I've been fascinated with VOIP ever since I made my first free call via Dialpad a few years ago. I remembered calling my mom using Dialpad on my old dial-up internet. Quality was bad but one fact remained, I made a call to the United States for free! When Dialup was bought by Yahoo!, they removed their free calls and replaced them with "cheap" per minute rates. Then there was Skype. For some time, I was using Skype so my grandma can call my mom and my uncle. And since my mom and uncle aren't that tech-savy, I bought SkypeOut credits so we can call their landlines and mobile phones for about Php1.00 per minute instead of doing Skype-to-Skype calls. Compared to PLDT's normal US$0.40 per minute rate, SkypeOut is cheap!
One of the disadvantages of using Skype though was whenever my grandma needs to call someone, I should always be with her since she doesn't know how to operate a computer. If you want to receive calls, you have to pay extra monthly for SkypeIn.
I heard something called magicJack around May last year. It's a device that apparently offers FREE calls for 1 year to the United States and Canada for only $40 and $19.95 every year after. And it also allows you to receive calls without an added fee. So, I ordered one online last December and got it in January when my grandma returned home from Maryland.
I've been using magicJack for 3 months now and guess what, what they're advertising is true. Free calls and lots and lots of savings!
MagicJack is a small device that plugs directly to your computer's USB port. When first plugged in, it will automatically install the magicJack software to your computer. Installation would take around 5 to 10 minutes or depending on your computer. Mine was installed within 3 minutes.
Once magicJack is installed, you will be required to register (name, address, email) and an option to choose your area code. In my case, I chose Los Angeles' 323 area code.
After the installation and registration procedures, you can now call anyone within the USA or Canada for FREE. Whether they're using mobile phones or regular landline phones, as long as they're in USA or Canada, the calls will be free for one full year. You can also receive FREE incoming calls anywhere in the world. They'll only have to dial your own magicJack number.
And since magicJack users will be issued their very own USA numbers, calls to other magicJack users are free. Mark has a magicJack connected to his BayanDSL and we've talked for about 30 minutes. :)
You can either use a computer headset with the magicJack softphone or plug a regular phone with an RJ-11 connector at the other end of the MagicJack. All PLDT / Bayantel / Globe / Digitel-issued landline phones or even cordless phones being sold anywhere are compatible with magicJack.
If you want to display the Caller ID information on your physical phone, I recommend using a Bayantel-issued unit. PLDT's Caller IDs don't work with magicJack. The caller ID information is displayed on your softphone anyway, so this isn't a big deal.
I use an old Panasonic cordless phone so my grandma can talk wherever she wants and not sit infront of my computer the whole time. This cordless phone was bought by Lalaine's uncle in the USA so the caller ID is compatible with magicJack.
magicJack's call quality is awesome and it's even better than Sun Cellular. Of course the quality also depends on the ISP you're using so I took the liberty of testing MagicJack on 4 different ISPs ---Destiny Cable, PLDT myDSL Plan 990, BayanDSL and Globe Visibility / Tattoo prepaid.
Destiny Cable is far the best since it's cable internet. Cable internet means lots of available bandwidth. PLDT myDSL plan 990 comes second while Bayantel comes third because of frequent disconnections resulting in drop calls. Globe Visibility / Tattoo prepaid is far the worst. Disconnections are of triple or quadruple compared with Bayantel and the up stream bandwidth is too low resulting in poor audio quality. The person you're talking too has a great chance of not hearing you completely when using Globe Visibility.
Other running programs on you computer can also be a factor. Since magicJack relies on your internet bandwidth, call quality may suffer if you're downloading something on torrent or other P2P sites. If you have a slow PC, I also recommend not using too much applications that hogs your processor or memory since it can affect quality or performance of the magicJack softphone.
Now lets check out the savings you'll get when you use magicJack for 60 minutes. Let's assume that US$1.00 is equal to Php 48.00. I bought my magicJack for $40.00, so it's about Php1,920.00.
Normal PLDT IDD rate to USA is US$0.40 or Php19.20 per minute, so 60 minutes of call would amount to Php1,152.00. Only a few more minutes and you'll get to your break-even point with magicJack. PLDT Budget Card's rate is Php3.00 per minute or about Php180 per 60 minutes. Break-even point will be reached after 10 hours / 600 mins of calls.
