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December 17, 2007

Review: magicJack

Richard Kuper
The Kuper Report


Are you looking for a way to reduce your phone bill to practically zero? Do you have a windows pc, running Windows XP or Vista (Mac version promised soon). Then you may wish to check out magicJack.

How it works
Basically, you need to have your pc on and you need to be logged in. Then you take magicJack, which looks like an oversized thumb drive with an exposed circuit board, and plug it into an available USB port. If you wish or need to, it comes with a USB extension cord if it's too crowded to plug the device in without it. But do be sure to plug it directly to a USB port and not to a USB extension port.

Then just wait for a minute or two, and answer any prompts you may get along the way, such as what area code you want and where you live (for 911). Then you are pretty much ready to start making calls for free to anywhere in the US and Canada. You can either plug a regular land-line phone into the magicJack, or else use a computer-connected headset. You will need to go into the menu and change the default to use the headset. Then you are ready to make calls. I was even able to use it to send a fax from a standard fax machine plugged into magicJack, but that option is not officially supported.

Want to call folks outside the US and Canada. Just have them get a magicJack and they will get a US-based phone number and then you can call each other for free.

It even works on PCs with USB 1.1 (it's just slower to set up and start up).

And you can take it with you and plug it into any pc and you will have the same phone number wherever you are. And your email will get notified that you have voice messages, and you can even listen to them online.

Some caveats
The instructions say not to have a cd or dvd playing when you plug in/set up magicJack. I also discovered that my backup program needed to be disabled during magicJack startup.

It works best if you are physically connected to the internet, by cable modem, or DSL, or T1 or such. I encountered some drops when I tried using it on a notebook connected wirelessly to the internet. Your experience may be better.

The product is still listed as being in beta.

And, of course, you need your pc to be on in order to use it.

Is it really free?
Well, almost. It costs around $40 to get one. That gets you one full year of use. After that, its about $20 a year. Yes, those are yearly figures, not monthly.

One last caveat
For security and backup, one should also maintain a real land-line phone number and standard phone that does not require electricity to operate. When there is a power outage, the computer won't work, and so neither would any internet phone from your cable company or magicJack.

You can't beat the price, the sound quality is terrific, and it is really simple to use.

For more information and to order, go to http://magicJack.com

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