MagicJack is a brand synonymous with VoIP excellence. Within a relatively short span of seven years, it has established its credentials with high-quality software and electronic hardware required for flexible home telephone options over VoIP.
Things only got better with a wildly successful upgrade in 2010-11 to the MagicJack Plus – with better uninstallation options, local number portability, improved adaptability to operating systems, and significantly better call quality. Expectations were naturally high when the news leaked through that the MagicJack Wi-Fi was around the corner – possibly the most advanced VoIP gadget yet.
Shifting the release date from first quarter of 2013 to third quarter, wasn’t a dampener for most. Loyalists understood the complex technology involved and were ready to wait. There was also history of anticipated release date being much ahead of the actual one. However, when the product did finally hit stores, the MagicJack Plus 2014 as it was called, offered plenty of good features without exactly delivering on its promise.
Expected Upgrades: Third generation MagicJack devices were expected to have TJ980 chip, which could have potentially added features like:
- Power-saving mode (hibernate) and wall plug-in.
- Even better sound clarity – eliminating white noise, echo etc.
- Enhanced localized control of connectivity
- Receive compression video over smartphones with reduced buffering/ lag issues.
The Wi-Fi Promise was primarily based on the secure digital input-output (SDIO) interface, which presumably could allow the MagicJack to be connected to a router wirelessly, or even via hotspot while one was on the move. Even within the range of a Wi-Fi enabled router, it’d free up the dependence on wired Ethernet connections. SDIO also allows easy interfacing with video monitors. Hypothetically, that would mean a ‘Call of Duty’ or ‘Halo III’ marathon over your VoIP device, even if you’re sitting at a Starbucks several miles from home.
All these, combined with enhanced hardware features like computer-less operation and additional software improvements warranted the anticipation, especially among semi-technical and small business users who could look beyond expensive phone plans.
Not MagicJack Wi-Fi: The Plus 2014 eventually came out in June 2013, but it wasn’t quite what was anticipated. There were a few things which prevented it from becoming a fully Wi-Fi capable device:
- Pending Firmware upgrades – The Plus 2014 comes with one SDIO port and 2 USB ports. However, they count for little without the firmware upgrades to grant Wi-Fi capabilities.
- Micro SD slot – While the SDIO port is designated for Wi-Fi, it isn’t a regular or mini-SD slot. The smallest Wi-Fi capable SD cards available today are mini SD cards, and a micro-SD would most likely require external antenna hardware or an adapter card. It isn’t a huge limitation, but does add to the device footprint nonetheless.
- Flexibility of SDIO – If the SDIO port is exclusive for Wi-Fi in the next upgrade, it almost certainly means it can’t be plugged into a video interface. Which in turn would also mean users can’t accept a public hotspot usage policy unless they are carrying their laptop or iPad with them.
2014 Features & Upgrades: Additional USB port and SDIO (secure digital input/output) slot suggests future technical advancements are likely. But even in its present avatar, there are significant strides in feature upgrades from its predecessor. In addition to the fact that MagicJack VoIP calls don’t involve any contract, cancellation fee, credit card information (and freedom from monthly phone bills), here’s reason why you still must consider owning one:
- Enhanced processor – Besides the physical differences the new product has been updated with an advanced on board processing chip that is faster, has enhanced processing power, and more memory. As a result the new device will be able to provide superior voice quality that is unlike anything yet seen within the VoIP industry.
- Option of choosing a vanity number for an additional cost – particularly useful for frequent travelers or small businesses, this enables users to have a ‘masked’ common number from any location.
- Free voicemail, call waiting, call directory assistance and caller ID features – brings the personal phone experience right into your VoIP world
- Emergency service (911) for VoIP
- Operation without computer – the device hardware is now capable of directly being plugged in to the internet modem or router via Ethernet or USB connector. Unlike the previous MagicJack devices, there is no need for a continuously plugged in computer as the internet source. It also cuts down the electrical power consumption needed to keep the computer running, since it can be directly plugged to a wall power source. Registration does however require a computer or smartphone.
