If you've pondered ditching your landline because of exorbitant phone bills, magicJack just may be for you. It's an unassuming cigarette lighter-sized plug-and-play USB telephony device that offers unlimited local and long distance calling within the U.S. and Canada (international dialing expected by the end of the year). We were pleasantly surprised with how easy it is to use and the quality it provides for less than $40.
Installation was simple: We plugged the 0.9-ounce magicJack into a USB port on a Windows-powered PC (Mac OS X drivers will be available by the end of the year), and about 30 seconds later the bundled software automatically loaded. After registering the device and receiving a personal magicJack phone number (users will be able to port their existing numbers to the service before the end of the year), we plugged a standard landline phone into the device's phone jack and began making calls. Users who wish to forgo a traditional handset can opt to use a cordless phone.
You can also use the magicJack to make calls using your PC, whether you're at home or on the road. Dial using the keyboard or an onscreen keypad, and you can talk using either a headset or your computer's built-in microphone and speaker.
The overall voice quality was good: better than most cell phones but not quite on par with true landlines. Friends and colleagues reported only the occasional crackle and pop, and we didn't encounter a single dropped call on our tests. This level of quality and stability is courtesy of magicJack's proprietary network, which maintains a solid, reliable connection that the company claims can't be achieved on traditional VoIP channels.
MagicJack doesn't skimp on features, either; it comes packed with all the amenities you'd expect from a phone service, including voicemail (you can receive messages even when you're offline), caller ID, call waiting, call forwarding, and emergency 911 dialing.
Priced at a reasonable $39.95, magicJack comes with a year's worth of service (an annual subscription runs $19.95 after that, with international prepaid packages starting for as little as $5). Although it's designed for use with a single phone line (multiple lines require a magicJack for each) and your PC has to be turned on to use it, the magicJack is a fine way to cut your monthly telephone bill without making too many tradeoffs.
Dan Borislow answers our questions about future features of magicJack, including Linux support, number portability, and more.
We check on the progress of magicJack and look at new features like Mac compatility and international calling.
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