Do you follow me on Twitter? If so you would’ve noticed I made a tweet a few weeks ago talking about a couple products I had bought that I planned on writing up a little review. One product was the Magic Jack USB VOIP device. I first heard about the Magic jack a good while ago and blogged about it. I always thought it was a pretty interesting idea, if it worked as advertised. I went over to Magicjack.com and ordered one and have had about a month or longer with it and I’m now ready to talk about it.
What is Magic Jack?
The concept is pretty cool. Magic Jack is a USB device, a little larger than a USB thumb drive that has a regular telephone jack on one end. You plug the Magic Jack into your PC’s USB slot then a regular phone into the phone jack and it allows you to make and receive regular phone calls (via the web). Of coarse you need a broadband connection and it works with Macs and PC’s. It includes all of the normal features of any phone line, Caller id, voicemail, call waiting etc.
I must’ve been a little misunderstood about how the product worked. I assumed that you plug the device in, and the software would load and you can start making your phone calls. It isn’t completely that simple but close. There is a small setup and install that you have to go through. During the setup, you have to register the device, put in your info, and pick your number. It was all pretty quick and easy. I however had to use their "MagicFix" program to get it to work correctly. I don’t know what that did to my PC but it was still quick and painless and I was connected.
One thing I was a little upset about was that they didn’t have my area code. I live in Hampton VA, which all of the cities near me has a 757 area code. I ended up having to get an area code that was still in VA but in northern VA. If anyone in my city want to call me, it will be a long distant call for them. Not a big deal, I will only use something like this to make phone calls, not to use as my main phone.
The second thing that I was a little disappointed about was the install. There is a Magic jack software interface that is installed on your PC. I was thinking I could swap back and forth between my laptop and desktop, take to a friends house or where ever. You can do that, but it leaves the software on every PC that you decide to use the Magic Jack. The problem with that, the Magic Jack software has you’re phone book, call history, and other info. And the fact that if I decide to make a call using Magic Jack, from a friends house, I have to install something on their PC. Not a big deal, but I just wish that everything started and ended when the Magic jack was plugged in and removed.
General Use and Call Quality
To make calls, you can dial straight from your phone, or use the software to dial the numbers, or pick from your phone book. You can listen to your voicemail by dialing the voicemail number or listen on your PC. Overall usage was pretty easy and straight forward. You have to have your PC on to use, which is a no brainer being that it is a USB device. And other than the initial install, everything seem to just work. I use mine with a cordless phone and that works out perfectly being that my PC is in a different room than I usually hang out when not using the PC.
One thing I was really impressed with was the call quality. Ive used skype VOIP, and Vonage in the early days and the quality of the Magic Jack is better than anything Ive tried before. With Vonage, I got random disconnects that I didn’t know happened until I realize the person I was talking to wasn’t responding anymore. All of the calls I made with the magic jack was just clear and no disconnects. Most people I talked to said they couldn’t tell a difference between me using the Magic jack, and me using my iPhone with Jawbone headset. There were times when people heard an echo, or my voice was coming in a little low but that was when I was also streaming media around my network. Looks like it is a delicate as Vonage was on my network, if Im doing anything else along with using Magic jack, it had an impact on calls (which is expected, but companies need to figure out a way around it).
I really like the Magic Jack, but I have to say, I haven’t found a VOIP service that I would permanently replace a landline or cell phone for just yet. The Magic Jack is no different. Its good for a second or alternate phone choice, and if you are in a situation where the Magic Jack is all you have, it works fine. The price of the magic jack is $39.99 and includes the first year phone service (all calls are free to the US and Canada). Each additional year is $19.99 and when you go through the initial setup, you can pay for several years in advance so that you don’t risk the price going up on you when you go to pay for the next year.
Would I recommend this device? A much as I would recommend any VOIP device. it works pretty well but its not a "home Phone" replacement