- No registaration need – In the past VocalTec has taken some heat for stating the the previous plus device did not require a computer to be used but the truth was that you needed a computer in order to register and activate the device before it would work. As far as registration goes this holds true with the 2014 magicJack Plus but the key difference is that it doesn’t have to ever be registered and you never have to login in order to use it. Instead you can immediately plug it into an outlet and your router and begin making calls. You can then register it at a later date if you so choose at the magicjack site.
- MagicJack App – The new MagicJack ‘Talk Free’ app (now renamed magicApp) is available in both the Appstore and Google Playstore to provide yet another option for using your VoIP options with portable internet devices.
- Simple Set Up – Setting up your MagicJack remains remarkably simple. Whether you’re an existing or a new user, simply plug it into the internet source, register or port your number and a few confirmation screens later you’re done.
- Affordable Price-tag – At $39.95 for the device and six months of service (and $29.95 per year from there on) this is hands down the most inexpensive VoIP service around. Service can also be purchased in advance at $19.95 per annum for five years.
Future of MagicJack? What next for MagicJack Wi-Fi?
Truth be told, as good as the Plus 2014 is, the lack of some anticipated features certainly left a fairly few underwhelmed. The hardware improvements are impressive, if not remarkable – and the unchanged price-tag is an acknowledgment of the same.
In the long run the potential for WiFi and triple play service make the new device very enticing and certainly something that most users should consider upgrading to when their current subscription is up or at the latest when magicJack/VocalTec puts out a firmware update that enables WiFi or works out a deal with a 4G or LTE carrier to provide other services.
A Wi-Fi device is almost certainly in cards, but security will be a priority. It might even be worth it to add an additional SDIO port so a select group of people can use a pay-per-use Wi-Fi interface while also using the device for video interfacing. Micro-SD and firmware upgrades would need to match up to undertake that endeavor. With presently available technology, it would mean slightly more bulk for the device.
The risk extends to firmware hackers, especially since you can’t activate two MagicJack devices at once for the same number. Once you register for the new device, the old one is rendered worthless for an ordinary user, and a handy target for hackers (and not exactly eco-friendly either!).
On the other hand, there’s a strong chance that MagicJack will leverage the additional USB ports to provide Wi-Fi adapters, log call memory with a flash-drive or make it a proprietary phone-interfacing option to handle multiple lines. Even existing phone services like Skype and Yahoo Messenger are compatible with USB peripherals.
Ditto for the RJ11 jack on the existing MagicJack Plus, which has a single tip. Adding another jack would lend better flexibility to the device.
All of these technologies exist today and most certainly would add to the appeal of upcoming MagicJack devices.
And yes, it’s best if they stopped marketing the ‘improved sound quality’ bit. Neither is there any noticeable difference from the previous version, nor is it a necessity, given that their existing quality is just as good as that of a traditional landline and grades out above nearly all other VoIP providers.
In short, the future of MagicJack devices look promising, as long as they are more clear to current and potential users about their technology roadmap, and product development plans.
The much anticipated new magicJack Plus 2014 has finally arrived after months of speculation on it’s features and when it would reach the market. This new magicJack device is very similar to the previous version of the magicJack Plus with several upgrades that make it a fine addition to VocalTec Communications line of VoIP devices.
Despite it’s quality upgrades the 2014 magicJack plus doesn’t come without disappointment. Originally consumers were hoping for a revolutionary upgrade that included the ability to connect from anywhere in ones home via encrypted WiFi but instead the 2014 magicJack plus must still be connected via the port of a wireless router. Consumers had hoped for other features also including the rumors of magic Jack providing triple play service that included internet and cable but these hopes, albeit, quite overzealous were dashed as well.
Image 5: what your purchase includes
Image 6: magicJack plus 2014 device vs. magicJack Plus
Image 7: new 2014 Plus with WiFi wording on side & mini SDIO slot
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