Monday, September 27, 2010

MagicJack: Lessons Learned

Still Great In 2010

MagicJack is not new. This little device has been around for a few years now, saving a lot of people lots of money on long distance telephone services. When I first heard about MagicJack a couple of years ago, I figured it was some sort of scam, or if not a scam, a service that just didn't seem quite legal. Well. it's not a scam and it is legal. After much thought, I finally decided to purchase one. Here are a few of the things I discovered about using MagicJack.

Living in Canada, I purchased my MagicJack online from a company in Hamilton, Ontario. The advertised price was $39.95 for the device and first year of service. Each year after the first would cost about 20 bucks. This is a little misleading as by the time you figure in shipping and handling and tax, the cost is a little over $65.00 for the device. I could have purchased the unit at a local tech store for about the same price. My MagicJack arrived in just three days. The confirmation email I received said 3 to 10 business days, so this wasn't bad.

The instructions on how to use the MagicJack are pretty simply. Just plug it in a free USB port on your computer and let it install itself. Takes about 3 minutes. You are warned not to interrupt it was it is loading. Though I'm not sure what would happen if you did, it seems like good advice. So just let it do its thing. It's also recommended that you use a USB port that plugs directly into the computer, not a USB hub. Though some reports indicate that a powered USB hub is okay.

Canadian Phone Numbers
During the installation, you will be asked to pick a phone number. A phone number from any US state is free. If you want a Canadian phone number, the cost is $10.00 per year. Before you pick a number, you might want to give some thought to how you intend to use your MagicJack. If you only intend to use it for calling out, then it may not make any difference from which state or province you pick your number. It may make a difference to the people you are calling as the caller ID may throw them off as happened when my wife first called her mother using MagicJack. There are a lot of forums that show how to block or spoof your caller ID, but be aware that most of these do not work with the current version of MagicJack. My original intention was to spoof my main land-line phone number. It can't be done without signing up to a "spoof" service where you have to give the number you are calling, give your number, and the service will call you back and connect you. Seems like a lot of trouble for what it is worth to make a simple phone call. I would really like to just pick up the phone and dial the number I want to call and have my land-line number show up on the caller ID, or no number at all. If someone knows how to do this with the current version of MagicJack, then let me know.

As for the phone number I picked, I choose a Windsor area code. My area code is 519 which is okay, but the first three digits of the phone number are a little weird. It's 800. So the number looks like 519-800-XXXX. There is no other choice. Looks odd to see the 800 in there. I managed to find a number where the last four digits matched my land-line so that's not so back. Though it still confused my mother-in-law the first time we called her. 

One thing you might want to consider if your kids live in a different city from you. Pick a phone number in their area code. This way they don't have to call long-distance to call you. It's a local call for them. This is what I should have done. I could get another phone number for $10.00 more per year. You can have as many phone numbers as you want. I have to think about it some more, but I may get another local number for where my kids live.

Other Services
During the sign-up process, you will be asked if you want to get additional MagicJack's for $39.95 with free shipping. You will also be asked if you want to sign up for an additional 5 years of service for only $69.95. Sounds like a good deal and probably is. But you don't have to decide right away. Once you have the service up and running you will be reminded of these specials all the time. The MagicJack dialer also acts as a billboard for MagicJack specials. Don't feel pressured that you have to decide while signing up. The specials don't go away.

The dialer is one of the things about MagicJack that apparently many people do not like. I think the constant advertising bothers them. Many people just don't like the look of the dialer. Many people don't like the fact that it pops up whenever you make or receive a call. Many people just think it is ugly. Unfortunately, there is no feature of MagicJack that lets you hide the dialer or restrict it's appearance in any way other than choosing a big or small skin. If you do a Google search, you can easily find a way to run MagicJack as a service. I did it, but decided I prefer to see the dialer when making a call. It also give me a way to keep a contact list of phone numbers (or you can use the built-in Outlook add-in). There are plug-ins available that let you use the XLite dialer or the Skype dialer, but I never seen the point of using another dialer if I didn't have a VOIP service or a Skype account. You may be different and one of these dialers may appeal to you. You can find the plugin at this website: http://www.pcphonesoft.com.

MagicFeatures
Probably the best available plugin for MagicJack is the MagicFeatues plugin. Also available form http://www.pcphonesoft.com. The people over at PCPhoneSoft.com have come out with a new plugin for the magic jack to unlock some advanced features that have been long requested. So what are the bells and whistles that come with this new Magic Jack plugin?

  • Caller ID (Name + Number)
  • Call Waiting Caller ID
  • Talking Caller ID
  • Last Number Redial (dial 66)
  • Call Return(dial 69)
  • Voice Mail(dial 98)
  • 7 Digit Local Area Dialing
  • Automated Extension Dialing
  • Automated Phone Card Dialing
  • Speed Dial 50
  • Priority Call Special Ringing
  • Priority Call Waiting
  • Double Ring So Answering Machine can pickup
  • Call Forward Assistant
  • Selective Call Rejection
  • Accept Only Priority Calls
  • Anonymous Call Regection
  • Do Not Disturb
  • Blocked Call Chime / Caller ID
  • Call Recording On Demand.

The features that appear to be most popular include: Caller ID with name and number, Talking Caller ID, 7 Digit Local Dialing, Double Ring so answering machines can pick up be MagicJack goes to voice-mail, and Call Recording. Cost of the plug-in is $19.95. A good deal if any of these features appeal to you. One of the features not listed that I personally like is the fact that the MagicJack dialer get minimized automatically when the call ends.

Pros and Cons
The pros part of MagicJack is pretty straightforward: it's cheap. That is, it's a very inexpensive way to make long distance telephone calls, or just plain telephone calls anywhere. If you want, you can use it for your main phone. All for only 20 bucks a year after the initial purchase. Sound quality is excellent. Setup is a breeze. If something seems to get corrupted, it's easy to fix; just pull the MagicJack out of the USB port and plug it back in. The software will reload itself and all is well again.

