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Cellphones Communications Handhelds Networking Wireless Networking

MagicJack Moving To Smartphones 94

Posted by timothy
from the don't-restrict-yourself-to-spyware-at-home dept.
robo45h writes "The late night infomercial VoIP company magicJack is moving into the smartphone space. The competition there is really going to be interesting. We have the likes of Skype and other VoIP companies competing against the wireless carriers still selling over-priced voice calls. It's such a big battle that the recent Verizon / Google Proposal specifically excludes (provides a loophole for) wireless. This has been brewing since cell phones added data capabilities, but it's coming to a head now." Free calls sounds nice, but it's worth noting that not everyone's happy with MagicJack's EULA.
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MagicJack Moving To Smartphones

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  • Good... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by rbarreira (836272) on Saturday August 14, 2010 @01:48PM (#33251694) Homepage

    It's about time the phone companies recognized that phone calls are just data passing through their networks.

    I know they don't want to be seen as purely "bit carriers" which don't add much value, but that's what they are.

    • Re:Good... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Animats (122034) on Saturday August 14, 2010 @02:09PM (#33251814) Homepage

      It's about time the phone companies recognized that phone calls are just data passing through their networks.

      Actually, no. Voice over IP over cellular data is an incredibly inefficient way to send voice. Worse, all the ad-related blithering in "free" applications uses more bandwidth than the call.

      The best phone audio quality today is with an ISDN voice phone. End to end digital, end to end synchronized at the bit level, full duplex, no need for echo cancellation, no lag beyond speed of light lag. Many home phones in Switzerland have worked that way for a decade.

      It's disappointing. We ought to have CD-quality telephony by now. But instead, audio quality has gotten worse. The phone network is 64Kb/s: 8KHz sampling of 8-bit samples. That's PC audio circa late 1980s. Cell phones don't even deliver that; they use very lossy compression.

      • Re:Good... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by localman57 (1340533) on Saturday August 14, 2010 @02:15PM (#33251858)

        We ought to have CD-quality telephony by now.

        Why? 8 bit 64k is perfectly adequate for voice. If we have spare cash to spend on communicaitons, spend it somewhere else, on something that isn't perfectly adequate, or that benefits substantially from improvment. If we get better voice quality as a side effect, great! But it isn't something to focus on.

        Now run along. I think I saw some vinyl records in the other room you can play with.

        • Re:Good... (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Capt. Skinny (969540) on Saturday August 14, 2010 @04:07PM (#33252358)
          I doubt that much innovation ever followed the phrase "perfectly adequate."
          • by Abstrackt (609015)

            I doubt that much innovation ever followed the phrase "perfectly adequate."

            Your insight is extremely adequate.

          • I doubt that much innovation ever followed the phrase "perfectly adequate."

            No, but I'm sure someone has described an innovation as "perfectly cromulent."

        • by Animats (122034)

          Why? 8 bit 64k is perfectly adequate for voice.

          Phone voice quality is marginal for conference calls. Cell phone compression barely works at all if it has to handle two people talking at once. Better video conferencing systems [brightcom.com] have higher-bandwidth audio; it's a small bandwidth cost compared to the video channel.

        • Vinyl beats the pants off a CD. 90+ db dynamic range off a album, with good quality virgin vinyl, or a Classic RCA Red Seal disc. You script kiddies can move along, and listen to your I tunes all you want, MP3 is never a candidate for true music lovers. You cant compress a cymbal crash, there is no entropy to remove...
          • by Arbition (1728870)
            90dB range huh? Why don't we just ignore the fact that even with CD's who's range is 'far inferior' to the vinyl, still manages to pick up noise from the recording and mastering equipment. Or the frequency range of a contact medium (that uses gravity for the contact force). I think you'll find that the vinyl will struggle to pick up those higher frequencies of your cymbal clash. Then you bring MP3's into it? What? I think this is an argument that uses quantity over quality. Not that this has anything to d
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by squiggleslash (241428)

        Actually, no. Voice over IP over cellular data is an incredibly inefficient way to send voice

        Nonetheless, the mobile operators are moving in that direction. LTE's voice service is supposed, ultimately, to be 100% VoIP, and the 3GPP set the process in motion with IMS.

        Voice over a variable bandwidth packet data system is certainly not the most efficient way to deliver a signal requiring a fairly constant QoS, but the increase in available spectrum and improvements in how we use it mean we're rapidly appro

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Rising Ape (1620461)

          Having to stick on a packet header every few tens of bytes of data seems very wasteful of limited radio specrum. Wouldn't it make rather more sense to just transmit the voice data to the base station and have the other end and convert to IP there?

