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What would be your recommendations between Magic Jack, Skype, Etc. as far as replacing a home non--cellular line?

Posted on 2010-08-24
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Hi EE,

I have both a cell phone (with Verizon) and a landline, through Comcast, my ISP. I have been paying too much for Comcast, and considering my phone service goes through their cable lines anyway, I wanted to explore the cheaper option of either magic jack or Skype (or any other alternative, for that matter).

My understanding of this type of phone service is there is an initial charge to set up/equipment and an annual charge for service. What I do not know is:

1. Can I keep my current phone number with any of these options?

2. I currently use a cordless set up. I have the base station, which includes one handset, and I have one additional separate handset. I also have one separate answering machine connected to the base station. Can I use my current phones and/or answering machine with either of these services?

3. I've heard with magic jack, the only indication that I have a phone message is that I need to check something online. There is no visual or auditory cue that a message is waiting. Is this true with all these type of services?

4. Is my understanding of how these operate, accurate: the phone service comes in through the Internet cable, just like my current Comcast phone service does?

I looked into Skype several years ago and the reviews were less than encouraging, from a reliability standpoint. I would like to find out your expert opinion on how reliable this type of service is now.

And finally, not wanting to stir up a major debate, does there seem to be any clear cut provider with a superior service/price record?

Thank you very much for your opinion.
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Question by:photoman11
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by:HAVARD7979
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I have looked and used all of the products and I ended up going with Vonage.  It is a little more money (about $10 per month) but you can keep you existing phone number and use all your existing phones in your house.   With Skype and magic jack you have to tie your phone to a computer with vonage you do not need a computer at all and all of your phones work just like they do now.  If you have a good high speed connection any of them should give you good sound quality.  I know folks that have magic jack and they love the sound quality.  The problem is you have to work through a computer in your house.  We have a 2 story haouse and have 5 phones around the house and do not want top have to run to a certain room to answer the phone. that is worth the little extra that Vonage gets for us.
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by:lobo797
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This article explains the basics of VoIP and covers some of the questions you have posted. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Voice_over_Internet_Protocol

I'm speaking from the side of having used Skype.  I have not had any experience with any other VoIP.

1. - From what Majic Jack's FAQ says, and what I have experienced with Skype, there is not much of a way, yet.  With Skpye you could have a number ported to a SkypeIn number, but it was a tech support nightmare.  We tried it at a previous company I worked for.  What I don't know for certain is if it would even be an available option for a personal number.

2. - You need special phones for Skype as it all needs to be connected to the computer.  That being said you can find them fairly inexpensive.

3. - You have a choice of ringtones with the option of adding customs in Skype.  You also have a choice of how long the call will ring before rolling over to voicemail (only with voicemail activated).  Naturally, your sound card has to be operational and the speakers turned on.

4. - All VoIP calls will come in to your computer via your internet connection from you ISP.

IMO, VoIP is a serious option to consider IF you have a good DSL or better connection.  Skype will work on a 750kbs link, but you will notice lags in speech and lost connections quite frequently.  Unless you spend money on phone equipment, you always need to be at your computer with a headset and mic.

A couple of advantages are you can get some seriously cheap rates for international calls, if you have reason to make them.  If you call Skype to Skype, it's free all day long.  If you choose a SkypeIn number that number is yours anywhere you wish to live and have an internet connection.

Would I replace my landline?  Not unless I had a cell phone.  Most, if not all, VoIP solutions do not allow 911 calls.  Something to keep in mind..

As far as your last question is concerned, you get what you pay for.  There's providers from the single user on up to corporate solutions.
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by:HAVARD7979
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Just want to add you should look at google voice if you are looking for inexpensive.  You can set it up just like vonage to it rings to you house phones use a SIP and all incoming calls are free you only pay a little for outgoing calls.  You can not keep you existing number with goolge voice like you can with Vonage.  Also what lobo797 says is true of most of the cheap voip.  Number 4 is not true with google voice or Vonage as they can come in to a special router that converts the single to work with any regular phone.  No computer is needed.  And Vonage does handle 911 routing.    
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by:HAVARD7979
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I just check out Google voice and here is their new info:
Calling Credit shows how much credit you have available to make international calls from Google Voice. Calls made within the U.S. and Canada are free and don't affect your balance.

