A review of Magic Jack
When the phone company notified me that they were increasing the monthly fee of my, already pricey, call display feature, I decided to look elsewhere for phone service. The local cable provider offered me free 'home phone' for a year if I switched to their internet service. Enticing, but a friend suggested I check out Magic Jack. The price seemed right, so I gave it a try.
After three years of use I was offered an inexpensive upgrade to the Magic Jack Plus. The first part of this review covers general information covering the Magic Jack system and my conclusions concerning the earlier unit. I have also added a review that relates my experiences with the Magic Jack Plus.
I ordered the device from Tiger Direct. It arrived within ten days and, including tax and shipping, priced out to $67.98. This covered the cost of the first year of service.
According to YMAX communications, the provider of Magic Jack, this device will allow you to place calls within Canada and the United states without incurring long distance fees. You may, through their service, purchase credits for international calls.
Once you register the device you may select a telephone number from many locations in the United States. I'm Canadian, so I paid an extra ten dollars for a Canadian number. Unfortunately, there were none available for my local area. I picked a number from a nearby city, which means my neighbor will be calling long distance if he gives me a ring. That's not a problem; he has my cell phone number. It might, however, be a deal-breaker for you, so check out their site and see if Magic Jack numbers are available in your local area.
Magic Jack makes use of VoIP technology. Like Skype and Vonage, it uses the internet to make telephone calls. You require high speed internet (not dial-up) and your computer must be on in order for this system to function. If your phone rings while you're watching a movie on Netflix, you may experience problems. I'd advice against heavy downloading/streaming while making a call.
You might want to Google the Magic Jack 'terms of service'. Check out information regarding auto renewal, advertising, and termination of service.
INSTALLATION OF ORIGINAL UNIT
I plugged my phone cord into the back of the device and inserted the Magic Jack into a USB port on my computer. A picture of the Jack appeared on my screen, pleading patience as the software and drivers loaded/installed. At one point I was informed that 'I was lucky'. Good news indeed, considering my long and fruitless efforts to plug my leaking roof...
Minutes later, the Magic Jack was ready. I called my cell, to ensure it actually worked, before I completed the registration. During this process I received an offer of five years additional service for only $69.95. I love deals and jumped at the chance. Truth is, technology changes fast, and locking myself in for a six year period was probably a mistake. At this time the yearly renewal fee for Magic Jack is $19.99.
DOES IT WORK?
For me, Magic Jack works fine. I've been using it for a month, and have made and received calls, all across the country. Often there is a slight lag when someone speaks, but I soon became used to that. I don't think the call quality is up to the standard of a normal phone line, however, it is really close. When I consider the thirty-five dollars a month I no longer have to pay, there is no cause for complaint.
To ensure my system works efficiently I picked up a 'powered USB hub'. I plugged the hub into a USB port and connected it to power. Then I inserted the Magic Jack into the hub. This ensures the Magic Jack always has the proper operating voltage applied. I probably didn't need to do this, but I wanted to be sure.
WILL IT WORK FOR YOU?
It depends. Do you have a fairly modern computer? Are you willing to leave it on twenty-four hours a day? Is your high speed internet service consistent?
Remember, your telephone system will become more complicated. If something goes wrong, your responsibility is no longer limited to the actual phone and phone cord. You need to worry about your computer, router, modem, the Magic Jack, the MJ software, a bunch of cables, and your internet provider. Magic Jack provides help via chat lines over the internet. I'm told this works but suspect the process is cumbersome.
Another item to consider is the 911 system. You can easily import your physical location into the system, but what happens if an emergency occurs during a power failure? I recommend that, if you intend to use Magic Jack as your main phone, you purchase a 'pay as you go' cell phone.
If your internet service is presently bundled with a home phone service you might find the monthly internet fee increasing once the telephone service is removed.
WHAT SERVICES ARE PROVIDED?
An automated 411 service is provided for the United States.
Your name and number will not be added to a phone directory.
A number of normal features such as 'Call Display' are provided. Check the Magic Jack website for details.
Voicemail is included. An audio file of the caller's message will be sent to your email address. Also, by dialing your MJ telephone number, you can access your voicemail from any phone.
I have been told that it is possible to send faxes but have read complaints concerning this. If you require this function, be sure to research thoroughly.
A friend of mine takes his Magic Jack along with him on business trips. Each night, from his hotel room, he plugs the jack into his laptop and uses the hotel's internet service to call home.
