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MagicJack: Helping our family talk for cheap!

Posted by GNC at 2:13 PM on June 17, 2009

About 16 months ago I was visiting family and the TV was left on an infomercial for some reason.  An infomercial about free the internet telephone MagicJack was airing.  They would walk into a business and give them a USB MagicJack for free and ask them to try it. Of course all of the reviews were great.  I turned the channel.  Just another commercial.

And then my sister who works abroad in India called me.  She told me that she was calling from India on a MagicJack with a US phone number.  For free.  We had done everything in talking with her in India.  Skype, calling cards, you name it.  Skype was shaky due to low magicjackbandwidth.  Normal phone lines often had a delay of two seconds.  That led to some humorous attempts at communication.  Our normal fallback was Yahoo messenger.  And then this MagicJack.  The call was crisper than the phone but with only a millisecond of delay.  The land-line phone would drop the call one out of every 4 or 5.  MagicJack has dropped maybe twice in thirty calls.  And the price?  $47 for the USB device and one year of long distance.  Wow.  Currently you can upgrade to 5 years for $60.  So I signed up for the free trial.  I am getting ready to work abroad myself so having a US number anywhere in the world would be great, and the ability for friends and business clients to call a US number would be invaluable.

Pros:

  1. Sleek packaging with simple plug-n-play install.  I did have to unplug and re-plug it in one time before it installed properly.  The initial registration and number selection was very easy.
  2. Initial calls from the US to the US were very clear and the people could not tell I was on a web phone. One of the ten calls seemed to have a slight delay and scratch to it.  I should note that I was using a slow DSL connection of less than 756kb down and 512kb up.
  3. Call forwarding works great (Spoiler/Con: Must login to web interface to set the forwarding number. These options would be better placed in the desktop client).
  4. Option to purchase international calling credits. Would allow you to forward to a foreign number cell phone.
  5. Allows me to use any phone. I currently have a $15 cordless phone plugged in and it works great.  Simply plugged the standard phone cord into the usb jack and into the phone.  That simple.  Can use either the phone or computer interface to make the call.
  6. Two voicemail options. Normal voicemail that picks up if the computer is unplugged or you do not answer (no ability to set the number of rings before pickup).  The second voicemail and message option picks up if you are on another call.
  7. Email voicemail works well. Today I received two emails with an attached .wav file.  They stated the phone number who left the message, and how long the message was.  Worked flawlessly.

Cons:

  1. Computer must be on for the phone to ring.
  2. Phone interface on the computer has ads and could use an interface lift.
  3. Contacts feature on the phone does not import from Outlook or Address Book that I can see.
  4. Very limited website interface.  Poorly documented support section.
  5. Poor reviews of their customer service seem to be plentiful.
  6. Read complaints of dropped calls and or calls that do not ring through. Not enough people know of my number to have tested this.

Conclusion:

For me this appears to be a viable and very cheap option.  I have some reservation about the longevity and future development of the product.  Hopefully it moves beyond a shopping network and pitchman item.  For now it is going to keep me within my cell phone calling plan and help me transition to global traveling.  And I am so excited about the possibilities once Google Voice is out for public use!  I missed getting in on that by one day when Grand Central was purchased by Google.  Until then I am going to be a MagicJack user.