Monday, 14 March 2011

Magic Jack - Telephone Service for only $19.99 A Year!

Hello Everyone,

Today I'd like to review a product on the market called Magic Jack. Magic Jack is a VoIP (Voice Over IP) telephone service available for Canada and US for under $2/Month (I wonder if Bell can Price-Match this). Basically, you plug the Magic Jack in to your computer, install the software and plug in your telephone to the other end. Also included in your annual subscription is CallerID, Call Waiting, VoiceMail and Call Forwarding just to name a few. The initial cost for Magic Jack is around $49.99, this gets you the Magic Jack device and also 1 year of service. Additional years after that are only $19.95. Let’s go over the pros and cons and see if this service is right for you.

> $$$: Cost! Even the cheapest telephone service offered by Bell is $24.95/month. In a year, that would cost you over $300, plus the cost of the additional calling features and any long distance you may use. At a price point,  the Magic Jack can't be beat when compared to other VoIP providers.

> Portability: Moving? No problem, the Magic Jack and your phone number go with you. Simply get high speed internet at your new residence and you're good to go. No waiting around "sometime between 9am and 5pm" for the phone guy to show up.

> Travelling: Travelling to a country that charges outrages long distance rates? Take your Magic Jack with you, or use the Magic Jack software to call anywhere in Canada and US for free. Not to mention, your family and friends can still call you on the same number at no cost.

> Voicemail on the go: How cool is this? Get voicemail notifications instantly on your smartphone, the Magic Jack service will even e-mail you the voicemail and let you listen to it on your smartphone or computer!

> Cut the cord on all-mighty Bell: Many individuals are using the Magic Jack as a replacement for their home service. Some people even have 2. Use a second Magic Jack one as a dedicated fax line, or give it to a chatty teenager that's always tying up the phone.

> Sound Quality: Voice quality on the Magic Jack is just as good as your home phone service as long as you have a good high speed service and have it setup correctly. Read the Best Practices (1) below for more information on how to optimize the service to work efficiently for you.

> No Contracts: Don't like Magic Jack? Stop using it. There’s no obligation to keep the service.

> Ball & Chain Setup: Magic Jack always needs to be connected to a running computer to work. This may not be a problem for people who have a dedicated computer that is always on. However users that only have laptops will find that their laptops are no longer portable once they have this service. See the Best Practices Below (3) for a possible solution.

> Number Portability: Currently at this time Magic Jack does not offer the option to port your existing number to their service. Once you switch to them you will lose your number, but will be assigned a new one from Magic Jack.

> Ads: Many people may be wondering how Magic Jack can sell their service at such a low rate. This is because they have the ability to display ads in their application at any time.

> Additional Telephones: The Magic Jack device has 1 telephone jack outlet. People who may not be so technically inclined may not be able to setup the device to work on all phones in their household. Read the Best Practices (2) below to find ways around this.

> Customer Service: I have read a lot of complaints from people that the customer service is really not there for this product. I can't really blame them for selling it at such a low price point, but I think most of the issues that customers have are related to the quality of the service. Having said that, if your broadband connection isn't performing up to par, or if you haven't set it up properly, then there's nothing that customer service can do for you anyways. It’s a limitation of technology not the service. This is one of those "it works or it doesn't" type products. Don't cancel your existing telephone service until you've tested, tested, and tested this product and have made sure that it will work for you. A lot of companies use smoke and mirror marketing techniques to try to get you to believe a product works, but a great deal on a phone line is no good to anyone if it doesn't work. There are many forums on the Internet where you would be able to get assistance from other Magic Jack users, but if you are the type of person that needs help right away, there's a good chance you won't get it here.

Best Practices:

1) Ways to improve your sound quality: Magic Jack relies on your Internet connection to work effectively. A slow or unstable connection can be a nightmare when using this service. Before you purchase the Magic Jack do a few preliminary tests on your broadband connection.

> First thing you want to do is run a speed test on your broadband connection. Visit and run a test on your connection. If you are seeing results under 2mbps download speed and under 300kbps upload speed, then this service may not perform well for you.

> Although I wouldn't recommend it, but if you are going to be connecting your Magic Jack to a computer that is wireless, ensure that you have a strong wireless signal in the location where the system will be. Try running a continuous ping test for about 15 minutes between the system and your router first and verify that you aren't seeing any packet loss or high latency. Packet Loss and High Latency can be a killer to this service.

> Once you've verified everything looks good with your setup, go ahead and pick up a Magic Jack. A lot of big box stores are selling this device too, such as FutureShop.

> If you have applications that are heavy on bandwidth, see if you can enable QoS on your Router. QoS stands for Quality Of Service. This feature allows you to dedicate more bandwidth for crucial services like Voice over IP so that your voice quality is not degraded if you are using the phone and someone decides to download a large file or if you have multiple users sharing the same Internet connection as the Magic Jack.

2) Additional Telephone sets. The easiest way to run multiple telephones off the Magic Jack is to buy a cordless phone that comes with additional sets. These phones only have 1 base station that you would connect to the Magic Jack, and the additional sets would just have their own charging base that only require a power outlet. If you still require all the phone jacks in your home to run off the Magic Jack, I found some information on how you can accomplish this on the following site:

3) Solutions for Laptop Users: If you only have a laptop and can't afford to lose the portability (which most of us can't), or don't want to dedicate an existing computer for Magic Jack, consider picking up a low end Windows XP Embedded Thin Client from a computer store or EBay. You should be able to find a decent unit for under $80. Thin Clients are stripped down computers with just the basic/barebone  components to run an operating system. They are not by any means the fastest computer on the market, but they will work great for this scenario. The best thing about Thin Clients is that they are very energy efficient. Some Thin Clients run at about 10watts and are completely noise free as they don't have any fans or moving parts. Dedicate the thin client for Magic Jack and keep the portability of your laptop.

4) If you still are hesitant to always have a computer running for Magic Jack, there are ways you can "hack" it to make it work with an ATA (Analog Telephone Adapter) such as the Linksys ATA SPA2102, however this is against Magic Jack's Terms of Service (meaning at any time they can cut you off) and will still cost about the same as a lightweight Thin Client.

5) If you find yourself having errors when faxing over a Magic Jack, set your Fax Machine to a baud speed of 2400, anything higher could cause errors when sending faxes.

Conclusion: From a price point, you really can't complain about this product or the service. When it comes down to it, this product can work very well for people who have somewhat of a technical background. Don’t expect a Magic Jack technician to come to your home to fix a problem. You are pretty much on your own with this, but keep in mind how often you would have to call your existing telephone service provider for help in the past 6 months. Although it may take you some time to get used to it, if you really want to save that $300+ per year, give this product a chance. Hands down this has to be the best solution for any University/College student living on residence, or someone that's always on the go. I will definitely be trying out the Magic Jack once my current promotional contract expires with Cogeco.

Written By: Amardeep Juneja