I keep seeing the television ads for the Magic Jack that claims that it can replace my regular phone line. At $20 a year it is a lot cheaper than Vonage but does it work?
This question was answered on December 19, 2008. Much of the information contained herein may have changed since posting.
For those that have yet to enter the world of VOIP (Voice Over Internet
Protocol), commercially available products from companies such as
MagicJack and Vonage allow you to plug ordinary telephones into an
Internet-enabled device to make unlimited local and long-distance phone calls.
Not only do they eliminate the need to pay for traditional land-lines and
offer free domestic long-distance, they allow you to take your home phone
with you wherever you travel VOIP phone numbers are not tied to a
physical location; they are associated with a specific hardware device
which can be plugged into any high-speed Internet connection for domestic
service (and sometimes international as well).
If you read the user reviews for MagicJack around the Web, they all seem
to either be raving accolades or abject hatred for the product Those
that like it find it to be easy to install and provide great sound quality
while those that experience problems seem to feel further tortured by the
fact that MagicJack has no phone support, only live chat support.
In fairness, a service that only charges $20 per year can’t justify lavish
customer support, so keep that in mind when making your decision.
There are several major differences between MagicJack and Vonage both in
features and cost.
MagicJack is a cheaper service ($20 per year + $40 for the device) but in
addition to a high-speed Internet connection, it relies on your computer
(it plugs into a USB port) and special software in order to work This
means that if your computer is turned off, you can’t place or receive
phone calls with the MagicJack.
Vonage costs more ($25 per month) but does not rely on your computer in
order to provide phone service (only a high-speed Internet connection),
which seems to be the biggest problem reported by MagicJack users that
were not happy with the device.
Because MagicJack relies on more variables, it has more points of failure;
your Internet connection, computer and the special software must all be
properly functioning in order to get phone service.
Both services can provide traditional phone service via a high-speed
Internet connection, but Vonage is less likely to experience the problems
being reported by MagicJack users because there are no compatibility
issues with software or hardware, but Vonage is also significantly more
Both of these products are at the mercy of your Internet connection, so if
you experience erratic speeds when surfing, you may want to rethink any
Internet-based phone product.
They both offer voice messaging, caller ID, call forwarding and if you
take the hardware with you on the road, you can take phone calls as if you
were at your home Vonage offers phone number portability (transfer your
existing phone number) and some free International connections while
MagicJack requires you to use a new phone number and charges for
International calls (unless the recipient also has a MagicJack).
If the 30-day no risk offer from MagicJack seems like a no-brainer, be
forewarned that another big complaint from many users is the difficulty in
getting the product returned and refunded (remember, no phone number to call).
In either case, if you decide to replace your home phone with one of these
services, be sure to hang on to your old phone line until you are sure
that your choice is reliable enough to replace your existing service.
Unless you need to send faxes from your home, you could also consider
joining the ranks that have rid themselves of everything but a cell phone
and a Skype account on their computer (www.skype.com - another option for
using the Internet to make phone calls).
About the author
Ken Colburn of Data Doctors on December 19, 2008
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