Recently my wife and I moved away from our home in the United States to do some humanitarian work in a developing country. Our internet connection is fairly consistent, though sometimes incredibly sluggish (usually around 256k both ways). In a previous post I wrote about the purchase of Majic Jack. The television sales unit that assigns a United States number and allows for unlimited calling for around $25/year. It has not disappointed for the most part and has allowed us to make calls back to our family even on the slow connection. But you can read that article for a review, so what about the rest of our calling system?
Our current set-up gives us one main phone number from the U.S.A. and allows us nearly unlimited calling for a total of about $75/year. Here is the order of services used.
Google Voice - This is our “One” number to rule them all. We have given our Google number to all of our friends and family. We then forward on the Google number to our Majic Jack and in-country cell phone. Don’t forget – Google Voice is free! The SMS feature works well, the transcribe voice mail needs some work, the notifications and ease of use are superb.
LocalPhone.com - A British company that allows you to assign a U.S.A. number to an international number (our in-country cell phone). So whenever Google forwards a call to the LocalPhone number my in-country cell phone rings. For our country the cost is less than 3.5 cents per minute. Not bad at all. Additionally, all incoming calls to cell phones in our country are free (the cell companies make their money on the outgoing calls).
So what about the performance? The lag/latency has been astoundingly good. Much better than using a land-line system ever was. Only once did it take so long to make the triple connection (Google to LocalPhone to my cell phone) that the person was directed to voicemail before I could answer. It is times like these that make me write, and fully mean, the overused phrase “Isn’t technology amazing?”
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 bandwidth. 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.
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.
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.
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).
Option to purchase international calling credits. Would allow you to forward to a foreign number cell phone.
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.
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.
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.
Computer must be on for the phone to ring.
Phone interface on the computer has ads and could use an interface lift.
Contacts feature on the phone does not import from Outlook or Address Book that I can see.
Very limited website interface. Poorly documented support section.
Poor reviews of their customer service seem to be plentiful.
Read complaints of dropped calls and or calls that do not ring through. Not enough people know of my number to have tested this.
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.
Tell me what you see with this email (remember you have to read up on this one):
Hey Bill – don’t have your email. call me: 555.4321
Hey, Tom – Call me: 555.1234
Hey Bill – call me: 555.4321
I have 3 clients I have been waiting for answers from. I gave them my number and told them to call me when THEY have the time. After all, my schedule is looser than most. One just emailled me and said “Hey, I don’t know your phone number. Call me when you get some time.”
Really? If you scroll down the email, my phone number is sitting there. Heck, in my signature (which is on the email about 4-5 times about now), my phone number is all over the email and I still get the “Call me” message.
Have we gotten lazy? Are we afraid of talking on the phone? Are we going to a hidden-social type environment?
I remember when I was a kid, the phone was a major lifeline. We were annoyed because our parents did not get a second line or even call-waiting. My mom would be on the phone for 2 or more hours talking to an aunt or friend.
Now we sit behind a keyboard and screen.
I love email – I can communicate to many in a quick fashion. I even enjoy SMS. But I have a policy – more than 5 SMS messages and I am calling. More than 3 short emails and I am calling. Of course it also depends on if this should be in print or over the phone.
Still, it seems that nowadays we shy away from the phone – at least using it with it’s original intention. With newer phones we’ll have the ability to SMS AND IM AND Facebook AND MySpace AND Twitter and so much more, then why would we want to call?
Wouldn’t it be funny if someone released a phone that had no receiver on it? You can do everything but call someone.
Maybe we’re just not reading the emails. After all, how many times did I have the number in the email? 4-5? I still got an email back on “Call me”.
It could be a power struggle. I do have to admit – I have a couple emails where their number was in the email and I just sent one back with my number and asked to call me. Then you sit back and go “Hey! He called ME! Yeah! I’m the man!”
Well, I got to go. I have to make some phone calls. Then again, maybe I should email them back…
One of the coolest products I found that is perfect for the traveling military person, someone on the go or even for someone looking to get rid of their monthly phone bill was being demonstrated by a company called MagicJack.
I was able to get a MagicJack and plug it into my USB port on my Computer and I was making free phone calls in about 5 minutes. The software is loaded on the device and it installs virtually automatically. I was able to pick out a area code exchange of my choice and was dialing out and having people dial in. Sound quality was very good.
Whats cool about the MagicJack is that plugs into your PC USB port then you plug a regular phone into it and your good to go. Pick up the phone and you have a dial tone. Very inexpensive product.