Perhaps you've seen the television commercial, promising a 30-day 100% free trial of MagicJack if you call within the next thirty minutes? (The same offer is available at their website.) Is it too good to be true?
First, what is MagicJack?
MagicJack is a gizmo that plugs into your computer's USB port. After you install the hardware, its software automatically loads onto your PC (Mac-friendly versions available, too). Then, you plug your landline phone jack into the gizmo, and voila! You can telephone nationally or internationally at the rate MagicJack charges, not your local phone service.
And the MagicJack rate is very low.
What's the cost?
First year, $39.95; after that, subscription is $19.95/year for caller id; voice mail; call waiting; conference calling; unlimited domestic and international use. These are ANNUAL fees, not monthly ones.
What are the biggest pros and cons? There's lots of negatives to MagicJack.
- First of all, your computer has to be up and running to use MagicJack. Turn off your computer, and your MagicJack phone shuts off, too. (Compare this to Vonage, which connects into your modem, allowing you to have phone service as long as your internet service provider is active.)
- Another negative for some is the MagicJack requirement to dial the area code for every call - although this is only true for some parts of the country.
- A third problem with MagicJack is quality of transmission - in my surfing of the web, I found bloggers and pro reviewers reporting periodic fuzzy calls, low volume, and voice mail issues. Everyone weighed these against the cost of the service, and found the quality issues tolerable given the cost benefits MagicJack offers.
- Finally, there's a privacy issue. Selling this service this cheap has many wondering how MagicJack can make a profit. Well, the company plans on getting revenue through advertising, and that's going to happen through ads that MagicJack will sell, and which will be displayed on your computer as part of the MagicJack operational software. The gimmick to draw advertisers? MagicJack reserves the right to monitor the numbers you dial so it can coordinate ads with advertisers. Yep -- they'll be monitoring your phone calls for commercial purposes and you're giving up some privacy in order to get cheap phone service.
What are the Pros?
- It's easy to install.
- It's cheap.
- You can call domestic or international for the flat fee.
- It seems to have the best use as a landline used for families whose main phone use is at work, or on cell phones. Lots of the complaints I read were from folk who were trying to use MagicJack for business, or for their sole phone line.
Who are its competitors?
MagicJack is one of several voice-over-internet-protocols (VoIP) services being marketed today for cheap phone service. Others include Vonage (which is the big dog in the pack here), Optimum Voice, At&T CallVantage, TimeWarnerCable, Comcast, Average, and Skype. All these services compete with MagicJack for VoIP customers.
Who's winning? In a recent PCMag survey, Optimum Voice came in first as the VoIP customer favorite, followed by Vonage.
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