New VOIP services

I had a chance to compare two new Internet phone services from Ooma and MagicJack. Let me summarize what I have learned in the table below:

  MagicJack.com Ooma.com Vonage.com V-Phone Skype.com          
Initial cost $40 for first year $400 $40
$96/yr
         
Recurring cost $20/yr following years None plus monthly Vonage service            
911 features Uses E911 PSAP Uses landline 911 (2) Use Vonage PSAP None          
Headset or analog phone? Either supported Analog Phone Neither needed (mic included) Headset + PC          
Free calling area North America USA North America Various countries (1)          
Mac OS X support Not yet Uses phones Not yet Yes          
Notable features Headset or phone Second line Built in mic International reach          
Drawbacks Few area codes yet avail. Customer support Tied to Vonage account Dicey p2p network issues          
Email voicemail notifications? Yes No Yes Yes          
                   
                   
(1) Skype pro provides unlimited calling in a single country that you receive the phone number for.            
(2) Please note that in order for the ooma system to work, we will add call forward busy (“CFB”) when we provision your line, for which you will owe your landline phone company associated monthly charges

So what are these new services? Ooma is a small box about the size of an answering machine that hooks up to both your broadband Ethernet and your land voice line. MagicJack is a bit bigger than a USB key drive that connects to your computer’s USB port. They have very different approaches, and are not for everyone.

MagicJack is a way to supplement your existing landline or cellular service. If you have a loved one that is living overseas, or someone who travels a lot, then this makes sense. At a fixed price of $40 and $20 for the second and subsequent years, it is a low enough price point that you can send it to someone living abroad, have them register with a US phone number, and then you can have cheap unlimited talk time. The nice thing about the gizmo is that you can either hook up a standard analog phone to it, or use whatever PC-connected sound device you’d like: it can toggle between both. It doesn’t yet have many local phone numbers — when I tried it out, I could get as close as Memphis but nothing in Missouri as yet. But this is becoming less of an issue as many people have unlimited long distance plans anyway.

Ooma is much more expensive, and I am not sure where their market is: at $400, you have to make a lot of calls and the device requires a lot more commitment. You need to make changes to your landline calling features too. Its niftiest feature is the ability to give you a second outgoing phone line, so you can get around a chatty teen who is always tying up your phone. But it has very poor customer support despite some initial buzz and a high initial cost to get their gear.

Both Ooma and MagicJack come with their own voicemail box that can send you email notifications, which is becoming standard in the VOIP world. Both supply unlimited calling in the US or North America, with additional per-minute charges to places beyond. Both support the better E911 services that aren’t the norm with most VOIP suppliers: ironically, Vonage offers a competitive USB gizmo called the V-phone, but 1) you need to sign up for a Vonage service plan to use it and 2) it doesn’t support E911, instead, emergency calls get routed to a Vonage operator.

The other entry in this sweepstakes is Skype. They of course only work on your PC, but they do offer Macintosh support, something neither the V-phone or the MagicJack presently have. They are a bit more expensive if you buy all the various options (you need Skype In to get a fixed phone number so people can call your PC at $60/year and Skype Pro to make outgoing calls at $36/year ) than either USB device, but they do offer local numbers in various countries, should that be important to you or if both of your frequently called parties are outside the US. Their Pro plan allows unlimited outbound calling to phones in whatever country you assign your phone number to your account.

What you pick will depend on a lot of different circumstances: if you are looking for a complete replacement of your landline phone with an Internet solution, I still think either Vonage or AT&T CallVantage is a better way to go than any of these products. If you make a lot of international calls to different places, then probably Skype is your answer. If your teen or traveling salesperson is tying up your phone or racking up cell minutes, then any one of these might be a lower-cost alternative if you want to keep your existing landline.

Clearly, the VOIP market is undergoing a lot of change, and a lot of players will come and (like SunRocket) go. As someone who uses Vonage daily for the past four years, I am watching avidly what is going on.

4 thoughts on “New VOIP services

  1. David

    Thanks for taking the time to review the magicJack BETA.When we are out of BETA and over the next couple months,we will have the widest coverage of Phone numbers of any Phone Company in the US.We will also be the only Phone company,VOIP or not,that will be certified in all 50 states with interconnections to all the Local Bell companies.We will have 31 gateways,providing the best call quality and cost structure of any other Phone company.We built from the Network up then I invented the magicJack with numerous Patents and Patent pending.That is the key to success of a Phone company,it’s underlying Network.

