by Dave Alm
After seeing all the ads on TV for the last six months for a product called "Magic Jack'" I couldn't resist. I had to see if the thing really worked. I visited my local Walmart and found them in the special As-Seen-On-TV section of the store. The price was 39.95, though they advertise at 19.95 on TV. I later found out the price includes the first year's use. I bought mine and anxiously took it home.
We opened it up and plugged it into a Windows XP computer that is always on. We followed the directions and waited two minutes for it to set itself up and then tried it. The phone produced a dial tone. We dialed a number and waited. In about 5 seconds instead of ringing on through it put out another dial tone.
After over an hour of fiddling we figured out that the machine we were trying to run it on had a special version of windows on it, so we tried another machine. This time it worked fine. We hooked easily it up through our phone system and now we have a new line to use for outgoing calls!
Setup was a breeze once we put it on a good machine, though typing back and forth for support with somebody in India who "wanted to know the problem I would be having" was less than gratifying. Magic Jack is way easier than Skype for long distance calling, though you can't see the other person as is possible with Skype.
The are only two real drawbacks to me: 1.) If the power goes out your phone stops working, and 2.) They do not have numbers in all locations, including ours which surprised me. Most of us also have cell phones now days so the power outage thing is not a big deal, but having a number that forces anyone who wants to call me to dial long distance, well, that part is pretty much a bad deal. The company says they will have more numbers in more localities in coming months. Sounds pretty vague to me. Anyhow it may not be too big of a deal for cell phone users calling in as they have free long distance.
Good clarity and quality, acceptable lag and drop-outs for an IP phone. We had a working IP phone with its own inbound number and free long distance for only twenty bucks a year! Is that not a good deal? I love it when some seemingly cheesy gizmo turns out to be really useful! Go out and buy one! (But you may not want to give up your land line yet...)