Overall Rating4.54.54.54.54.5
Features4.54.54.54.54.5
Price55555
Service and Support44444
Performance4.54.54.54.54.5
Setup and Interface4.54.54.54.54.5

magicJack VoIP

MagicJack is a VoIP telephone device that you plug into one of your computer’s USB jacks. It gives you unlimited phone calls for one flat annual fee and cheap international calls at a good, per-minute price. I bought one for $39.99 at Best Buy in Orlando but it’s the same price elsewhere in the US. They have been around for at least two years now.magicJack

Installation

magicJack works on Intel Apple Mac, Windows XP, Vista, and 7 PCs, provided that no policy restrictions have been placed on your account (as in corporate environments). It was meant to have Linux support in the first quarter of 2010, but that period has passed.

Installation is painless. When you plug it into a computer for the first time, it proceeds to download a program it needs, so you should have a working Internet connection at that point. You are asked to choose a phone number among various cities, so you would pick one in your own locality or one where most of your callers live. I live in Australia, so I picked one in Los Angeles near my friend’s home suburb. I could not enable 911 for the same reason, but while travelling in America, I can reset my location so as to be able to reach emergency services near me.

Soft phone

A soft phone appears on your screen so that you can dial a number, or use one from your contact list.

In Use

You can plug in a regular phone (including a cordless phone) into a phone jack on the magicJack. That’s the main impression you get when you read the instructions. I didn’t need another phone on my messy desk so I explored the option of using my Skype VoIP Voice USB phone that was already plugged in. It works!

Choose the handset

One of the attractions of magicJack is that you can travel with it anywhere in the world with your laptop and take your US phone number with you. You don’t want to carry more than you need to, so it’s good that it works with whatever handset/headset you use for Skype and other VoIP products.

You can access voicemail by calling your number or in the form of an attachment to an email sent to you. You cannot deactivate voicemail or prevent it coming to your email box. Watch out if you are a popular but busy person and have an email quota.

You get a free conference call number by dialing a number and getting an access code that you can give your parties. This code is also valid for future conference calls. Three-way calling is available and does not involve using the conference bridge.

Call Quality

The call quality depends on your Internet bandwidth. I have just a 1500/256 Mbit/s ADSL line here so I found the call quality about 80-95% of a typical Skype connection. There’s no doubt that Skype with its peer-to-peer connection model gives you the highest chance of excellent call quality. There were moments when the call became unintelligible, but by ceasing all other activity on the Internet connection and raising the priority of the magicJack process, I was fairly pleased with the call quality. At the US end of the call, my friend did not comment on the call quality, so it must be good.

Keep in mind that Skype-to-Skype calling is free but often you need to call normal people who don’t have their PCs switched on all the time or don’t run Skype automatically when the PC is turned on. SkypeOut calls are not free and neither is SkypeIn (which gives you a telephone number).

It’s been about two years when I last had a US Vonage account courtesy of a previous client but its call quality was not as good as magicJack. It came with a special ATA and a comparable annual plan would cost almost $300, so there is no real comparison. Vonage doesn’t take customers in Australia, but magicJack will be happy to sign up customers in most countries.

Call Rates

In addition to the $39.95 purchase price, I purchased a further 5-year extension for $69.95. A one-year extension costs $19.95. Unlimited calls to US and Canadian landline and mobile numbers are included. Calls to fee-per-call 900 and 976 numbers cannot be made. You don’t get an itemised list of calls made.

The price includes the following “free” features:

  • Free directory assistance
  • Free phone number
  • Free call waiting
  • Free voicemail
  • Free caller ID
  • Free local and long distance

Credits can be purchased for the cheap, per-minute calling to international locations, e.g.

  • India Mumbai fixed +91 22: $0.05
  • India mobile B: +91 44: $0.05
  • Russia Moscow fixed: 7495: $0.02
  • South Africa mobile MTN: $0.21
  • UK fixed: +44 $0.02

The full list of rates can be seen at http://www.ymaxcorp.com/clec_rates.html.

magicJack is a no-brainer device at this price (hint: you get what you pay for). I am very pleased with mine.

magicJack Website

The magicJack website is terrible to navigate, as it tries to take you to purchase points rather than information points. It’s the ultimate, “call to action” site design, complete with a “daily” visitor counter that doesn’t reset at midnight in any US timezone. 🙂

It opens a new window for some choices instead of staying in the same window. A few features are buried in the FAQ, which shows some information on the screen, but for others you have to open PDF files! For example, the soft phone and the FAQ both mention an Outlook add-in, but there is no clue as to what that does precisely.

No SEO features are evident. No affiliate program either. I guess they have more customers than they want. Seriously, Jack, please invest in a search-engine-friendly website. Call me – you have my number but mind the time difference. 🙂

Ash Nallawalla

Ash Nallawalla reviews products for many publications, notably PC Update. He writes a monthly column for APC Magazine, the largest consumer printed PC magazine in Australia.

2 Customer Reviews of “magicJack VoIP”

Review by Judy Taylour, August 3, 2010

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magicJack sent several units to be given away as door prizes at the Southwest Computer Conference in San Diego. We also had one for use in the Internet Cafe. Almost 100 calls were made using it, with many attendees mentioning they were going to purchase one. That one went home with the conference’s webmaster who used it for his fax machine — a very versatile piece of equipment. One of my computer club members has one that he uses as the home number. Along with his cell phone — no more land lines for him.

Review by Linda Gonse, August 9, 2010

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A couple of years ago, MagicJack had a special — offering the device for $20. For that reason, I bought it. I stopped working full-time in the past year and I am finally using MagicJack. I am pleased to have saved lots of money using it — mostly on long distance calls to my daughter who just moved. It’s easy to install and use but takes a couple of minutes to load on startup. There is also a little known charge of $19 annually which I discovered after registering it. The information about the charge was buried in MagicJack’s website I found after a determined search for it. The device works as advertised and I recommend it. The charges for the device and the annual charge are negligible compared to a regular phone bill. Unfortunately, the MagicJack website is not customer friendly when you want more information.