Last month, I happened across the Magic Jack website. Magic Jack is a USB device that, when hooked up to your computer (with your phone cord connected to the other end), will allow you to make and receive local and long-distance phone calls for free. Well, almost free. It costs around $40 for the USB device, and there is a yearly 'licensing' fee of $20.
At the moment, there is a 30-day free trial period, which I've taken advantage of. Magic Jack mailed me (there is a shipping cost, I do believe) my USB device, which has been connected to my computer and cordless phone for several weeks. Although the device does work, in that I am able to make and receive calls with no cost, there are some issues that I dislike about it:
- My computer has to be on, all the time. I can't even put the computer into 'hibernation' or standby mode. This bugs me, since I like to have my computer OFF (or as close to off as possible) when I'm not using it. If your computer is off, people can still call you---their calls simply go directly to voicemail.
- The downloaded 'Magic Jack' dialogue box seems clunky and amateur-ish. When I had the USB unit plugged into my laptop, my callers indicated that they could hear beeping noises, as if I were pressing buttons on a phone. This doesn't happen on my desktop computer, but it was annoying.
- Sometimes when I call out, the person on the other end can't hear me, and I can't hear them. This generally happens once, and then the second time I make the call everything is find. Also, I've found that there is a long delay when the phone call is first connected. So the person I've called is saying "hello? hello?" and I'm doing the same, but it takes more than a few seconds for us to 'hear' each other, if that makes sense.
- I can't use the second handset on my cordless phone. I like having one phone in the office and a separate handset in the bedroom. With this system, that doesn't seem possible. I believe you can purchase more than one Magic Jack and set it up that way (if you have another computer in the room in which you want your other phone), but it doesn't work with phone systems that have a 'base' and then a separate handset that plugs into the wall (rather than a phone line).
- My computer seems to run much slower when the Magic Jack is hooked up.