Web & communication software

MagicJack Makes Phone Calls On the Cheap

Had I paid attention and seen the spam first, I would not have purchased a MagicJack VOIP telephony adapter when I ran into it at RadioShack. After all, nothing that is promoted using spam marketing can possibly be any good, right?

I have, for example, purposely skipped the Dremel tool-like claw trimmer for dogs and cats, about which I received a zillion spam messages and then ran into at PetsMart. On the other hand, I know for a fact that ShamWow absorbent cloths works pretty much as promised. I have had mine for two years, long before the spamwave slammed into my mailbox.

MagicJack is a combination hardware/software solution. The device is a USB adaptor into which you can plug a standard analog telephone. The matchbox-sized USB gizmo also contains enough software to start a MagicJack session on the host computer. Both Macs and PCs are supported.

The MagicJack device costs $40 and comes with a year of service. That includes unlimited local and long-distance calls, free voicemail, free call-forwarding, free caller ID, free directory assistance and discounts on international calling. Future service is $20-a-year and multi-year discounts are available.

You do, of course, need a broadband connection for MagicJack to operate. That makes MagicJack a good deal only if you already have an Internet connection available, otherwise a landline or cellular telephone might meet your needs less expensively.

MagicJack pretty well defines plug-and-play. The USB device plugs into your computer and an analog telephone plug into the device. The computer notices the USB device and the MagicJack application starts.

This all takes about a minute. Once the software loads, the MagicJack connects the telephone set to your computer and allows you to place voice calls over your broadband connection. Pick up the handset and you hear dial tone and can dial as you would on a landline phone.

You can also use the computer itself as a "software" telephone with your own headset/microphone, if you choose.

Each MagicJack is assigned its own telephone number and can accept incoming calls as well as place outgoing ones. You can get a local number in pretty much any part of the country and 911 dialing is supported in most places, so long as you select your current location in the software. The selected location appears prominently at all times.

If you do not answer an incoming call, it goes to voice mail, and the recorded message is fired off to an email address associated with the account. That means you could buy several MagicJacks just to have local phone numbers for taking messages in cities where you would like to do business. Once the MagicJack account is setup, you do not have to be connected for the voice mail to work.

There are no limits or per-minute charges on MagicJack, except for its discounted overseas calling plans. My wife can call her family in Sweden, for example, for 2-cents-a-minute using MagicJack.

The audio quality tends to be very good with minor burps and hiccups. Your experience may vary.

My MagicJack is dedicated to a smalls business I operate and is normally just used for voice mail when the business is not open, which is most of the time. However, when we are open and working, MagicJack allows us to setup shop at a client location and use the telephone number that we always use.

This is convenient for everyone, especially customers who never have to change where they call, no matter which of us is working or where we are.

If you think about what you might do with an essentially free and very flexible telephone service in your business, I bet you will find a MagicJack application, too.

David Coursey loves sitting down, opening his laptop, getting on the client's LAN, and having his MagicJack phone, which can stay connected when he leaves. Drop him a note using the contact form on his Web site.

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