With an increasing trend by personal and business customers to save money by using VoIP providers over traditional phone providers, the leading brands – MagicJack and NetTalk – have firmly entrenched themselves in the market. Loyal customers have their reasons to lean for their product of choice, but beyond the basic services, which are almost an ‘expected’ part of the deal we dig deeper to find out who offers the best value for money. There, of course, are other brands such as Ooma and Vonage as well, but given the pre-eminence of the first two brands and their range of products, we’ll limit our verdict to them.
What is Similar?
- As VoIP devices, this is an ‘apples to apples’ comparison. The basic feature-set offered by both devices tread a very similar path (including their marketing lines!):
- Free calls to anywhere in the U.S. and Canada, international call rates apply outside of these
- Works either using a computer, or independent internet-enabled devices like direct connection to the router/modem or even smart-phones. Offers downloadable smartphone apps.
- No contracts and freedom from monthly bills with easy account management services.
- Call waiting, caller ID, call forwarding and conference calling bridge features.
- Visual voicemail and voicemail-to-email features.
- Live technical support
- 411 directory assistance
True to expectations, the core VoIP needs are addressed equally well.
NetTalk does hold a slight edge when it comes to Customer Service as of now. One of their key marketing strategies is to highlight their multi-layered customer service, direct access phone line and toll-free number as opposed to mere live-chat from MagicJack customer support. That gap is bridging fast though, with consumers becoming increasingly aware of other technical support numbers (toll-free) and a number for billing support which can lead them to interaction with an agent in-person for MagicJack. Recent customer service investments by MagicJack on adding layers, access numbers etc. could further bring them at par.
Installation and Price
Installation of NetTalk is simple. The kit comes with USB cables you can use to connect to computer, or Ethernet adapters for routers and an AC adapter plug. The device automatically synchronizes with NetTalk servers and rings once the connection and set up is confirmed. You can start receiving and sending calls, faxes etc. immediately. For MagicJack, the installation process is slightly different, but no less simple. You follow all these steps (even from a smartphone app) and a walk-through screen helps you set-up, register or transfer accounts. First time installation does run into heavy weather at times with MagicJack, especially the direct-router (computer-less) version and scant in-person support to drag you out of that mire. MagicJack scores on a couple of fronts here:
- Entering your contact and billing information when you set it up on a new device ensures there are seldom any security breaches
- Unlike NetTalk or NetTalk Duo devices, the USB software is pre-installed on the MagicJack devices, so you don’t need to download them afresh
Once the installation ends, MagicJack also shows a window with alternate service offers and current deals, a handy service for both first-time and existing users as they look to save more. However, some users might find an additional screen slightly annoying too, as they try to run through the steps quickly. It is important to remember, however, that MagicJack added the ‘computer-free’ operation only recently, while NetTalk had the features even in their earlier devices. The prices are remarkably similar with NetTalk duo and MagicJack Plus 2014 both costing $39.95 (plus tax) and $29.95 for additional years of service.
- Here’s the catch though – NetTalk Duo is a generation older than the MagicJack 2014 Plus, comparable with regular MagicJack Plus 2012. The contemporary device, NetTalk Duo WiFi which is the direct competitor of MagicJack Plus 2014 actually costs $64.95!
- MagicJack also aces NetTalk with their customer retention plan – $19.95 per additional year of service if you purchase a five-year bundle.
- The smartphone App for MagicJack, the magicApp, is compatible with iPhone, iPad, and Kindle Fire (hopefully Windows and Blackberry phones in the near future) – something NetTalk matches in technology. But the kicker is that there are some hidden costs associated with talk-time credits with NetTalk.
- Porting your phone number is FREE for NetTalk. MagicJack, by contrast, charges you $19.99.
The verdict stays mostly with MagicJack as far as economy is concerned. However, if you’re planning to merely port to a new device, or use the services for a short span of time, it might be worth pitching for NetTalk, incurring you savings on the process.