As for cons, there are a few:

  • Some people don't like the dialer
  • You can't spoof a phone number even your real land-line number
  • You can't block your Caller ID. Not even *67 works.
  • You can't use an ATA device anymore. The latest version of MagicJack encrypts your SIP information before connecting.
  • Most of the tips and tricks found on forums for MagicJack don't work with the latest versions. If you find and interesting article in a forum, but the post is before June 2010, then chances are it may not work.
  • Canadian phone numbers cost an extra $10.00 per year. If you are planing on just using the MagicJack to make long distance calls, then don't bother with the Canadian phone number.
  • The 911 feature can't be set up in Canada. The wizard for setting this up appears to only work for US states.
  • Your computer has to be on all the time.
  • You have to have high-speed internet.
  • If the electricity goes out, you have no phone. This is the same as with any VOIP phone service.

If you can accept these limitations you will be happy with the MagicJack. Personally, I think it is great! My only wish would be to be able to easily and transparently spoof my land-line phone number. If someone knows how to do this with the latest versions of MagicJack, please pass it along.

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we are listening

anonymous said:

Monday, January 14, 2013

can i keep my current phone number for a fee ?

Luciferius Legion said:

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

I live off the grid, my internet is wireless from my location to a tower a klick away and I have MagicJack and MagicJack Plus for my router to save power when I just want the phone on.(solar/diesel) I live in a remote part of Ontario and have 911 for emergencies since I take care of the people around here and they come here since I have a phone and know how to treat injuries of all kinds. I lose my phone if the snow is blowing or the tower power goes down because of storm. It is my only phone since I live way back in the forest. Being isolated by choice, I find it annoying to deal with telemarketers that get my number from shopping online and banking, etc. What I need is a way of blocking outgoing calls so I don't wind up on these damn databases and have to field these calls in the evening to buy this and that. It would cost me a fortune to keep changing my number and I can't afford that nonsense with a daughter moving all over Canada. If anyone has a working solution, I am luciferius.legion@gmail.com.

Nothy Lane said:

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

I have Majicjack and I love it. I find at times the phone has some digital "static" but other than that it is great. BTW, I have access to 911 in Canada.

Stephen Lewis said:

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Just wanted to let everyone know I had a Magic Jack and no complaints BUT, it is not unlimited long distance. There is a 1.5 hr time limit on calls and if you call back too often they will disconnect your service. There is no way to get re-connected. Apparently they do not like me speaking endlessly with my girlfriend.When it worked, it worked well and no problems with customer service. But be aware of the time limitations. They won't warn you, they'll just cut you.

anonymous said:

Monday, May 28, 2012

Well ... I bought it online ... MJ+ ... BEFORE I came across this article ... no problem ... I summary ...- cutting out after 5 mins ... I've had better luck ... dropped a call only once in about 20 calls in excess of 5 mins ... - I'm switching to TechSavvy ... I think the ISP pl;ays a big roll in this - I have Bell internet at 3Mb a,d 256k upload ... so I wanted techsavvy anyway (going to 18MB service / 512 upload via cable) ... I'll let you know how this affects my MJ+ in a few weeks - Gonna try another CDN number for my daughters cell phone and install the APP on her iPhone as well ... I want to see how this works ... FYI ... I use MJ+ on my home network with 6 DECT6 panasonics ... perfect ... I use the app with the same number on my cell - perfect - home & cell ring !!! I pick-up wherever ... trouble for wife & kids though ... KILLED Bell for June 1 ... So I'm going in ... hold my breath folks!!!

anonymous said:

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

I am using MJ+. Sometimes when I call home (to the MJ+ number) it goes straight to voice mail; other times there is a long period of silence before it will ring; yet other times it works 100%. I wish it was 100% reliable so that I could ditch my Shaw Home Phone, but it isn't. I will test it more extensively over the next month or so and then decided if I want to ditch my Shaw phone.

anonymous said:

Thursday, February 23, 2012

The guy in Brantford, Ont is also a joke. Never at the store and leaves all the dirty work to the girl behind the counter. Best option is just to buy it online.

anonymous said:

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

lesson learned alright! there hasn't been anymore number available in windsor, ontario for quite awhile now. so if anyone plans on using this device to recieve calls, you better find out if there are any phone numbers available before making the purchase.

kidmoses said:

Thursday, December 1, 2011

I would ask for a Vancouver number so then it should be a local call to your Vancouver landline. A Vancouver number will probably cost you $10.00 per year extra.

anonymous said:

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Hi there, If I want to send the Magic Jack to Peru where my parents live, so they can call me to my land line in Vancouver, should I ask for a Vancouver number? Any suggestions? Thanks

kidmoses said:

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

You would have to check with MJ to confirm availability of Ottawa numbers. Usage shouldn't affect GB significantly. I don't even notice.

Payge said:

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

I have a question. I live in the Ottawa area and my reason for buying the MJ would be for a cheap phone line. I would be calling and receiving local calls. I know I would have to pay extra $10 bucks but can I pick a ottawa based number so my family and friends won't have long distance charges?And, how does the MJ affect my usage of Gb on my wirelsss internet?

anonymous said:

Thursday, January 6, 2011

No, mine normally cuts out after about 5 minutes too. It isn't her parents being shady, it's magicjack being sucky haha.

anonymous said:

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Although my MJ works just fine, I have an issue with the distributor of Magic Jack in Canada .. Victor is his name!!

anonymous said:

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Is there a way for the duration of the call to be set to have a max time? My girlfriends shady parents gave her this device, and it always cuts out around the 5 minute mark.

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