Saturday, October 3, 2009

magicJack Review

I purchased the magicJack approximately 1 year ago at a local store for some testing after reading about it on the internet and watching a few infomercials.

MagicJack is a device that plugs into a PC's (running Windows) USB port that allows users to make/receive free calls to Canada and the US. According to the company's website, magicJack also works on Macs but I don't know anything about this since I've never tried the magicJack dongle on a Mac.

Even though I purchased my magicJack approximately 1 year ago (it will be up for renewal within a few months), I remember the installation being very straightforward. Once the magicJack is plugged into the computer's USB port directly or via the included USB short extension cord, the program automatically installs if autorun is enabled. If autorun is not enabled, I believe that a drive is mounted on the computer. You would then have to double-click on "My Computer" or "Computer" and double-click on the appropriate drive which represents the magicJack device and run the associated installation program.

During the installation process, you are asked to register by including your name and address for emergency 911 service. You are also asked to select an area code in the United States. The program only supplies phone numbers for the US but using various non-associated/non-affiliated workarounds, you are able to have people call a Canadian number reach your magicJack number but when you call people with your magicJack line, the outgoing phone number will be your US number. With the purchase of the magicJack USB device, it includes 1 year of free service/subscription. The subscription gives you free calling to Canada and the US. You are not asked for any credit card information until your free subscription expires or you want to make calls outside of Canada/US.

The magicJack software/service also includes voice mail, call display, call logging, and call forwarding. There is apparently some unknown limit to the amount of free calls that you can do to Canada and the US but I believe that it is sufficiently high enough for most consumers. There is mention on various forums and blogs of users being cut-off when they've exceeded the number of minutes for calling the Canada and the US within a month.

Technical support for the magicJack is entirely done by online chatting. There is absolutely no call-in support. There is also mention that the program runs in the background on your PC and monitors what you do and the numbers that you call in order to target advertisements to you based on the wording in the licensing agreement. You will find many users mentioning this on the internet.

Another negative thing about this program is that there is no automated uninstall for the program. After your 1 year of included free service (subscription) expires, if you don't want to renew your subscription and/or continue using magicJack, you will have to manually uninstall the program. Searching on the internet, I managed to uninstall the program from my PC. I'm not sure if following the instructions removed all the components of the program but it seemed to be uninstalled from my PC and even with some programs that include uninstall programs, the uninstall programs still leave remnants of the program on the PC. A few months later, I reformatted my PC since I wanted to install a new OS on it.

I have since installed magicJack on a low powered laptop that I don't use for anything else so even if magicJack was monitoring my internet usage (which it might not be doing), it doesn't really affect me.

In terms of the sound quality of magicJack, I find it to be very good. I've tried it both using my cable internet connection as well as my celluar carrier's 3G data network. With the carrier's 3G data network, there is some latency and pauses in the audio but I think that it was fine for short calls. Something that I noticed with my magicJack was that if the phone call lasted over 30 minutes, the line would disconnect. I'm not sure if this was a problem with my unit or a built-in limitation of the service/hardware. When this happened (and it happened rarely since I rarely used my magicJack and I also rarely talk on the phone for more than 30 minutes on the same call), I just dialed the number again. I find the sound quality better than Skype but this could be because I am using a real telephone with my magicJack but I'm using a cheap headset when using Skype.

Even though I find the sound quality to be good for magicJack, I don't recommend using it as your only source of making/receiving calls even if you live in the US. The reason for this is that even though the sound quality is good (but obviously dependent on the quality (speed) of your internet connection), based on my limited usage, I've experienced problems occasionally when making/receiving calls. One such problem that I encountered was that when calling Canadian Rogers or Fido cellphones, it would appear as if I was ringing the recipient's cellphone but in fact, his/her cellphone was not ringing at all. There was also the "annoying" cut-off that seemed to occur for me roughly 30 minutes into a call (I experienced this a few times but didn't test it enough to know if it always happens or whether it was due to some internet connection problem).

The service/subscription price is approximately $20US per year. I find it to be a cheap alternative for a second line provided that you have a PC that is always on (or you're willing to turn on the PC whenever you make calls).

There is an unofficial MagicJack forum located *HERE* where you can find information about minor hacking, tweaking, and/or using the magicJack as well as possibly solving some of your magicJack problems/issues.

If you have any questions/comments regarding my review on magicJack, please don't hesitate to leave a comment in the comments section.

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