While there is little to choose between the NetTalk and MagicJack first generation devices, the later devices of MagicJack have a clear advantage of direct AC adapter jacks. For NetTalk or NetTalk Duo you still have to lug around an external power adapter.
NetTalk – clear victories
Despite the above exchanges, NetTalk covers solid ground, even upstages MagicJack on quite a few technical features. We take a look at the aspects where NetTalk/ NetTalk duo are clearly ahead.
- Video Conferencing – One area where NetTalk out guns competition is with ‘video conferencing’ features. Not only does it out-do MagicJack in the same price range, but more expensive options like Ooma or Obihai don’t offer it either. Sure, you’ll have to stay plugged into your computer, but that’s no downer, given you’re most likely going to use it as a stationary service anyway.
- Priority Call Forwarding – NetTalk offers this feature, unlike MagicJack
- Anonymous call blocking, Blacklisting – MagicJack’s support for call blocking and blacklisting phone numbers is only available if you download the unofficial ‘MagicFeatures’ software plug-in. NetTalk offers these services out of the box, with up to 10 phone numbers you can blacklist.
- Android Support – Smartphone app for NetTalk has better support and availability for Android devices. MagicJack’s android efforts have ranged from insufficient to completely unreliable in the past, but have recently proven to be much better.
- Additional lines and 3-way conferencing – NetTalk has another winner in the bag with support for extra lines and initiating or supporting three way or five way conferences.
- T.38 and Regular Fax Support is excellent – Faxing does work with magicJack but it is not officially support
- As far as technology and innovation is concerned, you have to hand it to NetTalk for leading the field. Not only do they have proprietary features not available in other devices in their class, their superior support, knowledge base and consistent features even in earlier generations of devices make them an attractive package.
MagicJack – clear victories
MagicJack and MagicJack Plus (2012) certainly had to play a bit of catch-up with NetTalk and NetTalk Duo. NetTalk launched their products, almost exclusively targeting the weaknesses of other low-cost VoIP options which turned on the heat for MagicJack to first catch-up and then innovate to stay ahead.
- Sound Quality – What is the first thing you’d notice while talking on a phone? The clarity of sound, right? MagicJack is well ahead of NetTalk in terms of minimal white noise and echo.
- Shipping Services – A hassle-free shipping service to your customer is as much a necessity as the device performance itself. NetTalk’s hybrid shipping, using USPS and UPS is prone to orders falling through the cracks and taking much longer than usual.
- Better support for Call return (69), and 7–digit Local Area dialing – MagicJack supports call returning, and local area dialing with the proprietary MagicFeatures software. It also allows you to disable call-waiting per call, as well as better control over blacklisting or blocking numbers.
We observe that NetTalk has invested more in technology infrastructure, while MagicJack is better aligned to performance metrics. It’s purely for the consumer to make a call depending on their needs, but tech-savvy users and business users might find NetTalk more conducive to their needs, while MagicJack is likely to be a big draw with regular user-base.
Image2 : NetTalk vs MagicJack Pie-chart depicting the feature spread.
To round up the comparison, it is fair to say that NetTalk (NetTalk Duo II and WiFi), despite a few bells and whistles of hidden costs and portability issues, is a slightly better device. MagicJack however, has bridged the technology cap significantly with the MagicJack Plus 2014. At this point, MagicJack Go promises to level the field and will certainly bring magicJack into the fore front. In terms of ease of use and price-point, magicJack continues to lead the field.
Other VoIP Comparison Post
I have done extensive comparison of all of the main VoIP providers in order to make your decision easier. Read the links below for more information on each of the VoIP services I have compared.
magicJack vs. Vonage – The winner here was a very interesting surprise
magicJack vs. Ooma – Two big time VoIP competitors are compared and contrasted with one coming out clearly on top
magicJack vs. Basic Talk – One copied the other and is also more expensive.