          Voice may be a minority of data carried on land-based networks, but that true for mobile networks now as well?

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by hoxford (94613)

        You start with talking about VOIP via wireless then switch to talking about hard-wired circuit switched technology? What is your point exactly?

        I'm pretty sure that VOIP over 3G can carry more simultaneous calls per cell than GSM or CDMA2000 so I'd dispute your claim that it's incredibly inefficient. And compared with a dedicated, circuit-switched 64kbit stream like the ISDN calls you mention, it's VERY efficient.

      • by gmuslera (3436)
        Inneficient or not in the actual hardware, when you charges for phone calls (international or not) and have a flat or high volumen enough data plan, for the end user is more efficient (at least, in cost) to use data for talking.
      • by internic (453511)

        It's disappointing. We ought to have CD-quality telephony by now. But instead, audio quality has gotten worse.

        I wish I could recall what comic it was who noted the irony that "progress" has brought us from the days where phone carries used slogans like "you can hear a pin drop" to today when they use one like "Can you hear me now?"

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by h4rm0ny (722443)

      They're not going to give that up without a struggle though. What would really shake things up is if instead of my getting a SIM & phone number and letting one phone company thereafter monopolise my usage, I could say "this number is mine" and shop around for whoever offers the best rates. If I could say: 'Orange are doing a cheap deal on data, I'll buy a load from them this month', then we'd be able to actually exert market pressure on these companies. As it is, even Pay As You Go types are effectivel
      • by way2trivial (601132) on Saturday August 14, 2010 @02:18PM (#33251872) Homepage Journal

        http://www.fcc.gov/cib/consumerfacts/numbport.html [fcc.gov]
        Background

        Under the Federal Communications Commission's (FCC's) "local number portability" (LNP) rules, so long as you remain in the same geographic area, you can switch telephone service providers, including interconnected Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) providers, and keep your existing phone number. If you are moving from one geographic area to another, however, you may not be able to take your number with you. Therefore, subscribers remaining in the same geographic area can now switch from a wireless, wireline, or VoIP provider to any other wireless, wireline, or VoIP provider and still keep their existing phone numbers.

        • by maxume (22995)

          That's a pale shadow of what GP is talking about.

          • Speaking of "learning something new," here's a stupid off-topic question, but I have to ask: I've been here off and on for years (not necessarily posting), and I've seen "GP" and know it means something like "top poster" or "original poster." But never knew what it actually stands for, and Google seems to be no help. So what does "GP" mean anyway? Told ya it was a stupid question...
    • Man, I make data calls all the time, sipdroid and google voice, nothing easier than that.
    • But what is the point if you are being capped on data? What incentive is there for the phone companies to even care since they control the data? What incentive is there for me to use it and burn up bytes towards my cap instead of just using cell minutes? ( well, in my case i have been grandfathered in with unlimited, but you get the point )

  • Unfortunately, being roaches isn't really a distinguishing characteristic in the telcomm sector. It's just that MagicJack is the sleazy looking guy in the cheap suit, with his Hawaiian shirt open to show gold chains nestled in greasy coils of chest hair, while most of the established operators are no more honest; but can afford a decent tailor and a storefront that isn't in a scamhole like Florida.

    Abusive EULAs, mandatory binding arbitration kangaroo courts, spying for commercial and other purposes, are
  • "We have the likes of Skype and other VoIP companies competing against the wireless carriers still selling over-priced voice calls."

    I didn't realize these were wireless services. I thought they required a computer to work. I currently pay $0/month and 18 cents per minute (VirginMobile) - is Skype really cheaper than that, once you include the cost of the bits used?

    Wireless internet costs me about 7 cents per megabyte streamed. How many megabytes does the Skype use per minute? 1/2? So about 3.5 cents per minute of Skyping, plus 2.1 cents charged directly be Skype == 5.6 cents.

    6 18.

  • Majic Jack Quality? (Score:4, Informative)

    by ect5150 (700619) on Saturday August 14, 2010 @01:55PM (#33251750) Journal
    My buddy uses MagicJack and his voice goes in and out constantly. It's like calling someone on a cell phone that is in a dead spot. Anyone else experience this?
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      My buddy uses MagicJack and his voice goes in and out constantly. It's like calling someone on a cell phone that is in a dead spot. Anyone else experience this?

      Yes- when my parents call me with their MagicJack to my landline, usually after a while (few minutes, maybe a half hour) their end doesn't get through to mine (I can't hear them; they continue to hear me). Sometimes it will correct itself after a while.
      Also, whenever I try to dial their MagicJack number from my Skype phone, it doesn't go through at all (on my end, it "rings" a few times then says call failed; on their end it doesn't ring at all).

