Sep 22 2011

7 cheaper alternatives to a landline phone

Update: I purchased a Magic Jack Plus in Nov. 2011. Here is an update after two months of using Magic Jack Plus. Calls do drop for us on occasion but the price is low enough that I don’t really mind. I might be reviewing another product in the future.

I have been searching for an option for a low-cost landline to serve as a number to reach anyone in our household, a number to make cheap long-distance calls to our parents, as well as to contact area businesses and the like. Having easy access to 911 service is also important.

As I recently mentioned, we have two cell phones right now on a contract plan. It’s expensive for what we need and I think we can reduce those minutes down to the lowest family plan, and possibly go to prepaid cell phones when our contract expires. I don’t think it would be worth canceling our contract and paying the fee to do so, but I’ll have to run numbers to make sure.

I contacted our cable internet provider, (sounds like Bomblast) to see what the cost would be to add a landline. Somewhere upwards of $30/month. Same went for the area phone company. It had an introductory teaser rate that was I think $20/month plus tax, but after that it would go up. I don’t want to keep switching services to keep the price where I want it.

Next, I started to price out VoIP options — phone services that use your high-speed internet connection.

Vonage is one of the popular companies, but it is still pricey per month and reviews weren’t the most favorable. $14.99/month for three months, then $24.99/month plus taxes and fees thereafter for unlimited calls.

MagicJack is another one that many people have heard of thanks to TV commercials. You plug this device into your computer and can make and receive phone calls. The drawback for this one, in my mind, is that your computer has to be on 24/7 to use it. It’s fine if you have a backup phone perhaps, but I don’t need my computer on around the clock to receive phone calls. This is $39.95 for the device and first year and $19.95 for each year following. It is $36.95 today on Amazon.

There’s also a MagicJack Plus that is new (like, last few days new) and doesn’t require your computer to be on. The cost for MagicJack Plus is $69.95 plus and $29.95 per year after that. This one seems very similar to the Nettalk Duo (see below) and has the same price as well. I’m not sure if one will be better than the other. I wish the MagicJack site didn’t look so scammy, ya know?

The Ooma Telo is $194.99 today on Amazon, and is a box that does not require your computer to be on. You plug this into your internet connection and plug a phone wire into the jack and can then make and receive unlimited local and long distance calls, plus other phone services such as call-waiting and others. For an extra $10/month you can upgrade your calling features.

Online reviews suggest this is a good device, but the customer service is seriously lacking. You have a monthly charge of roughly $3.50 to cover taxes, or $42/year to use the service. The Ooma Telo is more expensive in start-up costs and yearly costs than some other options, and I can’t say for sure if those higher charges are worth it.

The Nettalk Duo device is $69.95, which includes the device plus 12 months of phone service. For the next year, it is $29.95. I don’t know if that price can go up. This thing connects to your computer or router as well, and does not require your computer to be on to work.

The ObiHai Obi110 is something that you use with Google Voice. Google Voice is currently a free service. This is $49.99 today on Amazon. Reviews for the Obi are fantastic, but again, you do need to use it with a third-party phone service such as Google Voice. I feel wary about the long-term free use of Google Voice, but then again Google has a free-to-user business model in many cases so perhaps it will stay like that for the long haul? I am not technologically inclined enough to understand this one, but I’m listing it because it IS an option and it might fit your needs.

Skype is another option for making calls, but it cannot accommodate 911 service, so I think if you use Skype you should have an alternative available to make emergency calls. I’ve gotta admit, I don’t understand how Skype works away from the computer enough to write much about it, so you’ll have to look into it more if this option interests you.

Let’s look at costs real quick, comparing unlimited calls:

  • Vonage regular rate for 12 months: $299.88 plus tax and fees
  • MagicJack first 12 months: $39.95, then $19.95 for the second year
  • MagicJack Plus first 12 months: $69.95, then $29.95 for second year
  • Ooma Telo first 12 months: $236.99 (incl. device and 12 months taxes) then $42ish for each year after that
  • Nettalk Duo first 12 months: $69.95, then $29.95 for second year
  • Obi110 first 12 months: $49.99, then $0 for second year

Stack those costs with a traditional landline to see where the best deal is for your family. The cost savings after one year can be substantial.

If a traditional landline is $30/month or $360/year, that’s $1800 for five years. Stack that with say, MagicJack Plus, and five years would be $189.75. The savings continues if going with one of these options allows you to reduce your cell phone plan and save money there.

