magicJack, the $39.99 USB dongle that connects to your PC so that you can make low-cost calls through the internet, certainly sounds enticing. The $40 cost of entry includes one year of service, and once that has expired, subscribing is just $19.99 per year--far lower than the price of traditional landline or cell phone subscriptions. It's easy to see the appeal: slashing your phone bill in these penny-pinching times only seems prudent. However, magicJack has also proven to be a hot-bed of controversy, at least amongst LAPTOP readers who visit this blog. Although a number have touted the effectiveness of the product, another vocal segment has claimed that the device is shoddy and lacks reliable customer support. Some have claimed that magicJack flat-out doesn't work; one person has stated that it wrecked the PC it was plugged into. When we spoke with magicJack creator Dan Borislow in April about the forthcoming updated magicJack, he mentioned the company's much-improved Better Business Bureau rating. Sure enough, when we checked it out in April it was currently at "A-" and maintains that ranking as of today. There has been 1,357 complaints filed against magicJack in the past 36 months in which the overwhelming majority have been addressed by the company. Still, we receive passionate e-mails and posts from frustrated magicJack customers such as this one from a reader who had to deal with a lengthy 45 minute customer service hold time (after getting an unpublished magicJack phone number):
When we spoke with Dan Borislow in April, he mentioned that a large number of retirees make up magicJack's base. Could it be that the product isn't easy enough for less-tech-savvy users to install? Even the best devices sometimes produce errors, so its not out of the question that a certain segment of the magicJack userbase who are unaccustomed to dealing with such problems may be more likely to proclaim that it's defective. This isn't to take blame away from magicJack; clearly, the company needs to meet the needs of its customers. And magicJack doesn't do itself any favors by having its tech support reachable only through the Web; non-techies may feel much more at ease speaking with a live human on the telephone. So we ask you, magicJack users: Is the problem the product, a lack of phone support, or not understanding how to diagnose problems that occur?