      • by Macrat (638047)

        Yes- when my parents call me with their MagicJack to my landline, usually after a while (few minutes, maybe a half hour....

        Half hour? You're a teenage girl?

      • by Artard (1174981) on Saturday August 14, 2010 @11:45PM (#33254780)
        Why don't you just walk upstairs from the basement and talk in person?
      • Do you have an ISP that shapes? Though that much being transferred is tiny there are problems with cable networks. The TK6000 product is in continual disconnect mode when you use it on Comcast. Apparently if you use a DSL service the problem doesn't exist or isn't that bad. With the TK6000 and Comcast you have to keep picking up the phone every so often to keep it alive. You also have to pick the call up within a couple rings or you get a busy signal when you finally do.

        The magic jack doesn't have as b

    • by rsborg (111459)

      My buddy uses MagicJack and his voice goes in and out constantly. It's like calling someone on a cell phone that is in a dead spot. Anyone else experience this?

      Yes, my parents had set this up on one of their laptops, and things were fine for a while, and then they started experiencing these symptoms similar to your buddy (call drops, auto-tune like modulation, random voice drops, etc). On further investigation, I found that they had finally figured out how to use their laptop with wifi, and so MagicJack was

  • by commodore64_love (1445365) on Saturday August 14, 2010 @02:02PM (#33251776) Journal

    the article:
    MagicJack, a cheapie $20-a-year internet phone service, comes with a shriveled and shaking devil EULA: "Any claims, legal proceeding or litigation arising in connection with the magicJack device or Software will be resolved by binding arbitration ... in Palm Beach, Florida."

    These kinds of clauses are nullified by law. Paypal discovered that during their litigation, when huge sections of their EULA were struck by the court as being over-ruled by consumer protection laws.

    • Wouldn't it be easier if their EULA just stated "You agree that any claims, legal proceeding or litigation arising in connection with the magicJack device or Software will be resolved by us ignoring you."
    • by GarryFre (886347)
      I especially find statements in a EULA that say it's illegal to do this or that. Since when have the commercial segment of society became the legislative branch of the government? Companies can't make laws, law makers make laws. I rarely read through a Eula, They are ridiculous e-Tomes that look like they were run through some crazy software that just takes every word in a sentence and spits out bloated sentences with every possible synonym for every word in the sentences. Mind-Numbing and the worst sleepi
  • where can you get a data only plan? on a smart phone in usa any ways? without pay high fees? and even then 5gb or lower cap and after the cap it's like $10 a gig and some ports are blocked as well.

  • by Chas (5144) on Saturday August 14, 2010 @03:40PM (#33252234) Homepage Journal

    I've spent time cleaning up systems infected (yes, infected) due to MJ's mandatory advertising.

    Having an attacker exploit an ad system is something all advertising networks have to deal with at one time or another.

    Magic Jack is simply much less stringent about their requirements and have almost no followup

    As such, Magic Jack may as well be classified a trojan.

    I won't say that I wouldn't install their software if you paid me.
    Fact is, I would, if the sum was large enough.
    VMs are cheap afterall.

  • by maillemaker (924053) on Saturday August 14, 2010 @03:42PM (#33252248)

    We've had MagicJack for about 6 months.

    I have it running on our entertainment center PC. Voice quality is OK. Sometimes people will call and noone is there, and there are other slight flakiness problems, but it is definitely worth $20 a year for unlimited long distance and local calling. I ditched Vonage, which was costing me $29 a month, for the service, and it is saving me roughly $300 a year.

    My biggest complaint is that when you get a call or make a call the magicjack software interface pops to the foreground, interrupting whatever television happens to be being watched on the PC at the time. Kinda neat as you get caller ID that shows up, but annoying when the kids are watching TV and you have to go and push the media player to the front again whenever there is a call.

    Another problem is frequently a Microsoft update will reboot my computer but the magic jack doesn't start unless I actually log in, which means people can't call us until I go and log into the computer.

    All in all, I think it's a good service. Well worth $20 a year.

  • by ITBurnout (1845712) on Saturday August 14, 2010 @04:02PM (#33252338)
    I'm making the switch from Comcast to MagicJack for my so-called pseudo "land line."

    I have it running on a cheap Fit-PC Slim that is running the MagicJack software only, nothing else. I figure the $235 I spent for the Fit-PC Slim will be paid for pretty quickly due to (a) saving $25/month when I get rid of my Comcast line, and (b) running the MagicJack on a dedicated PC that sips power (it runs on only 10 watts!), rather than on my main PC that is an i7 behemoth with tons of cooling, etc. I can turn off my main PC when I'm away from it.

