Home phones still exist. Not for many, but for me they are a necessary evil. As tempting as it is to go all-mobile all-the-time, I rely on my home phone lines for international long distance and for crystal-clear business calling (mobile reception isn’t great in our area).
Up until about two years ago, I was paying a bundled reduced price of $39.99/month for home VoIP service, including unlimited long distance within the United States and to Canada. This price did not include taxes and fees, and was for only a single phone line. But it was part of a home technology bundle and as such, I assumed I was getting the best price.
At the time I was working a corporate job from my home. As my telecommuting arrangement had become full-time, it became necessary to have a dedicated business phone line. My company agreed to a monthly stipend to cover the costs. I called my VoIP provider for a quote to add the second line: it would be a $149.99 set-up fee (reduced from $199.99!) along with an additional $19.99/monthly, not including taxes and fees. This would bring my monthly bill, for phone alone, to $59.98 before taxes and fees. Wowzer!
I was sure I could do better. Every dollar counts. So I began researching alternative VoIP solutions, and narrowed it down to three options: Magic Jack, Vonage, and Ooma. My criteria included quality, cost, free calling to Canada, and ease of setting up two separate lines.
Based on my comparison, I was able to narrow it down to either Magic Jack or Vonage. The higher monthly cost for Vonage (with only limited long distance to Canada) ruled it out altogether.
Pricing between Magic Jack and Ooma was comparable (although Ooma was less expensive upfront if buying the telephone and Linx units together). But after a lot of research on online forums and in product reviews, the Ooma service and quality appeared to significantly stand out above Magic Jack. In fact, Ooma advertises “Pure Voice Technology,” which includes High Definition (HD) Voice and allows for excellent voice quality even on substandard or overloaded internet connections. In addition, I was impressed with Ooma’s support section which offered a wide array of help information, along with 1:1 Chat if necessary (Magic Jack also offers Chat).
So I made the decision to go with Ooma, and haven’t looked back.
- I paid $179.99 for the initial telephone and Linx units (Linx required for a second line).
- It may be worthwhile checking out pricing at stores like Amazonor Costco, as I’ve since seen Ooma units for sale there as well.
- I initiated the phone number porting process online for my existing home phone number. Although they said it could take up to several weeks for the number to successfully port, it was ported within a few days.
- I selected my new number online for my business line, and had that ready almost immediately.
- Once I received the Ooma hardware, I had the telephone unit connected and set up within minutes. All test calls worked and sounded great.
- The Linx set-up was a bit more difficult as it wouldn’t seem to activate no matter what I did. I chatted online with Ooma support (very fast and friendly) and they walked through some troubleshooting steps. When that didn’t work, they immediately shipped a new Linx unit out overnight under the agreement that I would return the one in my possession.
- Upon receiving the new Linx unit, it worked perfectly, and I was up and running within a few minutes. I tested two simultaneous calls on both lines, and all was fine. I tested bandwidth by streaming video on all computers, televisions, and handheld devices in the home while again making two simultaneous calls on both lines, and all was fine.
Performance Over Time
- In the two years that I have been using Ooma, there has been one significant glitch when the phone lines were completely down. It was for about 1-2 hours one weekday morning, and Ooma was good about messaging updates on their site. This was an inconvenience, especially for work, as I had to use my back up mobile phone for calls.
- Occasionally when I pick up the phone, the screen will flash with a “Busy” notice and I will hear a fast beep. This is not unique to Ooma, as I had this experience with my previous VoIP provider as well. When this occurs, I hang up and then pick up again, and all is well.
- There have been a few times (4-5 that I can recall) when the party on the other end of the phone says that my voice is cutting out, although I can hear them just fine. About that same number of times, there have been glitches where I am on calls and the speaker’s voice cuts out for 3-7 seconds at a time. Typically the next call is fine. As it has happened infrequently (and only on my second business line), I have not looked into why this occurs or how to troubleshoot.
- Voice quality on calls is excellent; no difference from previous VoIP or landline providers.
- My monthly phone bill is $10.06/month, all inclusive.
What I Like
- The low cost for two separate VoIP lines coming into my home.
- Unlimited calling throughout the U.S. and Canada.
- The fact that the numbers go with me; when I am traveling I can make calls using my Ooma numbers from my cell phone to avoid international long distance charges to Canada. My Caller ID shows up with the home/business (not cell phone) numbers in these cases.
- The mobile and online apps – very intuitive and many options available. I especially like listening to voicemail over the app.
- Call forwarding, blocking, and caller blacklists for telemarketers are very helpful.
- The service and responsive support I receive from Ooma.
What I Don’t Like
- The voice cutting in/out technical glitches. While very infrequent, it always seems to occur when I’m on a very important phone call.
- The instance when both lines were hard down.
- I love Ooma! I would never go back to home/business VoIP service with one of the traditional providers again.
- Outstanding cost for value.
- I’m really happy about the ability to keep and bring my numbers with me for life (no more new numbers!)
- I’ve become reliant on the online and phone apps for call/voicemail/phone line management.
- In retrospect and based on even more reviews from friends about Magic Jack, I am so happy I went with Ooma.
- Make the switch and slash your phone bill! If you only need one line, I’m told the cost is approximately $4/month. Less than a coffee!