On Monday 9th of June of 2008, I have received a special piece of hardware that utilizes software, and a service. This device and service is called Magic Jack. It is a special device that connects to the USB port of your Windows XP/MAC OS PC. The software installs on your PC, and you set up with an email address. You would than be able to select a limited line of phone numbers that are US based. Once you set everything up, you would be able to connect a telephone that has a standard US based RJ-11 jack into a the device, and you could make regular phone calls.
The device cost’s about $50 including shipping. It takes about 5 -10 minutes to set up, and it installed easily on a Windows XP Pro computer. It includes one year of service, and each additional year is $20/year.
So, what do you get with Magic Jack? You get unlimited calling anywhere in the US, and Canada. This calling is based on the phone number, so if someone has a Magic Jack or another VOIP service in France, or even Asia – this call would be free as long as the number is a US number. Of course, if that person was to call across the street, they would be charged as if they were in the US. Interesting enough, you also get unlimited Directory Assistance, or so say Magic Jack. I haven’t tested it yet, but I would like to think they are honest about that. They also provide free voice-mail, Call Forwarding, and Caller ID. Call Forwarding is web based only, and you would have to log into your Magic Jack Account. It is also either on or off. If it is on, all of your calls would forward automatically. If it is off, than your calls would go to voice-mail if the Magic Jack is off.
The software is sufficient showing a call log, but can be annoying to use the software directly to make calls. You are better off using a phone. I currently have a 5.8Ghz phone with an expansion set connected. It also seems to run ads, and even if minimized, the software pops up once the phone is in use. This however isn’t as bad as other services. The service is proprietary, and does not seem to support OpenSIP which is the standard for most VOIP providers. You have to use the Magic Jack device even if you have the coolest wifi phone in the world. I had made about 9 calls with Magic Jack, and one of them, the person I was speaking with had a hard time hearing me. This so far is about a 10% mishap on calls. Needless to say, as with all VOIP service, a broadband is required. Magic Jack says at least 80kbps, but lets face it, you should have at least 100kbps for good quality. If you want to change a phone number, expect to pay $10 for the change, but they do offer the first change for free. And as with many Internet based companies, they would want your credit card to make an order, and pay the annual service. Also, international calls are prepaid, and they seem about average for your VOIP service.
Since my cellular phone has built in wifi calling through T-Mobile’s @Home service, I would be using the Magic Jack as a secondary phone, or in the case the number I am calling has ACR in effect. Also, I would use this line for any time I do not want someone to have my cellular phone number. Magic Jack lacks the ability to block your number, and does not support ACR.
In the end, this service is sufficient for someone that wants a similar line to what I would use it for, or wants to provide a secondary, or guest line. Realistically, with the lack of features most people would expect, it would not make a good primary phone unless the person wants no frills, has a computer that is always on (such as a MCE PC), and has broadband. If you need bells and whistles, you should look elsewhere. If you need something to make calls on a very tight budget, or wish to give your children a phone service, this is an option.
And yes, I have provided this phone number already. I signed up for a trial-ware software, and they required I give a phone number. I don’t want this company to call me on my cellular phone, so I gave this number. Also, a company I am dealing with to try to negotiate a debt would receive this number. I would want them to be able to reach me, just not to consume my cellular minutes when I am not home.