and sleek unit and includes an answering machine which uses capacitive sensing technology, so the buttons respond to your slightest touch.
It isn’t very portable, which could be seen as a disadvantage, but you can of course take it with you if you move house, though it’s not a device that you would carry about with you every day.
The real disadvantage of the Ooma Telo is the initial investment. It costs from $200.00 to $250.00. That’s not an overly exorbitant amount of money, but it will set you further back than the 40 bucks for a magicJack. On the other hand , in comparison to Vonage, it would pay for itself in no time .
To Sum up, Vonage is an all around system that offers a seamless transition from a land line to VoIP (with the caveat that number portability is not available for some land line numbers) and a list of functions that make it much more convenient than your land line phone service ever could be . Unfortunately, it’s one of the most expensive VoIP providers.
MagicJack is priced to sell , but is not the ideal replacement for a land line: it lacks existing number portability and doesn’t work when your computer is switched off .
The Ooma Telo gives you the best of both worlds. Like Vonage it offers a seamless transition from a land line to VoIP (with the same caveat about existing number portability) and similar to the magicJack, when you say “hello” to this VoIP provider, you can say “goodbye” to your monthly telephone bills.