    I have MagicJack voice mail messages e-mailed to my Gmail account, and from there I have a Gmail filter set up that sends a text message to my cell phone when a MagicJack voice mail comes in.

    My Fit-PC Slim is remotely controlled from my main PC, so does not need a mouse, keyboard, monitor attached.

    The MagicJack interface and the ads on the side of the window don't bother me because (a) I'm not using the interface at all; the MagicJack PC just sits there and does its job, functioning as a phone, and (b) I installed MagicBlock and MagicWho? to make it as invisible as possible.

    So far, so good. The sound quality is at least as good as my Comcast line if not better. I'm hanging onto my Comcast line for a little while pending some more testing, but am expecting to get rid of it soon. Looking forward to the cost savings.
    • Oh yeah, forgot to mention that I have Microsoft Automatic Update turned OFF on the Fit-PC, to prevent it from updating and rebooting. I do the updates manually.
  • I've never used a consumer level voip service/program that sounded that great or surpassed even cell phone quality. Good maybe 90% of the time, but the 5 was filled with stutter/hiccups/dead silence.

    Honest question here though. Has anyone used a good VoIP solution over 3G? Any have a blackerry/android/iPhone app?

    Anybody have experiences to share?

  • I switched two family members from landline services to Ooma last year, and have been extremely pleased with the results. You buy a ~$240 Analog Terminal Adapter to connect analog phones, and never pay again for US calls. The sound quality is better than Vonage, it's certainly a lot cheaper, and if you Upgrade to their Premier service, you get 2 lines, call screening, an iPhone app that lets you make calls using your Ooma account, and some other things that weren't really worth it for us. It seems like t
  • I'm sorry, I'm having a lot of trouble understanding this.

    Magicjack, a VOIP provider, is now going to allow users to make VOIP calls through their smartPHONE? Why the fuck would you use this if you have a smart PHONE. Given that most data plans for smartphones are way more expensive than the talk and text part of the plan, wouldn't it make more sense to... oh, I don't know, just make a fucking phone call?
    I fail to see how this could serve any purpose whatsoever.
    • There are two scenarios where you would use a VoIP provider over a phone: if you are out of the country and want to use wi-fi to call home, and if you want to make international calls at rates lower than your carrier charges. Actually, there might be one more. You might want to have the VoIP setup act as a second line with its own phone number. That's a service that cell companies should have offered years ago but somehow never got around to doing, for reasons I've never entirely understood.

  • by cdrguru (88047) on Saturday August 14, 2010 @09:41PM (#33254234) Homepage

    The problem is that the wireless phone companies have built themselves into a trap. They charge for phone calls with the assumption that they are going to get the bulk of their money from that. As people move to VOIP usage, the phone calls will end and they will be left with far less revenue.

    Same thing with wire line providers - as Vonage and other data-driven systems take over the idea of a "phone" will be quaint and obsolete. Of course this means you have Verizon providing service so Vonage can eliminate Verizon from the marketplace.

    What a lot of people don't seem to understand is there will likely be a day of reckoning coming along. T-Mobile is paid by voice calls and charges little for data plans. If the voice calls stop and everyone has few or zero minutes they will be faced with some tough choices, as will every other carrier. They can raise prices on data plans to recover the revenue. They can scale the company back drastically to continue operation with the smaller amount of revenue. The last choice would seem to be pretty obvious - they can just fold up operations and find some new business to invest in.

    I expect most of the wireless companies to either scale back drastically (no more stores, just online sales for example) or cease operation entirely. If there isn't any money in it, and there will never be any more money in it, there isn't any point in continuing. Same thing with the wire line providers. Once the revenue reaches a low enough point, I don't think they are going to be able to continue.

    Of course, what nobody ever asks is what happened to people that actually needed a buggy whip after automobiles came out?

    • by sjames (1099)

      Telecommunications has been bizarro for a long long time. Much of the inetrnet traffic goes over lines meant for digital voice using an outmoded and very expensive protocols for synchronous circuit switching. It's so crazy that it is cheaper to nail up the digital voice circuits, overlay IP and a secondary set of routers on top, then layer VoIP on top of all that than it is to just use the digital voice circuits at the bottom of the stack. Or at least it's cheaper for the end user.

      The cellphone industry is

  • So how many people have noticed that in their "instead of paying $X a month, pay $Y a year!" commercials, the savings is actually only like 24 cents a year? Wow, that's totally enough to motivate me to switch RIGHT NOW.

    example [youtube.com]

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