Ooma Telo ReviewFeatured, Reviews, Tech — By Mike Ruest on January 6, 2010 at 10:44 pm
Like most people who mainly use their cell phones, I was looking for something that would allow me to have a home phone minus a monthly bill. That’s when I first looked into Magic Jack after speaking with a number of my friends who claimed it worked. I was also intrigued by their site’s claim that number porting was on its way, which would then allow me to keep our home phone number – a directive from my dear wife. But what really encouraged me to try it out was the fact that Magic Jack worked on a Mac. So, I headed down to my local Best Buy and picked one up. The $39.99 fee (plus tax) paid for the device and one year of service. After plugging the device in and running its software, the device worked. The voice quality was acceptable, but not great. However, since I wanted it for my home phone and had to keep my existing number, the Magic Jack really never got used. And every time I checked their site to see when number porting was available, all I got was the same answer via their F.A.Q or online chat. This went on for about 3 months.
That’s when I decided to investigate Ooma. I had already heard of them a while back when they first came out, yet at that time, I wasn’t ready to make the switch. But now with my unfulfilled experience with Magic Jack, I feverishly began researching which product offered the best Voice over IP (VoIP) solution. My conclusion after looking at similar products like Vonage was that, Ooma not only offered the best features and quality, but it also came with no monthly bill (unless you wanted their Premier features – more on that later). Plus, unlike Magic Jack, the Ooma Telo is a standalone unit. Meaning, it doesn’t need to be plugged into a computer to operate.
So I once again headed to my local Best Buy where I returned Magic Jack for store credit, which I then applied to the purchase of my Ooma Telo. The price is the same whether you buy it locally or online, coming in at $249.99. Once at home, I began to setup my Ooma Telo. The first step, after unpacking the unit, its included Ethernet and phone cable, and ac adapter, is the activation of the unit online, which requires you to enter a code located under the actual device. This basically registers your device, sets up your number and account, and tells 911 your address. Once this is done, you’re now ready to connect your Ooma to your home network. The instructions for doing this are pretty straightforward and I found the overall setup to be pretty simple. Ooma recommends running your Internet connection from your modem to their Telo device and then to your router to optimize its quality, though some have just run it from their router and saw no apparent affect. The advantage of setting it up this way is that, when your Internet goes down for whatever reason, you’re not waiting for your Ooma Telo to bootup before you can get online again.
Once your Ooma is activated and setup, you can proceed to add the option of porting your existing phone number. The process takes 3-4 weeks and you have the option of being assigned a temporary number in the meantime. However, in my experience, it took only about two and a half weeks. Not to mention, Ooma kept me up-to-date on the whole process via regular emails. It costs a one-time fee of $39.99 unless you chose to opt for Premier upfront (a $9.99 monthly fee), which then gives you the choice of free porting or a free Telo handset (a $49.00 value). Overall, my experience with Ooma has been satisfying. The call quality is excellent (same or better than my former digital service) and the included free features of Call-Waiting and Caller-ID work. I also don’t miss my monthly phone bill, which for me, is a savings of about $600 a year!
Now that I am done with my hype, let me offer some of minor gripes. First off, while Ooma Premier is reasonably priced and comes with a free 60-day trial when you activate your device; at the time I got my Telo, their handsets were not available. So I could not fully experience all the benefits that Premier offers, since you have to have the Telo handset to enjoy things like their Instant Second Line. With that said, I think Ooma should have extended their free trial period until their handset came out. When I asked Ooma to do this for me they said they would. But, since I purchased my Telo from Best Buy, I would have to contact them. Yeah right. Have you ever tried to call Best Buy and ask for something? So in the end, I just used my existing wireless phone system.
My second minor gripe is with the Caller-ID feature. While I can see whose calling on my existing non-Telo handset display, I could not see the name and the number of the person trying to call-in. All I heard was the familiar “beep” indicating that I had another call, but that was it. It seems that if you want Caller-ID for your Call-Waiting calls, you have to have the Ooma Telo handset and be a Premier subscriber. I can’t 100% confirmed this, since I haven’t bought their handset yet, but reading their documentation, this seems right. Once I do purchase a Telo handset, I will try to either update this review or post another article. Perhaps the folks at Ooma can hook me up? I will also update this post to discuss all the cool features of Premier if I ever signup for it. But since my whole point in buying Ooma was to avoid having a monthly phone bill, that’s probably not likely to happen for a while.
My third gripe deals with its construction and design. While aesthetically the Ooma Telo is very easy on the eyes with its sleek and modern design, I personally wonder if they should have included a display for programming and things like Caller-ID. I know their handsets have one (who knows maybe this was their way of coaxing you into buying one), but I am used to a wireless phone system with a display on its central hub. To be fair, not having one has not interfered or impeded my use of the Telo. Though the buttons aren’t raised, they are touch-based and very well lit. The only annoying thing about the Telo is with its AC adapter, which seems to easily become unplugged when you simply move the unit.
My fourth and final gripe is with the limited number of handsets you can have per Telo. Currently you can only have a maximum number of four Telo handsets. While this maybe more than adequate for some, there are those with large homes and detached garages who may need more. I am not sure why there is a limitation, but who knows, perhaps a future software update could allow for the addition of more handsets.
Bottom-line: I realize there are other Internet solutions out there, like Skype for example. But for me, Ooma allowed me to keep my existing phone system, keep my existing home phone number, keep my computer out of it, and keep landline quality – all while dumping my monthly phone bill with no contract to boot. So if you have a high-speed Internet connection and you want a home phone without increasing bills, I highly recommend the Ooma Telo.