I’ve been on a gadget buying binge lately and I have a LOT of new toys to write about, but I thought I’d start with the Ooma Telo. I know, it sounds like a reference to Kill Bill, but it’s not, it’s actually a new-ish VoIP device that is actually pretty awesome. I first heard about the Ooma Telo from Cali Lewis at Geekbrief.TV, so I did some research and decided it might be for me. I had Vonage for several years as my phone of choice, partly because I’m a techie geek, but mostly because it was a heck of a lot cheaper than the alternatives for landline phone service. The quality was good, but their customer service was atrocious. I finally cancelled the service and thought I’d try MagicJack because it was cheap, and the bad reviews I had read on it, I thought it might be because of lack of Internet speed. I have a 20mbps down internet connection (which is really fast), and the connection sounded like I was talking on a Zach Morrison brick phone. There was static and an echo. The call quality was basically unusable, but it was only $30 for a year, so I wasn’t too upset. The final straw came when I tried to fax something to someone and the MagicJack wouldn’t allow my fax machine to dial out. I started doing the research on the Ooma Telo and everyone who has one loves it, but I had to psyche myself up to spend the money for it. If you buy it from Ooma directly, they want $250, but Amazon had it on sale for $200, so I bought it. The initial investment is quite steep, but the service is free for at least two years, after that, I’m hearing rumblings that it might be something like $12 a year afterward, which I have no qualms about, because landline service in my area costs around $50 a month.
I got my Ooma Telo and was very impressed with the packaging, it was very reminiscent of how Amazon had packaged the Kindle. I opened it up and followed the little quick start guide and had it up and running in about 10 minutes. I had their cute little dial tone that reminds me of the Owl City song “Fireflies” every time I pick up the phone. But that’s kind of trivial. The real question is: “How is the quality?” It’s exceptional. I am amazed at the clarity of the calls. I haven’t heard a single echo, everyone I’ve asked has said that they can’t tell I’m using VoIP. I think it even sounds better than my cell does. The Ooma Telo comes with all the standard features like call waiting, caller ID, and voicemail, but if you want anything beyond that, you have to get Ooma Premier for $10 per month. That gives you a bevy of features that you can check out here. The Ooma Telo has several buttons on the device that allow you to interact with it like an answering machine which I find quaint, but you can call into your voicemail just like any modern voicemail service. If you opt to get the Ooma Telo Handset, which I haven’t yet, but am seriously considering it, you get even more features because it gives you an instant second line, so if someone is already on phone, you just pick up the Ooma Telo Handset and you have a fresh dial tone to make your call, and a whole bunch of other features I’ve listed here.
While I have been immensely impressed with the overall quality of service I’ve had with the Ooma Telo, I did have one hiccup, which come to find out, was my fault. I added a “virtual number” to use with my fax machine (I’m a gadget guy, why wouldn’t I have a fax machine?), and I noticed a beta feature to incorporate the system with my Google Voice number, so I thought I’d see how that worked. It didn’t. For whatever reason the Ooma Telo kept picking up the calls to that number after 1/2 ring, and it was acting as a speakerphone. I called their technical support and immediately got to a live person (of course I did have to navigate a brief IVR). She did have an accent, but I cannot assume she was from overseas. She went into the system and immediately noticed that the Google Voice Extensions option was enabled in the system (even though it was not showing on their website), so she disabled it, had me power cycle my Ooma Telo, and she offered to call me back in 10 minutes on the virtual line to ensure it was working. She actually called me back (which was impressive in and of itself), and it worked. Now I have two numbers, one is dedicated to my fax, and the other is my main voice number.
Now, you might be wondering if the Ooma Telo will work with a fax machine. Yes, it will. You do have to do a few things if you use the service for voice, too, but it works. If you dial out using your main voice number, you have to dial *99 first, and then your number, if your main number is dedicated to faxing, you can enable fax mode in the account preferences area of your Ooma account online, and it will work without any issues. Since I have mine on its own line, I have to tell the machine to dial from the fax number (I hit **1, then dial the number), and it goes through with no problems!
One other thing that is kind of quaint with the Ooma system is that it requires you to dial “1” when you’re making a long distance call (which are free), and you can just dial the seven-digit numbers locally, so it works just like a traditional landline in that sense.
In summation, if you’re sick of being robbed by your telephone company, need/want a landline phone and have high speed internet, the Ooma Telo may be just the answer you were looking for. Despite the initial investment for the equipment, with no long-term commitments and excellent quality service, I don’t think I would have any issues recommending this to my friends!
Check out the Ooma Website at www.ooma.com for more information!