Back in December of 2007 I published a review of what was then a brand new product: magicJack. It was an innovative product at that time, allowing one to make free Internet calls. The only major catch for me was that it connected directly to a computer and the computer needed to be on in order to be able to make a call.
Recently, I purchased an updated version of the product, called magicJack Plus, which does not require a computer to use it (although you can use it that way if you wish). You do need to connect it to a computer to set it up and register it and assign a phone number to it (either a new number for free or transfer an existing number for an extra charge), but once that is completed (and you've made sure to download any updates), you can set it up to use without a computer.
Once the device is registered and set up, to use it without a computer is pretty simple. A supplied cable connects the device to an available port on your router (or to your modem). Another provided cable connects to your telephone. And the USB connector that you used to plug the unit into the computer connects to a plug that you plug into an available outlet in your home.
That's it. Just pick up your phone and start making calls.
The cost? Well, I ended up missing a sale and paid full price for the device, which ended up coming to about $80. That got me the device and one full year of service. I skipped the option of purchasing an additional 5 years of service for about $100 (which comes to about $20/year), and so if I don't get another chance at choosing that deal before the first year is up, it will cost me about $30/year for service. And yes, I said per year, not per month. So let's do the math at the no-discount rates:
First year: $80. That comes to about $6.65 per month, including the purchase of the device.
Subsequent years: $30 each. That comes to $2.50 per month.
That seems like a pretty good deal to me. And if I'd managed to get the device on sale, or took the 5-year deal, the cost would be even lower.
There have been a few odd glitches, such as a dropped call or two, and a high-pitched tone that occurred suddenly for a few seconds on one call. And for some reason for a few days I was not able to call magicJack's own free conference calling service (got a busy signal). But other than that, no real issues so far.
Some added features include getting an email when someone calls and leaves a message. In the email is an audio file with the actual voice message. And the wireless phones that I connected actually display that I have a message. Otherwise, when you pick up the phone, instead of getting the dial tone you would first get a different kind of beep that would indicate you have voicemail.
I still have a land line, because in a power outage Internet phones (such as the phone lines provided by cable companies and phone company internet services and magicJack) won't work, and cell phones only would work until their batteries ran out (and assuming the cell provider could provide service). But as long as my internet service is working, I can make free calls at any time and don't have to wait until after a certain hour to make calls on the cell phone that don't use up my limited number of minutes.
You can also take your magicJack Plus with you. Just set it up on
your notebook computer and take it along with your notebook computer and
make calls whenever you are connected to the Internet. And anyone can
call you too. You'll get an email if you miss the call.
I should point out that support is only via Internet chat. There is no phone number to call to talk to someone. That said, however, my experience so far has been positive -- but know that the knowledge of some of the support folks (as with many companies) is limited to what is publicly documented. They do try, and will transfer you to someone else who might be able to answer your questions or solve your issues if they cannot.
I purchased my unit directly from magicJack.com, but you can also find it elsewhere, such as at amazon and TigerDirect.
Richard L. Kuper,
The Kuper Report