    I agree it is the best product for travelers because of the ease of use,size,best echo control and Network.But,I have to say,when my last comapny sold 4 million memebers of AOL Long Distance,and recieved the JD Power award for customer Care,I think we were able to do so,because of the price point.We save over $700 a year over AT&T and Vonage,and that means something to people who have to pay their increased morgate payments.

    You can see I am passionate about my product,and I am very fortunate to have such a great Pro like Don Burns run the company,that I get a little excited.Give us a chance to get to release with MAC availabilty and International rates that smoke the competition,and then do another review.Thanks again for making people aware of some great alternatives.

    Inventor of MagicJack

    Dan Borislow

  2. Vonage has a free service called Vonage Talk, you download a program and you can receive and make calls to any North American number. You still need a high speed connection, but Vonage Talk is a free application. You will need a head set with a microphone or usb phone. Really no need to purchase the V-phone.

    Magic Jack sounds like a great idea, but I can’t get a Canadian phone number at this time.

  3. Over the last few months I’ve been closely following the blogs and growing media coverage on the MagicJack, the coolest product to hit the marketplace in a very long time.

    MagicJack is a USB phone jack that allows users to make FREE local and long distance phone calls anywhere in the US and Canada. Users can bring their MagicJack anywhere in the World and make FREE calls to the US and Canada, as well.

    It’s easy to use. After plugging the MagicJack into the USB port of your computer, the software that resides in the MagicJack self-loads, a brief & standard registration process is required (during which time you get to choose a telephone number for your MagicJack from a large inventory of area codes/numbers in most every major metro area)and when done you simply plug any standard corded, cordless or portable phone (headset or Bluetooth also works) into the MagicJack, pick-up the phone and dial-tone has been delivered! You’re free to make FREE phone calls!

    Initially, I was expecting to be unimpressed by the product since its extremely inexpensive — man, was I wrong! For $40 you buy the MagicJack and then $20 per YEAR for additional years can not be beat — for all the FREE local and long distance calls you can ever make in a year!! I started making calls immediately and I was AMAZED at the clarity and quality of the phone calls! Everyone I called agreed with me that the call quality was just as you’d expect from any landline. The MagicJack proves you do not have to sacrifice quality for cost!

    But, let me take you back in time a bit since I did some research before I bought my MagicJack. Being a techno-savvy guy, I always research a product, its roots and its history before I give it a shot. After hearing about the product on a few techblog sites,I happened to catch the companies TV commercial recently. So, I began my own research.

    Overall, the MagicJack has been hugely embraced by bloggers and the press alike. When visiting the company’s website http://www.MagicJack.com I was quickly impressed by the Tier 1 media coverage the product has received. Excellent reviews by NY Times, Boston Globe, LA Times, LAPTOP magazine, CNBC and video clips of consumer reporters raving about the MagicJack on CBS, NBC, ABC and Fox News. Then I read about the founder of the company and inventor of the product, Dan Borislow. From what I’ve read, he has over 20 years experience in building succsessful long distance telephone companies. His previous company struck a deal with AOL and carried AOL long distance customers on their long distance network. He came up with this idea, spent his own money on R&D of the MagicJack and then constructed a nationwide telephone network that is one of the largest and newest telephone networks in the industry. The MagicJack is backed by its own telephone network and is operated by executives who have extensive experience in the telecommunications and internet business.

    From what I have seen, the company just expanded it’s online TechSupport platform to a 24/7 chat service. I can bet that part of the reason for the companies decision to rollout an online tech support system is due to the following:

    1) The super ease-of-use does not require a lot of support;

    and,

    2) The low product price point is huge benefit to consumer but does not allow of large & very expensive live phone CS center.

    Also, from all accounts, Dan Borislow is an inventor that wants to stay in touch with the people who use his product. In fact, the MagicJack website has a link to send Dan an email and he replies to every one!!

    I’m a very happy MagicJack customer and I can’t wait to watch this company soar!!

  4. Hi,
    Skype does not just run on your (PC) computer – self contained Skype enabled wireless phones are available from Philips. Some use your wifi network, the other have a base that plugs into your router.

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