Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Tip #179 - Magic Jack Is Magic. In today’s high-technology world, fewer and fewer people are relying on traditional landline phones to communicate. Many people supplement their traditional phone with cellular phone service, while others completely abandon their landline phone and exclusively use cellular service. But even beyond cellular technology, another popular method of telephone communication is through the Internet – services such as Skype and Magic Jack. While I cannot comment personally on Skype, we are marveling at how “magic” Magic Jack is. Before I do, I just want to point out that I am not associated with this company at all and am not being paid to talk about it. I also am not one who buys into latest fad things very easily.

Essentially, what Magic Jack does is make phone service through your high-speed Internet. The costs are very cheap. It costs about $40 to buy the unit and includes one year of telephone service. This service includes free local calls and free long distance calls to the United States, Canada, Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands. You can call other countries for an additional fee. Each year of service after the initial year is $20.

Set up is very easy. You just need to plug the unit into the USB jack in your computer, and then you plug your phone into the unit. It’s that simple! Some qualifiers: your computer needs to be turned on at all times if you want to make or receive calls. And of course you need to pay for your high-speed Internet service. However, it seems to me that most people – even those trying to save money – will cut most things out of their budget before they would even consider cutting out their Internet service, so that seems to be a small qualifier. Another qualifier is that their 911 Emergency Service is different than 911 service offered on traditional phone lines (you have to preprogram your address). It will not work during a power or Internet outage.

So, if one of the ways you are thinking about saving money this year is by getting rid of your landline phone, consider Magic Jack. Even if you have a cellular phone, this is cheap enough to run, and probably has a better connection than a cell phone does.

In Real Life (IRL) – My husband bought a Magic Jack Phone a few months ago. Our daughter was often tying up our phone talking nonsense with her 7-year old buddies. Since my husband is much more aware of new gadgets than I am, he promptly went out and bought a Magic Jack for our kids’ computer. We already have high-speed Internet, so for $40 for the year (and $20 per year thereafter), my daughter could talk to her friends till her heart’s content (within reason, of course). My husband hooked it up, and he and my daughter had fun testing it out.

The Verdict? The voice reception? Perfect. You cannot tell you are not talking on a traditional phone. Ease of use? Simple. It’s just a regular phone that’s hooked up near the computer. Benefits? Our daughter can use the phone without tying up our line. We can now call my husband’s friend in Canada for FREE. We never spoke to him very often otherwise because he’s the only person we know in Canada, so it seemed silly to get a special voice plan just for him; therefore our infrequent calls to Canada weren’t cheap. Negatives: So far none. As it is our second phone, we don’t have to worry much about the 911 issue, although frankly, it’s really not much different than our “traditional” phone through Verizon FIOS which also uses some kind of voice over Internet technology, and also wouldn’t work after a few hours after the power has gone out. Additional benefits? My husband has figured out that when we travel to hotels with wireless Internet, we can bring the Magic Jack with us as well as a small phone and make free phone calls.

Will it replace our cell phones? No. Will it replace our traditional phone? For us, not now, but perhaps one day. It certainly makes the $50 per month that we currently pay for unlimited local and long distance seem awfully expensive. Right now Magic Jack has a free 30-day trial if you want to try it out yourself. It might be worth it.

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