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MagicJack vs. Ooma Telo Phone Service Review: Which Is Better?

MagicJack and Ooma have captured the imagination (and market space) of resident alternative VoIP services in quick time. Both have come to prominence as the best services in their price range, not least because of their similar claim of ‘no monthly fee’ which gives them a clear edge in terms of marketing theme over competitors.

MagicJack Brief Review

MagicJack started out as a humble PC add-on little over half-a-decade ago, requiring the computer to be on at all times for uninterrupted operations. Gradually, they have added more arrows to their quiver, eventually launching the MagicJack Plus 2014MagicApp and MagicJack Go which is a full-feature ATA (analog telephone adapter) which can support direct calls over internet and plugged into wall power source. It still requires you to use an internet-enabled device like smartphone, tablets or laptops for first time users, though.

Ooma Telo Brief Review

Ooma Telo debuted nearly a decade back, giving it some head-start in terms of consumer telecom markets, especially on the west coast. Ooma too, relies on the initial purchase of the Ooma box and premier service subscriptions for revenue. However, a higher price model means Ooma was also one of the first to innovate with several additional features like virtual receptionist, business telephony and official fax support.

Like-for-like comparison is unlikely given their target price range. However we look at whether the leading VoIP services in their genre deliver true value for their money.

Comparison Of Both Services/Devices

Price – Both MagicJack Go and Ooma (Premier) offer free trials. However, MagicJack Go is merely the latest service device while Ooma Premier is a permanent upgrade once you subscribe. Ooma doesn’t have a monthly fee but the taxes amount to nearly $3.50 per month, totaling $42 per year. MagicJack too claims there is ‘no monthly fee’, but charges an annual service fee of $29.95 per year or $99.75 for 5 years. When it comes to device cost, however, it is hard to beat MagicJack. The Ooma Telo box comes for $199.99 while the MagicJack Go ATA device comes in at less than one-third of the budget, at $59.95.

Another aspect where MagicJack is a clear crowd favorite is the retainer service. With the five year plan the yearly service charge for MagicJack can be as low as $19.95, that’s less than half the amount you would shell out for just the cumulative taxes per annum ($42) for Ooma.

Number porting for MagicJack ($19.95) is yet again comes at less than half the charge for Ooma ($39.99). For Ooma Premier service owners ($119.99 per year) the number porting fee is waived.

Services

The basic feature set for both devices match up well. Some of the common features are:

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  • E911

  • Caller ID, Call waiting, Voicemail and Call forwarding

  • Unlimited free calls within US and Canada

  • Highly portable ATA devices (magicJack clearly wins though as it is much more portable)

  • International calling options at cheap rates. (magicJack again clearly wins here because it has free device-to-device calling options for incoming international calls)

While Ooma does provide an online call history, MagicJack has a favorable option of emailing your VMs. Ooma did offer slightly better sound quality in the past, though in recent times the chipset upgrades have narrowed the gap for MagicJack and it is highly debatable at the moment.

If you are looking for VoIP options though, Ooma does offer some cool features.

  • It can align itself to various WiFi adapters and Telo phone handsets. This means, unlike the ‘Wi-Fi’ promise of MagicJack 2014, you do have a truly wireless connection to your Telo device.

  • There is also a Bluetooth adapter to empower your cell phone for calls inside your home. (Although mitigated by the new magicApp which provides from calls from your smartphone)

  • Additional International calling minute bundles are offered as add-on features.

  • Instant second line, multi-ring, back-up number and Google voice extensions (exclusive to Telo customers)

  • Enhanced Voicemail options like call screening, personal and community blacklisting features, voicemail translation-to-text, VM forwarding, do not disturb setting, private messages etc.

While each of these add-on features will cost you, running into service charge of up to $10 per month for the Premier package, it does give you other options unlike the MagicJack.

Technology

MagicJack steals a march on many departments here!

Significant customer usage of smartphone and tablets mean MagicJack’s smartphone App is a crowd puller. Besides, MagicJack requires a minimum 128 kb/s operating speed. By contrast Ooma recommends DSL, cable or fiber-optic connections owing to its needs for high speed internet. It is however relevant, that at good internet speed, Ooma shows lesser white noise and lag. Ooma does recommend using its $50 proprietary hand-set for HD quality sound though.

MagicJack can operate on any telephone or softphone. The Ooma Telo and Hub require a phone or handset. Yet again, they provide an option of Ooma handsets at an additional cost.

Ooma Telo Package (Telephone & hub) vs magicJack Go

Figure 1: Ooma Telo Package (Telephone & hub) vs magicJack Go

The ATA device unit for MagicJack is decidedly more compact and easier to install.

MagicJack offers three-way calling and you can even set up conference calls over the internet for outgoing business calls. Ooma offers the same features, but only for Premier package owners. Directory assistance for MagicJack is free, while Ooma charges you for that feature as well.

Upgrade

Upgrade is one area where Ooma is a better choice. MagicJack devices can’t really be upgraded. If you seek the latest features you’d have to purchase the new device, port your number and pretty much toss the old one. If you had residual years of a subscription left over in the past you would lose those years by upgrading, but under new management MagicJack has thankfully done away with this completely unacceptable treatment of current customers.

Ooma Telo and Hub unit, by contrast can be upgraded instantly once you opt for the Premier package. There are no hidden costs and you can immediately start availing the advanced features.

Customer Service

One area where MagicJack traditionally got some bad press was the customer service. They don’t really have a direct customer service calling number. However, you can always access them by going down the convoluted route of using their service contact number and asking for technical help. With the MagicJack Go and new investment though, that has been addressed quite a bit.

Ooma on the other hand boasted of excellent customer service, at least in its early years. Customers reviewing the service even said that a customer service phone number was readily available with short wait times and the staff were extremely courteous, often going to great lengths to help with any technical issues. That however took a major dent when in consecutive years from 2009 to 2011 they had massive outages, ranging from six hours to up to few days and other severe disruptions of service. Worse still, they addressed issues through Twitter instead of emailing or putting up messages on websites for easier access – alienating a significant share of users.

Verdict

The overall verdict is closer than expected. In terms of services there is little to separate both devices.

While Ooma offers a host of cool VoIP features at an additional cost, MagicJack is certainly a great value for money for the price tag and the amount of ‘free features’. On Technology and Price front MagicJack is a clear winner, though some of the tech options are available for Ooma too, for the Premier package.

Ooma takes the honors (albeit marginally) for customer service, upgrades and scalability options.

However keeping in mind that MagicJack also offers greater portability, a free smartphone App and ease of installation and registration, we’d have to say that MagicJack edges this contest.