Globe Telecom's special IDD rate is at US$0.20 per minute. So, (0.20*48) * 60 minutes = P576 per 60 minutes. Break even point with magicJack will be reached with 3 hours or 180 minutes. While with Globe's TipIDD rate of Php2.50 per minute (Php150/60mins), BEP will be reached after 12 hours or 720 minutes of call. Globe's IDD Sakto per second rate is Php0.15 per sec or about Php9 per minute (Php540 per 60mins). BEP point will be reached after 3.5 hours worth of call
Sun Cellular's Top 10 IDD rate is US$0.10 per minute. So, (0.10*48) * 60 = P288 per 60 minutes. BEP with magicJack will be reached after 6 hours or 360 minutes worth of calls to the USA.
Bayantel and Sky Broadband also offers VOIP services. Bayantel has 799 minutes for Php195 or about Php0.24 per minute or Php14.4 per 60mins. BEP will be reached at 133 hours or about 800 minutes. Sky Broadband's VOIP has 100 minutes for Php99 or about P0.99 per minute (Php59.4 per 60mins). Sky's BEP with magicJack will be reached with 32 hours worth of calls.
As you can see, all local offers whether mobile, landline or VOIP are expensive in the long run compared to magicJack. Now, since magicJack is unlimited, let's compare it with other VOIP providers that provides unlimited calls to the US and Canada. Three of the most popular ones are Vonage, Packet8, and SkypeOut Unlimited.
Vonage offers their service for $9.95 per month on the first 3 months and $24.99 per month thereafter. Vonage's first year costs about $224.91 (Php 10,795.68) compared to MagicJack's $40.00. That's a savings of $184.91 (Php 8,875.68) on the first year!
Packet8's unlimited service is $199.00 per year plus an activation fee of $29.99. It translates to $228.99 per year or about Php 10,991.52. You can save at least $188.99 (Php 9,071.52) with magicJack.
SkypeOut Unlimited is $6.00 per month. So in 12 months, you'll be paying $72 or about Php3,456. magicJack is still cheaper by $32.00 (Php1,538)
The only disadvantage of magicJack is you need a computer to make it work. Vonage, Packet8, BayanVOIP and SKY Voice offers their service via an ATA device. You only need a broadband connection and/or a router. Since my computer is turned on almost 24/7, power consumption is really not an issue.
magicJack can also be used on an ATA device but it's not for the faint of heart. You need some tools and basic knowledge of your computer's registry to extract your magicJack's SIP information. So far, I've already extracted mine. I've tested it on another VOIP software called X-Lite and it works.
I wanted to try if this could work on an ATA device, but unfortunately, I can't find a cheap one locally. So if someone is selling a cheap Linksys PAP2 or SPA-3102 ATA device, please contact me ASAP!
Viruses and bad windows installation may cause an unpleasant experience with magicJack. So, if you're planning on getting one, better check your computers first to avoid any hassles in the future. magicJack's technical support is bad. It's worse than Destiny's technical support. The only support magicJack offers is through a web-based chat system. And as I've read somewhere, their support agents are all located in the Philippines.
So far, I haven't encountered any major problems with my magicJack besides the minor annoyance of requiring a computer to work. But if you know your way in and out your computer, then this product is awesome!
My magicJack is plugged into my Pentium 4 2.4ghz computer running on Windows XP. My internet is Destiny Cable which has a maximum speed of 4Mbps downstream and 1Mbps upstream and my router is a Linksys WRT54G. But for the curious, here's the minimum system requirements as specified by the magicJack manual:
Computer with Windows XP, Windows Vista or an Intel-based MAC
High-speed internet (atleast 128kbps upload bandwidth)
1 USB Port
Free calls to any USA and Canada mobile or landline for only $40.00 on the first year and $19.95 per year thereafter.
Receive incoming calls via your own USA number
Voicemail. New voicemail is also emailed to you as an attachment.
3-way conference calls
Uses ANY ordinary telephones (wired or cordless) and even computer microphones and speakers.
International calls can be free if the person you're calling also has a MagicJack
Computer must be turned on to make or receive calls.
Lacks competent technical support.
No way to uninstall software on your computer
No "official" way to use on an ATA device. Can be used on any ATA device but you have to "hack" your way through just to get your SIP credentials.
You can order your magicJack online at magicjack.com for only $39.99 (approx. Php 1,920) or you can contact Lalaine. I believe she's selling some magicJacks so you guys may want to contact her instead to save on shipping fees and the uber expensive customs and duty taxes.
You can reach Lalaine at lalaine (at) gameops (dot) net / cell# 0922-7474398 / landline +63(2)3310010. Others are selling this at an absurdly high price... as high as Php6,500!
I'll teach you guys next time on how to call other countries for FREE using your magicJacks but in the meantime, you can watch this cheezy magicJack infomercial :)