Tuesday, August 16, 2011

New VoIP system

So I've liked VoIP phones and have been using them for years now. In fact, I haven't had a landline on a phone since Tim and I lived in Salt Lake City 10 years ago. We did cell phones exclusively for a couple of years and then shifted to VoIP when we moved to Colorado in 2004.

We used Vonage for a while and were really pleased with it. But I didn't want to keep paying $30 a month for phone service--as far as I could see, the point of VoIP was having a cheaper phone with free long distance. Cheaper being the key here.

When we moved to Vegas, I ditched the Vonage device and bought a Magic Jack because I could pay $70 for the device and 5 years of service.  The problem we ran into was that none of our computers were new and fast enough to really keep that Magic Jack going strong. The Magic Jack uses the computer, and it competes for resources with whatever is running, so if you don't have a computer dedicated solely to the Magic Jack, the call quality is pretty terrible. Even when we got it running on my laptop, the call quality was terrible. After a half hour call (and I make LONG calls when Tim goes out of town), the Magic Jack would turn me into a robot and drop every other syllable other people said. It also tried to block background noises, but would mute the whole phone whenever the kids squawked. And there was this annoying pop-up softphone that insisted on popping up over whatever I was working on whenever I called someone or they called me.  For a while, Magic Jack disabled my screensaver for me, and they wouldn't fix it when I complained--I guess enough people eventually complained because they stopped doing that after a couple of months.

Next to the terrible call quality, the biggest problem with the Magic Jack was we had to keep it plugged into my laptop all the time if we wanted the phone on. Which we did. It got bumped and tugged on by kids every day, and finally it just broke a year before the subscription ran out. What good is paying for 5 years of service if you can't get five years out of the device?!

I was going to buy a Nettalk Duo as a replacement--it's basically a magic jack that plugs into your router instead of your computer.  Otherwise, it seemed to be the same. And you could plug it into your computer if you wanted--like if you were travelling.  It costs about $70 for the device and first year, and then $30 a year after that.

While I was doing research on all that, though, I decided it would be nice if I could just plug a phone into my computer and use Google Voice as my phone.

And then I found Obihai. They released a new little device this year that is an Analog Telephone Adapter. It allows you to plug a phone into the internet and use Google Voice as your phone service. And, while the reviews of every other device I've ever looked at were mixed, this one had fantastic reviews. It was so well-reviewed that tech-heads bought 85,000 units the first few weeks it was released, and the company had to produce a whole bunch more than they anticipated needing.

And it was a pay-once device.

Since I'm partially into VoIP for the cheap phone, that appealed to me. There is one other pay-once device on the market that is widely used--the Ooma Telo--but it costs $200 and it's not really pay-once (you have to pay taxes and fees once a year). They say it pays for itself, but if I were using the Nettalk Duo, it would take me over 5 years for that to pay that much.

So when I found the Obi100, it immediately caught my eye. You really pay just once for the device, and then never anything again as long as it lasts and Google Voice stays free.  And it only cost me $44, not $200.  And it plugs into your router instead of your computer. And the voice quality was "comparable to Vonage." That was my list of requirements, right there--better voice quality, plugs into router, inexpensive for life.

So, with fantastic reviews and instructions that sounded easy from NerdVittles, I decided to try it.

Bought one from Amazon.com. It shipped free and arrived today. It was easy to set up (hardest part was finding the long ethernet cable so I could put it on the opposite side of the room from the router).  It's tiny (about the size of a deck of cards).

And the call quality is Fantastic. Better than Vonage. Better than a landline, if you can believe that. Better than any cell phone I've ever used.

I am very very pleased.

Apparently this little Obi100 device does a lot of things that I haven't delved into at all--you can call it from your cell phone and route calls through it, but talking on your cell phone, for example. Not being a cell phone user, I'm not sure why you'd want to do that, but you can. If you get the upgraded Obi110, you can also plug your landline into the device and connect all your phones--soft phone, Google Voice, cell phone, land line....again, I'm not telco talented and don't know why you'd need to do that. I just want to pick up the phone and talk to my siblings or husband. I want to be able to make doctors appointments for my kids, call the ladies I visit teach. You know--have a phone.

And I finally think I do! And, now that I paid for the device, the rest is free. For real. I never have to pay another phone bill ever again. Can't beat that.

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