FINAL CONCLUSION RELATED TO THE ORIGINAL UNIT
For me, Magic Jack is a good fit. It's not because of the 'no charge' long distance, although it is nice to call my mother in Ontario without worrying about how long we talk. In reality, I'm a dweeb, whom no one calls, and dislike paying thirty-five dollars a month for a service I seldom use. Being a technician, I am well versed in the maintenance and fault-finding of of equipment such as the Magic Jack system - I can probably fix it if something goes wrong. For an article on repair and maintenance of your Magic Jack system please click on this link.
For those who require a rock solid phone system, I'd recommend sticking with your land-line. If you carry a cell and want a cheap home phone, Magic Jack might be right for you. If your teenage daughter is hogging the phone line at home - maybe she could use a Magic jack? In my particular case, a couple of my favorite relatives have moved to England. Wouldn't it be cool if I sent them over a Magic Jack? Think of the long distance savings!
MAGIC JACK PLUS 2014
Just before Christmas I was emailed an offer to upgrade my original device to the Magic Jack Plus. After almost completing the request for a free trail I decided not to accept and closed down my browser. YMAX sent me a unit anyway and it arrived early in January.
You know what it’s like. Christmas is over and you’ve already received every present you are going to get. A fancy little electronic gadget arrives in the mail and you just can’t resist. Well… anyway, I couldn’t.
The packaging included the Magic Jack Device, an ethernet patch cord, a telephone patch cord and a short cable that connects the device’s USB input to an AC power source. I connected the unit to my modem/router, my telephone and to a power bar.
Then I browsed for www.mjReg.com. There are two videos available, depending on whether you intend to connect the Magic Jack device to your router or to your computer. I couldn’t get either video to work.
Neither could mjReg.com find my Magic Jack device. The website advised me to connect the device to a USB port on my computer and register it from there.
I did so and, believe me, there are countless opportunities, during the registration process, to purchase addition services. Near the end of the registration an option allows the purchaser to use the device connected to their router or keep it attached to the computer.
Because of the Christmas special I was able to add the three years left on my original contract to the six months of service included with the new Magic Jack device. This, of course, deactivated my old device. If you are upgrading be sure that this option is available.
With the registration complete, I tried out my phone. I was first told to wait and then informed that my unit suffered from Error 3002.
Error 3002 refers to the Magic Jack’s inability to connect to the internet. I turned off the power bar which removed power from my phone, the Magic Jack device and my modem/router. After ten seconds I turned the power bar back on and waited two minutes to allow sufficient time for the device to connect.
At this point the Magic Jack device connected properly and I could initiate calls. During my first two calls I found voices to be slightly clipped for the first thirty seconds and then the sound quality improved. Since then the quality has been exceptional – noticeably better than my original Magic jack.
But the news is not all good. Once per day my Magic Jack would lose connectively with the internet and I would be required to reset the device. I replaced the rather flimsy eithernet patch cord with the one I occasionally use to connect my laptop to the router. The new patch cord better resists interference and I now suffer the Error 3002 curse only once a week.
That is fine for me but it might not be for you. Certainly Magic Jack Plus has proved less reliable than the original device.
The purchase price of the Magic Jack Plus is roughly equal to what you would pay for one month’s regular phone service, and thirty dollars a year will cover the charge for service fees and phone number. Sound quality has improved to the point where I cannot differentiate between regular phone service and Magic Jack. Benefits include free long distance across Canada and the United States, call display and an answering service.
Some Magic Jack customers will suffer from intermittent connectively (Error 3002) and this problem might not be resolved to their satisfaction. In the end they may be forced to connect the Magic Jack device through their computer to improve reliability.
I've been using the Magic Jack system for several months but, lately, have noticed reduced volume on my handset. When I finally got around to checking the settings in Magic Jack, I found the speaker volume had been reduced. Not sure how that happened, but once I brought it up, the handset volume returned to normal.
I sent a Magic Jack system to my nephew in England. He registered it with a number in the area code of his parents/grandparents. My mother called him several times and has raved about the quality of the connection. She said the time-lag she experiences with a normal phone is not present using Magic Jack. I have no idea how that could happen - surely both systems would use telephone lines buried deep beneath the ocean. Anyway, if you are thinking about sending a Magic Jack to family overseas, this appears to be a good plan. You should send an American/Canadian type phone as well, and ensure your relative is connected to high speed internet.
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