Right now, I’m considering the Nettalk Duo or the MagicJack Plus. I need to learn more about them first. Will let you know which one I choose and how it goes!

Do you have a landline or a VoIP service of some kind? How is it going for you?



13 Responses to “7 cheaper alternatives to a landline phone”

  1. Very timely and helpful post. I DID pay to break our cell phone contract and haven’t regretted it. For 3 of us texting is $60 a month–half our previous cell phone plan.

    Although the only time in my life I’ve ever used 911 was from my cell phone, with little kids I’d want someway to reach them RIGHT.NOW. My luck the stupid cell phone would be on zero bars.

    Where we live cell phones are now much more reliable (we’re in the boondocks) and with teenagers only at home, I’d love to “cut the cord” and put the money toward savings, but I’m still hesitating.

  2. Yes having 911 access quickly and easily for anyone is so important! I want to have it available from a land phone so that if anyone is in my house, babysitter, family member, kid, whomever, they can quickly get it and dial. My cell phone might be in my pocket or on top of the fridge or somewhere out of reach. Plus, I like how with E911 they can know where you are calling from without you having to say, if you were unable to speak.

    Lisa, let me know if you do go with some other landline option, or otherwise figure out how to cut the bill!

  3. My former college roomie had Magic Jack when she lived in the DR. It was so bad that they used it only to say “get on Skype”. Seriously, I called her a couple of times about our trip to visit her and the whole conversation was “What?” “what?” It was TERRIBLE. She said they didn’t have any problems with Vonage, so in her case it was Magic Jack. I’m going to send her this blog post and see if she has anything to add – maybe it is different if you’re in the States.

  4. We use voipo….you pay about $80 for a year. It is internet phone. We have had it for about 3 years..once in awhile we loose service, but not much. So having this cheap landline gives me peace with my four boys. I like that my little ones can grab a phone and call for help. I could see when they are older us getting rid of the landline…but for now this is the cheapest normal phone deal. It is better than magic jack…works like vonage but cheaper. We get callwaiting, call forwarding, and caller id and free longdistance. Plus they email me my phone messages :) You can learn more about them here
    http://www.voipo.com/

  5. This is Ashley’s friend. :) I had both Verizon and Magic Jack. I had Verizon when I had decent internet. Then we switched to Magic Jack. It wasn’t as good as Verizon, but I think I remember it still being decent (and so much cheaper!). However, we moved to another location and had terrible internet. Eventually I could hardly even check my email. So, of course, Magic Jack didn’t work at all. I only had a few months with decent internet and Magic Jack, so my memory is fuzzy on how well it worked. But I’m pretty sure I was okay with it during that time and I felt that it was worth the switch for the money we saved. Hope that helps!

  6. We had Magic Jack for a year and the service was horrible for us, but we have satelite internet so that could have been our problem. If you go with Magic Jack, make sure your internet service is reliable.

  7. The Magic Jack depends on how good your internet connection is. I had problems with Vonage because of the same thing – Verizon DSL was inconsistent.
    There is now a Magic Jack Plus app for iPhone and iPod Touch. It uses whatever number you use normally on Magic Jack Plus.
    Sounds like a great idea – wish their website was a little more professional and not so vague – they might get more sales if it didn’t look like a “fly-by-night” operation.

  8. It really does have a late-night infomercial quality to it. I agree, if it were more professional looking they would probably do better!

