updated 04:50 pm EDT, Thu April 10, 2008
First Look: magicJack
For the longest time, the three most popular ways to make phone calls was through a landline, a cellular phone, or a voice over Internet protocol (VoIP) phone system such as Skype. Landlines offer near-perfect reliability and sound quality, but with varying costs and limited mobility. Cellular phones offers mobility but at the cost of high fees. VoIP phones offer mobility with unlimited free calls anywhere in the world, but are often restricted to calls placed to other VoIP users. If you want to use a VoIP phone to call a landline or cellular phone, the charges jump up dramatically. Fortunately, there's now another calling alternative called magicJack.
The magicJack unit plugs into the USB port of any computer and by plugging any telephone into the magicJack, you can use your computer's broadband Internet connection to place calls for free to landline or cellular phones. With magicJack, you truly get free, unlimited phone calls.
The magicJack unit consists of a short USB extension cord and the magicJack unit itself. You can plug the magicJack unit directly into a computer's USB port, but since the unit is fairly bulky, you may need to use the included USB extension cord to plug the unit into any free USB port.
The magicJack package includes a USB extension cord and the magicJack unit
After you plug the magicJack into your computer, it installs the necessary drivers for either Windows XP, Vista, or Mac OS X. You can also download the necessary drivers for Vista or Mac OS X by downloading them separately from the magicJack Web site (www.magicjack.com).
Initially, you can't use the magicJack until you first create a magicJack account, which consists of your email address and a password. Since many people use magicJack to replace a traditional landline, the magicJack installation process also asks for a physical address to register your number with 911 emergency services.
Since magicJack not only lets you make calls but receive them as well, you need to complete the installation process by choosing an area code for your magicJack phone number. Although you can choose any area code, magicJack assigns your particular unit with a specific phone number, which allows others to call you through magicJack.
After setting up your account and assigning a telephone number, the magicJack unit window appears, ready to place a call. Dial any phone number and magicJack connects right away, absolutely free, and even keeps a log of the numbers you called and how long you spent talking. For added convenience, the magicJack window can also store frequently called numbers.
Like VoIP phones, magicJack's audio quality is noticeably lower than a landline or cellular phone, but not by much. Phone calls may also experience background static or a slight delay each time someone speaks. However these minor annoyances may be irritating, but ultimately they're easy to ignore, especially when you realize you're finally free to make unlimited local and long distance phone calls anywhere in the United States and Canada.
If you need to travel, unplug the magicJack unit and plug it into your laptop. No matter where you may be in the world, you'll be able to make and receive phone calls just as long as your computer has a broadband Internet connection. whether you're in San Francisco, New York, or Miami. As long as you have your magicJack unit, you'll always have the same phone number that people can call to reach you at any time.
If you turn off your computer and someone tries calling your magicJack phone number, they'll be routed to your magicJack voicemail. Although magicJack relies on a high-speed Internet connection, it won't slow down your computer or Internet connection; you can talk and use your computer at the same time.
Overall, the magicJack is a remarkable device. If you've always dreamed about making and receiving free, unlimited phone calls, magicJack is the next best thing to a corporate cellular telephone, although magicJack always needs a computer and a high-speed Internet connection.
The magicJack unit costs $39.95, but you can sign up for a free 30-day trial where you'll only pay for the cost of shipping if you decide to return the unit within this trial period. This $39.95 fee covers the cost of the magicJack unit itself plus one free year of service. Each additional year of service costs another $19.95. International phone calls may also incur additional fees.
If you limit most of your phone calls to the United States and Canada, the magicJack is a bargain. With acceptable sound quality and unlimited phone calling, the magicJack is something that everyone should consider if they want to reduce their cost for making phone calls.