Don’t limit your cable cutting to your cable provider
It’s no secret that the number of minutes the average American spends talking on his or her home phone has been in steep decline in the last few years. The truth is that for most of us, the landline is more neglected than one of Octomom’s children.
Despite that trend, many of us still cling to the comfort of a dial tone at home. That’s where Ooma’s Telo comes in. Offering a stand-alone VoIP service that’s essentially free (other than the taxes to the Man), this sleek device is a home phone alternative that lets you flip the bird at Ma Bell.
The $50 Ooma handset increases call quality but lacks a headset jack.
For most folks, setting up the Telo is fairly easy—although we hit a snag during installation. Normally, the Telo is the first device plugged into your modem. This lets it control the flow of data so that if you’re making a voice call while hitting a heavy torrent, the call quality isn’t disturbed. In the case of our static IP setup, though, we had to run the Ooma plugged into our router instead.
Ooma has an optional $50 DECT 6.0 handset that syncs to the Ooma unit. It gives you higher “HD” quality voice than a standard phone. The Ooma handset has one glaring flaw, though: no jack for a corded headset. You can also use the Ooma with your existing phone system by connecting it directly to the wall jack. This will put a dial tone on every jack in the house. It’s a bit tricky, and the company’s own FAQ says you risk bricking the unit if you don’t do the procedure correctly.
An optional Bluetooth dongle can be plugged into the Ooma, but you’ll have to pay extra for the feature.
From here, you fire up a browser, create an account, punch in the address you want your 911 calls to go to, and start making calls. You get typical landline features such as voicemail, caller ID, and call waiting.
Calls anywhere inside the U.S. are “free” and “unlimited.” While calls are generally unlimited, the company maintains a technical limit of 5,000 minutes, which it can enforce if it finds out you’re using the phone for commercial purposes. Free also has some asterisks hanging over it. International calls will be charged against a prepaid account, but generally it’s fairly affordable depending on where you’re calling. All Ooma-to-Ooma calls are free.
Originally, Ooma service was free of taxes, until the Man stepped in. Taxes vary depending on your location, but in our case, it worked out to roughly $3.50 per month. Ooma also offers a premium service for $10 a month, which tacks on Bluetooth support that lets you use the cell’s headset or your cell phone itself. Also included are Google voice extensions, text or email notification of voicemail, voicemail to text, do not disturb, an instant second line, community blacklists, and other features.
Cheapskates rejoice, Ooma’s Telo is here to make you smile.
With Ooma, you can have landline-like, or better, quality for less than the cost of a large latté every month. It’s definitely cheaper than Vonage if you can forego the extra features and primarily make calls within the U.S.
Is it as bulletproof as your landline? No. In a power outage you’re SOL, and an Internet outage would sideline you as well. But frankly, since every household has a cell phone or three, do you still need that kind of reliability? The real risk is if Ooma implodes, but the company appears quite stable.
Now if we could just get broadband for $5 a month, we’d be in cheapskate heaven.