Sunday, February 12, 2012

MagicJack Can Be a Real "Plus"

If you are a late night TV viewer you most likely have seen the commercials for MagicJack. Like so many late night pitches, the claims seem a bit far fetched. The ads promise free domestic and international long distance calling, no monthly phone bills, free voice mail and you can keep your current number. It does sound like magic.

Well, it is not “magic” since you do need to use the phone “jack.” Nevertheless, for some the MagicJack could save you money on your monthly phone service and long distance calling. It is a small device that plugs into your home broadband Internet connection and allows you to make virtually free phone calls to and from anywhere in the US and Canada by using the Internet rather than the traditional Ma Bell networks. You can call back to the US from other countries for free using your computer and the MagicJack but calls “to” countries other than the US and Canada are not free.

MagicJack is one of several products that use VOIP technology. (Voice Over Internet Protocol) The first year will cost you about $40 and each year thereafter about $20. So it can be a great deal. There are a few things that you need to understand however.

First of all, the low annual cost is somewhat overstated since you do need to have high speed Internet access in your home. So to really compare your savings over a traditional telephone line from Cincinnati Bell you need to factor in the monthly charge you are paying for Road Runner or Cincinnati Bell’s DSL service.

Another potential downside, especially in our area that has way more than our share of power outages, is that if you loose power, your phone will not work. In the dark ages before mobile phones, this could have been a real issue. Now, since many of us have one or more cell phones, losing the landline is much less of an issue.

Like many VOIP services, you will need to register your address and phone number with your local 911 service so they can identify the location of a call coming from a number associated with your address. This is very important and the MagicJack user’s guide will take you through this process.

The package comes with free directory assistance, free call waiting and free voice mail. While I have not installed it myself, others indicate that it was mostly painless. You can plug in multiple phones as well as the base station for your cordless phones.

When MagicJack was first introduced, it required that it be connected to a computer and that computer needed to be powered up 24/7 for the phone to work. That was a major downside. The new version, called the MagicJack Plus, does not require a computer and can be plugged into an 110v outlet.

The bottom line is that, unlike many late night offerings, this product works pretty much as advertised. It isn’t for everyone, but it may be worth a second look for many.

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