You still can not port your old phone number to Google so if you do not mind getting a new number then That would be the cheapest way to go.  totally free for all calls in the US and can use you existing house phones if you purchase a Gizmo.  Old sunrocket ones are available on eBay for $20 or less.  Lots of article on the net on how to configure them.
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by:photoman11
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wow-this seems way more complex than I was hoping for. I did look up Vonage, and they have several payment plans which where little bit more than I was expecting. I think I'm going to have to do some more research because right now I'm lost.
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by:D_Vante
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MagicCrap will cut out on you if you constantly make lengthy long distance calls
You can transfer your home phone # to a cell phone, probably add $10 to your cell phone bill.   Then use Dock-N-Talk to hook that cell phone to your home phones.   To keep your minitues down you can use google's new phone to call out on.
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HAVARD7979 earned 375 total points
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Well none of the "Cheap" solution will let you keep you existing phone number.  then you have to look at vonage.  they do have a $4.99/mo plan but it is not public.  You may want to call them.  If you're not going to keep your existing number then Google voice is totally free for in and out bound d in the US
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by:photoman11
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Thanks. Why would they have a plan that is not public? Are they embarrassed about it, like if it was for 7 minutes a month?I guess it looks like Google voice is the leading contender for not keeping one's phone number. I'll have to look into that.
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by:HAVARD7979
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I have 2 google voice number from back when it was Grand Central and have had no issues at all. I use them with an old sunrocket gizmo  so they ring on a standard house phone.  the vonage 4.99 plan is like 200 miniutes.  Here is another option for 8-10 per month that will let you keep your existing number.  you would transfer your existing number to one of these.  Get a google voice number and set them to forward to the  number to that new google voice number.

http://www.hostednumbers.com/?gclid=CJTv5Mis5qMCFQpV5wodQkhcXw
http://www.parkmyphone.com/plans-rates.php
http://www.numbergarage.com/pricing/
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by:photoman11
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HAVARD7979,

You are the VOIP guru. You sure know this stuff.

I was reading all about Google voice last night and regardless of where I went in the help, YouTube videos, or FAQs, there were still several questions I couldn't find answers to. Do you know of any truly definitive sources of information on Google voice, other than Google?
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by:photoman11
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HAVARD7979,

I didn't think I used my home line that much. I just checked the statistics and it is embarrassingly low (I must be a hermit). I think homeless people and make more calls than I do.

In any case, for what I'm paying and what I'm using, I should've done this years ago. I would be definitely better off using Vonage's $4.99 plan which basically provides no minutes and charges $.04 a minute for outbound calls.

My understanding is I can keep my same number and the only additional charges are for the  Vonage Phone Adapter. Doing a quick Internet search, I found listings that ranged from $80 all the way down to $25 for a Motorola VoIP Adapter phone to internet via Vonage Service ($2 for a used one).

Obviously not knowing anything about these adapters, do you have any advice because I certainly don't need to go overboard with the little use that I have? As long as it doesn't interfere with my Comcast DSL line, I'm good.
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by:HAVARD7979
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Just get one that vonage supports or they will not help you configure it.

If you are real ambitious you could transfer your home number to  the 4.99 vonage plan and then get a Google voice number and set that up on the Voip adapter.  Use the web interface for vonage and just forward your calls to the Google number.   then you have a 4.99 per month plan and unlimited calls in and out.
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by:photoman11
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I think I found a better deal on eBay-

I purchased 2 cans and a string for only $3.99 and it comes with one free Can-adapter.

Good grief. Scotty, Beam me up; but make sure it's a landline.

I think I need a drink.

Thanks for all your help... seriously. I'm sure your last suggestion is probably the best one, I just feel like it'll take me about 20 hours of study to figure out what to do.
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by:HAVARD7979
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you have to decide if it is worth 4 cents per minute.  If volume is low just stay with vonage and all is good.

beat of luck to you.
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by:photoman11
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Looks like the best plan right now is an online offering from Vonage for $9.99 per month. The $4.99 per month plan that was mentioned earlier is only available for existing customers.

Thanks for all your advice; it was extremely helpful.
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