I was in a branch of Best Buy in Las Vegas about two weeks ago (January 2019) when I noticed MagicJack Go for sale. I had heard of the MagicJack VOIP service many years ago but it had not interested me because to use it, you had to connect the USB MagicJack gadget to your computer, and your computer had to be on all the time to receive and make calls. As a long-term user of Vonage, I found this set up to be quite impractical and antiquated. With Vonage, you just plugged in any standard landline phone to the adapter which you then connected directly to your router. No computer was necessary. You got the sense that you had a normal landline.
I was excited to discover that, with the Go model, MagicJack had turned very Vonage-like. According to the attractive box I saw in Best Buy, you could still connect it to your computer but Go also gave you the option to connect it directly to your router and use any landline phone – just like Vonage. The price was also very attractive: $35 (plus tax) for a year’s service including a US number and unlimited calls to the US and Canada. I was sold! I left Best Buy that day with a MagicJack Go box.
If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you might well ask why I wanted another US number when I already had one with Hushed (and a lifetime number at that). Well, the Hushed number is primarily intended as a mobile number, whereas MagicJack is designed to be more like a home phoneline (though it also comes with a mobile app which allows you to “carry” your number wherever you go – more on this later). I liked the idea of having a US “landline” phone in my room, to sit alongside my Vonage UK line.
Setting up MagicBox Go was a piece of cake. As with Vonage, you just plug one end of the provided ethernet cable into the MagicJack adapter and the other end to your router. You then connect a standard landline phone to the adapter. Note: you will need a micro filter which is not provided – I was fortunate because I had a spare one lying around. Once the hardware is set up, you go online to register your device. The registration process is simple and painless, and you can choose a free geographical US number. I chose a Glendale number because I have fond memories of the Barnes & Noble bookshop there, and because I have many relatives in California. You can also choose the last four digits of your number if you pay extra. You also have the options of porting in your existing US number or buying a “vanity number”, such as 818-ANT-ONIO.
And bingo! I had US landline phone in my room in the UK! MagicJack comes with the standard phone features for free including voicemail, call forwarding, call waiting, and caller ID. Free pinless conference calling is also available although I have to admit that I am not sure what this is which doesn’t bother me because I’m not likely to need it.
You can also download the companion app from Apple Store and Google Play which allows you to set up your MagicJack number to ring in your home and on your mobile phone or tablet at the same time. You will also be able to send and receive texts from US numbers. The app works well in general, though there have been occasions when my home phone rang but my mobile phone did not. Also, I think the app can only be active on one device at any one time, unlike Vonage which allows you to install the app on two devices. Nevertheless, MagicJack is a great way of turning your tablet into a mobile phone.
To call international numbers (i.e., non-US and Canadian numbers), you will have to buy credits. The international rates are attractive as with most VOIP services, though I do not like the fact that credits expire after six months. Another thing I don’t like is that you have to buy separate credits for the device (your home phone) and for the app. I don’t understand why you can’t just have one set of credits for both. Unlike Vonage, international calling is only pre-paid and you cannot sign up to monthly plans that would work out cheaper if you call international numbers regularly.
I am generally happy with my MagicJack Go. Once or twice, I experienced some crackling and unclear calls but this could have been due to my internet connection and not MagicJack itself. The last calls I have made were certainly very clear. MagicJack lacks certain call features rivals like Vonage offer such as virtual numbers, but the normal home user is unlikely to want these. For just $35, I expected to be disappointed but MagicJack, in fact, gives you a lot and I intend to renew once my first year is up.