  9. MagicJack SUCKS. I don’t even know where to begin!
    Here’s a partial List:
    Today, while trying to ascertain the Time remaining in my Subscription, I ACCIDENTALLY DISCOVERED that the MagicJack Company had ‘Defaulted’ me to Auto-Renewal of my Service!
    WHAT THEY DID NOT TELL ME: Upon purchasing the MagicJack Service their ‘System Default’ is SET TO AUTOMATICALLY CHARGE YOUR CREDIT CARD upon expiration of your Subscription. I WAS NEVER MADE AWARE OF THIS AUTO-CHARGING PROCESS OR ASKED FOR MY PERMISSION TO AUTOMATICALLY CHARGE MY CREDIT CARD!!
    The actual Phone Service is of EXTREMELY POOR QUALITY.
    LOTS of Echo, or other person cannot hear you.
    LOTS of ‘Skipping’ -it often sounds as if the person you are talking to is saying every other letter of every other word.
    The Conversations sound as though they are taking place under water.
    Often, the Service just does not work -for no apparent reason.
    You ‘dial’ a Number -hear one Ring and the call just drops.
    You try to ‘dial’ a Number -and the MagicJack ‘auto fills’ a Number in and keeps ‘auto-filling’ that similar, but DIFFERENT NUMBER THAN THE ONE YOU ARE TRYING TO CALL!
    You keep dialing a Number and a MagicJack recorded message continuously asks you to include the Area Code -despite that you’ve already included it -and continue to do so!
    Effectively NO CUSTOMER SERVICE!
    Ironically, NO ACTUAL CUSTOMER SERVICE VOICE COMMUNICATION.
    Regardless of your issue -or how simple or complex your Question, you have to go to their WebSite and then through a long convoluted process to get a “Chat” session going – and BTW the “Chat” is not a chat at all. It is actually INSTANT MESSAGING ONLY.
    YOU SIT AND TYPE BACK AND FORTH FOR WHAT SEEMS LIKE ETERNITY. . .
    Trying to ascertain even some thing as simple as how much Time you have left on your Subscription is TIME CONSUMING -AND A ‘PROCESS’.
    Customer Service can do VERY LITTLE [most often absolutely NOTHING] for you! They just keep typing ‘Suggestion’ after ‘Suggestion’ and you have to keep jumping between the WebSite and the Instant Message Screens -all the while they are typing while you are typing -or while you are trying to follow their instructions at the WebSite, -at the same Time they keep Messaging you asking for something that you’ve already ‘Messaged’ to them; etc. -all the while you are still focused on the WebSite and not continuously looking at the Instant Message Screen while they continue suggesting that you continue to try different things until finally you get disgusted and disconnect.
    The MagicJack Customer Service cannot even tell you when your Subscription will expire! It’s up to you to navigate the WebSite, the various ‘Sub-Menus’ and then continue to ferret out the information.
    Regardless of your Question/ Issue -you are STUCK IN INSTANT MESSAGING HELL for ‘as long as it takes’. . . and usually nothing is resolved.
    Periodically -and for no apparent reason, -other than perhaps MagicJack CREATING AN OPPORTUNITY FOR FREE MARKETING AT YOUR EXPENSE the Greeting Message that you have on your Voice Mail Box IS CHANGED -WITHOUT YOUR KNOWLEDGE OR CONSENT TO A ‘GENERIC’ MESSAGE THAT SAYS -The MagicJack Customer at this Number is not available. . . (Needless to say, this has caused a lot of confusion for some of my Callers. . . and it is a ROYAL PAIN IN THE A** TO RE-RECORD/ RE-PROGRAM YOUR VOICE MAIL GREETINGS!)
    YES -hard to believe but the ‘List’ Continues. . .
    . . .nevertheless, I think you all get the point. DO NOT, REPEAT, DO NOT PURCHASE MagicJack!! -Unless of course you Enjoy:
    Wasting your Time
    Wasting your Money
    Being AGGRAVATED and / or DISGUSTED
    Being DISRESPECTED ie; Having your Credit Card Charged WITH OUT NOTICE OR YOUR CONSENT. . . Having your Voice Mail Greetings Changed to say THEIR COMPANY NAME INSTEAD OF YOUR Personal Greeting WITHOUT NOTICE OR YOUR CONSENT. Your not being Valued enough / thought enough of for the MagicJack Company to provide a CUSTOMER SERVICE VOICE Communication Option.
    You’ve Been Warned! BUYER BEWARE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    M´s last post ..Friday roundup, cute baby, and new disclosure policy

  10. UPDATE: 45+ Minutes of Instant Messaging -and after I’d already found the inf. . . the Customer Service Rep was finally able to identify the Time left on my MagicJack Subscription.

  11. I have been an Ooma user for almost two years now and I am happy with their services. Ooma is not only cheap but I get to experience crystal clear voice quality. They don’t just stop on what they offer. In fact their services are getting better each day. I also was able to port my current number and enjoys free calls nationwide. I truly say Ooma really is worth it. See their site for more features: http://www.ooma.com/micro6/index.php

  1. 2 Trackback(s)

  2. Sense to Save » Blog Archive » An update on our Magic Jack Plus home phone
  3. Sense to Save » Blog Archive » Not renewing the Magic Jack

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Hey! I'm Kacie, wife to Shane and mother to Jonathan (7), Vivienne (5) and Amelia (2) . I write about my family's finance: how we save money, improve our spending, and plan for the future.

I hope I can inspire and encourage you to improve your situation. See disclosure.

I'm adopting a much slower-paced posting schedule, and treating this as a hobby blog now.

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