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First Look: magicJack Internet calling

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 (

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.

by MacNN Staff



  1. Guest

    Joined: Dec 1969




  1. Mixotic

    Joined: Dec 1969



    What makes this better than Skype/Gizmo/Any-SIP-phone?

  1. chas_m



    re: why?

    What makes it better is two-fold:

    1. You can use real telephones. This is very preferable to some people.

    2. Your total yearly bill for all calls, regardless of quantity or location, is $20. Skype et al charge you for calls to "real" phone numbers, resulting in an average bill that is considerably higher than $20/year for a typical user.

  1. VValdo

    Joined: Dec 1969



    I'd rather use a normal IAX2 or SIP phone that follow open standards than something strange like this. Not only that, but the majicjack web site just about blinded me. And it offered very little info about the tech itself.

    JackenIAX works fine as a softphone. There are plenty of SIP softphones as well. And if I want to plug a "phone" into my computer, I'd rather just use a $40 headset from Fry's.


  1. Jeronimo2000

    Joined: Dec 1969



    It would be nice if MacNN would at least try to offer some neutrality in its reporting, instead of just copy/pasting a product's press release.

    At least that's what, uh, journalists would do.

  1. bogmonster

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Gotta agree with Jeronimo

    This is an advertisement, not a review. Kinda sad...

  1. bsaxton

    Joined: Dec 1969


    No business here...

    This really was not a good review - it almost seems like the guy was paid or given something to write the "review"/endorsement. Ok for a blog - not OK for a news source.

  1. debohun

    Joined: Dec 1969



    Who are these people? In what legal jurisdiction are they located? Who am I giving my credit card to? Why is their website exactly like a sleazy infomercial scam site? Why are they using a self-signed certificate? Why does their, "click here," to connect to live tech support produce a, "The requested URL /hc/73335289/ was not found on this server" error?

    I'll admit, I have a friend who has one of these things, and he loves it. But I really prefer to know who I am doing business with and I prefer doing business with someone who has a sense of advertising decorum.

  1. TheSnarkmeister

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Business in the dark

    "For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved." John 3:20

  1. padrikk

    Joined: Dec 1969


    2nd look Magicjack

    Thanks to MACNN for doing articles on VOIP. I hope to see more evaluations and reviews on VOIP software and phones. I purchased a MJ in November anticipating MAC support "any day now" per the FAQ. February a beta software was released but one needed to use a windoz computer to download the software to MJ. We did a short test on a MAC and Vista windoz. Both were equal in the test. Sound quality was equal to a Skype call except for the unbearable time delay. I was on my 4th "can you here me" by time a received a response from my first. I'll continue to use Skype Pro for now with a GE 2+1 Internet and standard phone.

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