Tech Toy of the Month: MagicJack

magicjack.jpg One of the most innovative uses of the Internet has been in the field of voice communications. By converting audio into digital data, users can carry on voice conversations with another person anywhere in the world through their computer. As well, companies have implemented the “Voice over IP” or “VoIP” technology to create long distance telephone services that use the Internet as their infrastructure. So in todays’ market, you basically have two main options when it comes to using the Internet for long distance communication. Free services that require both parties to talk through their computers, such as Skype, and paid services that replace the phone service in your home, such as Vonage. Now, a relatively new product and service called MagicJack is actually a hybrid of these two concepts. In the process the MagicJack seems to deliver the convenience of using standard phone equipment with the extremely low cost of computer-based communication.

As I mentioned above, MagicJack is a combination of product and service. The product is a USB device that you connect to a computer. On the other end, the device has an RJ-11 port, which is the standard phone port that you normally see in the walls of homes and businesses. So you would connect the MagicJack device into your computer, and then plug a standard phone into the MagicJack. The service part of MagicJack allows you to make a phone call using the phone you just plugged into your computer to anyone in the US or Canada for no per-minute charges. International calls require the purchase of pre-paid minutes. The most notable feature of the MagicJack is the price. To purchase a MagicJack device is about $40, which includes the first year of service. This means that if you only make calls to the US or Canada, your total phone bill for the first year would be about $40, no matter how long you are on the phone. After the first year, the service is only $20 per year, again no matter how many calls you make to the US or Canada.

Of course, the cost matters little if the quality of the service is poor. So far, the company’s web site boasts several positive reviews from well-known sources. They claim the quality of their service is better than most free services because you are using a real phone instead of a computer microphone. The question will be if the service quality remains good as they ramp up the number of subscribers. As with any VoIP service, the quality of the underlying Internet connection completely determines the quality of your phone calls, so your particular quality may vary. As well, if your computer is having problems, it could affect your ability to make calls. And finally, we have no idea what their customer service is like.

Another great feature of MagicJack is the ability to use it while traveling. This includes using it while out of the country to call back into the US or Canada for free. This could be really great for users who do travel out of the country a lot and would like to stay in touch back home without racking up huge phone bills. Or for those users who have cell phones that don’t work in other countries, the MagicJack could help them stay in touch.

Overall, I think MagicJack has the potential to shake up the long distance industry. Don’t be surprised to be hearing more about the MagicJack in the months and years to come.

Contact Marcel for any questions you may have regarding the latest technology gadgets!