Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Cheap Phone Service with magicJack

Living in another country can mean having expensive phone calls if I want to call home. Martijn was concerned about this and set us up with a VOIP (internet telephone) service that usually works okay. It has some quirks though and if my mom wanted to call me, she still had to make an international call.

Enter the magicJack.


The magicJack is a USB device that has a regular old phone jack on it. This way you can plug a regular telephone into your computer and make free domestic phone calls (and very cheap international ones!). It's quite small -- about the size of a Zippo lighter and a little bit thicker.

My dad started carrying these in his store, and brought one home for my mom to activate and test. She got it going with no problem and started telling me how wonderful it was. The international rates to The Netherlands (and much of the rest of Europe) are 2 cents per minute which is quite a lot less than the phone card rates she was getting previously. I was really only half listening to her about how wonderful it was because we already had the other VOIP service and I wasn't really sure this would be any better.

We ended up meeting the guy that invented the device when we were in Las Vegas at the Consumer Electronics Show. It somehow came out that I didn't actually have a magicJack for myself and they gave me one to try out.

I gotta say, I am impressed.

Here's how to get started:
  • You purchase your magicJack through the website (or a retail store such as RadioShack) for around $40.
  • Try not to swear as you cut open the impossible to open package (seriously guys, why must the packing on this kind of thing be SO ANNOYING).
  • Plug the magicJack into an open USB port on your computer and let the software install.
  • Follow the prompts on the software to set up your account and choose your phone number.
  • Verify the e-mail address that you signed up with.
  • Plug any old telephone into your magicJack and make your first call!
I had absolutely no problems getting mine up and running (neither did my mom, and she's not as computer savvy as me). In about 5 minutes I was able to register and select that I wanted a Utah telephone number. You must be running Windows XP, Vista, or an Intel based Mac in order for the magicJack to work. You also need to have a high-speed (broadband) internet connection.

As with anything, you'll have both your pros and cons. Here are the main points I noticed.

  • Quick and easy to set up
  • Really inexpensive- the purchase of the device for $40 includes a years worth of service ($19.95 to continue after the first year)
  • Local phone number for my parents to call me on
  • You can take your magicJack with you wherever you go. I have a Utah telephone number but will be using mine in The Netherlands. It's not tied to any one computer so you can take it to a friends house and use it there if you need to as well.
  • Call quality is pretty good. I did hear a little bit of an echo at the beginning of a couple of my phone calls, but I get that with my other service too so it's more of a VOIP problem than a magicJack problem.

  • You must have the computer on to use this device. One of the things I liked about our other VOIP service is that we've got a little box that connects to the router which allows us to call even when the computers are off.
  • If you have a slow or dodgy internet connection, your call quality can suffer.
  • Doesn't work with Linux
  • Chat-based web only support

I don't know that I would advise dumping your landline in favor of the magicJack, but I do think that it's wonderful for long distance and the fact that I can have a local to my parents Utah telephone number!

Cheap phone calls Work for Me! I'd love to hear what others do for long distance, especially for international calls.

click the graphic to see more Works for Me Wednesday posts


Jennifer said...

I bought this a couple of months ago and I absolutely love it! It works and it is cheap. What could be better than that? It is our only home phone, but since I am not paying monthly anymore for phone service we are going to upgrade our cell phone service.

Unknown said...

Cool! I will have to look into this. ;-) Thanks for sharing!

Anonymous said...

That is really nice. I could have used that a few years ago when my inlaws lived in Africa. I think the VOIP was just getting big around the time they left so we used calling cards which were costly.

Kristen said...

I have seen those advertised and wondered how well they work. We use Skype, so it's similar, but I like options!

Tiffany said...

Hi there! Thanks for writing a review on the Magicjack. Right now we must have a lan line, but one day, the magic jack may be our best option.

Thanks for coming by my blog!

na said...

I heard about these. Thanks for sharing more information about them.

Sonya said...

Thats really neat. We just make regular phone calls..we dont really use a special service. I think we pay 20 cents a minute. I actually dont have alot of family to call back home that often so it doesnt carve into our phone bill that much. I love this idea though!

Unknown said...

I wanted to get one of these but my husband said he found something better. I may never know what it is because it will take a year for him to hook it up for me. I don't even know where he put it. LOL I should have just bought the Magic Jack, it'd be up and running by now.

John and Lisa said...

I am glad that you have had a good experience with Magic Jack, and I thought that I would enjoy it too, but after a trial period I chose to cancel. The price is definitely right, and I had no problem with the quality. It is possible that Magic Jack had nothing to do with my bad experience, but I was wary because of the timing of my trial with Magic Jack and the discovery of a malicious virus on my computer. Hopefully for your sake they had nothing to do with each other.
(Sorry to be such a wet blanket.)

Krisi and Adam said...

What a great review. We use our cell phones for long distance calls and I don't think I have ever made an international call. We just purchased a cell phone for the house (our new house phone) it was $9.99 to add a line to our current plan. I did consider the magicJack but really had no idea what it was or how it worked. Thanks for the info.

Tijn said...

Sonya: At 20 cents per minute, you might want to consider . They offer phone-to-phone calls from their website as well (you fill in the telephone number you're currently at, the telephone number you want to call, and it'll first call you before dialing your remote party). They charge 5 cents per call for this service, but the good part is that the rest of your call will be rather cheap, possibly free. Every time you up your account (minimum payment 11.something euro for 10 euro credit) you get 90 "free days", during which calls to certain countries (including .nl and .us) have no costs per minute. After that, their rates are compareable with skype and friends.

So if you're calling your relatives for more than 50 minutes every 3 months, it might be worth looking into.

Kristin - The Goat said...

My husband ordered this a few weeks ago - it is still sitting on the counter, not even out of the box! I have been wondering what in the world it was, but hadn't looked it up -- Thanks so much for this review. I'll install it tomorrow!

Thanks for stopping by my place!

Lomagirl said...

Good to know. Thanks. My husband uses computer chat all the time to talk internationally, and we've used a service to call my parents overseas using a local number. I can't remember what it's called right now. Why are you in the Netherlands?
Thanks for your visit...

Wizardress said...

Very cool. I think Vivian uses that too and a friend of my moms uses it. Everyone seems to love them. I maybe should give it a try too.

Sharinskishe said...

Wow, it is amazing where technology has gone! I was born in 1960 and just in my own lifetime I have seen some pretty amazing things.

This is a great advance for those who want to stay in touch via voice and keep the price down. I am so happy for you and your great find.

This makes me want to write a page on my experiences with phones when I lived in Norway during 1984 and 1985. Maybe I will soon. I'll send you a link when I do.

Thanks for sharing.


JeanieE said...

I used this while I lived in Russia. It was wonderful!

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