I have been using Vonage for a number of years now. It’s an excellent service with plenty of features. However, the lure of better pricing is irresistible. Today marks 3 months since I transitioned from Vonage toMagic Jack. After purchasing this standalone analog telephone adapter (ATA) from Micro Center, I found the initial signup and activation to be totally hassle free and painless.
After opening up the package and plugging in the Magic Jack plus unit into my computer, I followed the instructions to obtain my new phone number. Much to my surprise, the process of number selection was very different. With Vonage, it was merely selecting my area code and then the rest of the phone number. With Magic Jack, it was first select a state, then the area code, and then the next 4 digits. After this, the final 3 digits are computer selected. I was also given the chance to choose a vanity number or to transfer my number – both premium services that required additional payment. After number selection, I was given the option to add an extended warranty on my Magic Jack Plus device. I opted in for this – normally I am against extended warranties, but for $1, it seemed like a bargain. After this, I was given the option to pre-purchase 5 additional years of service as well as getting a lifetime warranty for my device for $99.75. The ordering process was easy and I found the up sale process to be very well thought out. I completed the entire activation process after spending $104.54 + $69.99 (the cost of the device) + Texas sales tax on the $69.99 as I had bought it from my local Micro Center. Total investment: $180.30. With Vonage, I had previously been on an employee plan which cost $22.23 monthly. If Magic Jack lasts for even 8 months I would have recouped my investment and would realize a potential savings of $1,408 (64 months) as long as Magic Jack doesn’t go belly up.
The process of signing up with Magic Jack seemed like a cakewalk compared to when I initially signed up with Vonage. I didn’t have to hunt down and find MAC addresses and the such. Magic Jack makes it easy for the average person to setup their own device.
After completion of activation, I clicked the option that I would be using the Magic Jack Plus as a standalone system without a computer. I plugged in the unit to the USB A/C adapter and connected up my phone cord and network cord that were previously connected to my Vonage V-Portal adapter. Just like that, my service switch had been completed. The only thing remaining was to update my Google Voice settings. Combining Google Voice with Magic Jack, I would still have my phone number of choice and nobody has to know what my new Magic Jack phone number is. I also did log into Magic Jack at http://my.magicjack.com to confirm my E911 service address as well as to setup call forwarding which I linked back to my Google Voice. Ahhh…all done. My initial and subsequent use of the Magic Jack is satisfactory. The calls are crisp and clear majority of the time. I do wonder at times as to the validity of some of the complaints which I had heard from a couple of friends and I realize that many do not have a fast internet upload which is the key factor in determining whether or not the person on the other line will be hearing you. Most people have fast down stream speeds with their internet, but they neglect this up stream element. My home setup is 6Mpbs down with 1Mbps up though AT&T U-Verse Internet.
By getting rid of Vonage, I did sack a number of features which I rarely used. These features for some may be considered invaluable. Calls logs, call forwarding based on time, easy 3-way calling, Vonage softphone for PC which acted like a 2nd line, network availability number, the ability to toggle VoIP sound quality, the ability to block international calls , disable caller ID, caller ID with CNAME, and do not disturb.
So what features do I get with Magic Jack? I get a phone number of my choice, free directory assistance, free call waiting, and free voicemail and caller ID (numbers only). Magic Jack also offers a service which is not limited to just Magic Jack customers for 3-way calling via a conference call which everyone dials in to a specific phone number and they use a pin code for a specific “room”. These features may sound very rudimentary but are in fact already more than what I’m used to on my traditional land line which offers only local service without caller ID or any other features.
One thing to note about the voicemail is that it is an advertisement for Magic Jack and that can get very annoying. I’ve found to keep this from coming up, use Google Voice as a gatekeeper where you must press 1 to answer a call. By doing so, you not only have the ability to screen your calls, but also not use the voicemail which Magic Jack provides. This is not an issue anymore as it is now possible to turn off the Magic Jack voicemail. As for caller’s names, after you add a number to your phone (in my case I’m using an iPhone 3G), subsequent calls will show the user’s name rather than just a number.
I must say that Vonage did offer excellent service. However, Magic Jack so far seems to be a watered-down but extremely cost effective solution that when coupled with Google Voice still does exactly what I need – provide crisp calls that can be tracked via Google Voice.