First Impressions: ObiHai 100

I received the ObiHai 100 earlier today, and after dusting off my Gigaset A510, I have a home phone. The reason for this is I wanted a phone that would remain home without costing a lot of money. Even with T-Mobile’s plans with a third line costing $10, it will still be a significant additional cost, and using a phone that has been less reliable as the days rolled on.

So, why did I want this device. It is one of the few devices that has direct support with Google Voice. This will mean that I will be able to make calls using GTalk, and likewise – receive calls. This (as of 2013) will be treated as free if I am calling US, or Canada as well as +883. This allows a phone to remain home, and allows a single phone number to display when making calls.

Requirements

There are only a few requirements. First, you should have a minimum of 128kbps devoted to your phone line. If you have a 128kbps connection, you should not use the internet while trying to make a phone call. Your latency should also be reliably below 100ms. You would need a router with a spare LAN port, and a POTS capable telephone. This telephone should be a digital phone (not a rotary).

You will also need an ObiTalk account. I would recommend that you set up one before you get your ObiHai Device. If you are adding on, you should be fine with your current account.

Design

The design is nice and compact. With the exception of a Magic Jack or Net Talk ATA, this is the smallest ATA I have seen yet. It has a power connection, an RJ11 (for telephone), and an RJ45 (for internet). The ATA is a basic white box with some promoting logo on the top. It comes with the power, and an RJ45 cable. You’re are expected to provide an RJ11 cable obviously. The ATA will only connect with the RJ11 connection to provide phone services.

Setting Up

Setting up is relatively simple enough. You will plug everything in (recommend power to be last). Once power is plugged in, the ATA will turn on – so there is no power switch. You will find a set of quick start instructions including a number to dial for echo testing. Once everything is plugged in, you would need to use the web for the rest. You should also have your phone handy as this will be important too. You would log in to your ObiTalk account, and add a device. You will be required to dial a number from your phone starting with **5. Once you done that, your information about your ATA will be sent to your account and ready for you to add your accounts.

You will also receive a 9 digit phone number that will allow other ObiHai users to call you for free. However, this was not the reason why I bought this device, nor does this offer any PSTN calling. Personally, I find that having ObiHai numbers as a waste of time, and just gives more ways for people to call that does not fit in a standard platform.

With the 100, you are able to set up two SIP accounts (including Google Voice). If you have 2 accounts set up, you can designate one to use E911 services, however, that is about where the flexibility ends.

The Good

The ATA is small and compact. It doesn’t use a lot of electricity, and all of the cables you will need is included (even the RJ45). The service is very simple to use. The Quick Start guide allows you to echo test the device, and after you set up an ObiTalk account, connecting the ATA with your account is very simple, and quick.

It also supports Google Voice. Competitive services will cost about $6/month, and not integrate as well. You can also pay for E911 service which could effectively replace your home phone and cellular phone for home use entirely.

The Bad

Doing anything beyond the absolute basics is appalling. If I wanted to use my Call Centric account to make a 411 (Directory Assistance), or to allow my brother who has the right to come in when I am not home to call from the phone, and use the Callcentric account to do – it is virtually impossible to do this in an easy way. I sent a message to support, and shortly afterwards told to check the forums. So, now I have to hunt the forums, and when I find the information, I find somewhat unclear and hard to discern instructions on making it work. This left me to remove the CallCentric settings in ObiTalk, and set it up in my A510 which supports SIP calling. The dial plan in the phone’s administration is basic, but is easier than the ObiHai.

Thoughts

I am not going to pack this up, and send it back. I will therefore likely to be keeping it. I am not happy with the less than helpful support, and the lack of easy dial plan controls since this supports multiple lines. However, for those with a Google Voice line, and want a home phone – this might be the solution.

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