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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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  • Last Post (Score:-1, Offtopic)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 14, 2010 @01:42PM (#33251656)
    No one post after this.
  • 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:3, Interesting)

        by squiggleslash (241428) on Saturday August 14, 2010 @02:39PM (#33251954) Homepage Journal

        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 approaching the point it just plain doesn't matter, especially in a context where it seems likely that voice usage may even start to decrease as other methods of mobile communication take over and become more viable.

        • Re:Good... (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Rising Ape (1620461) on Saturday August 14, 2010 @02:45PM (#33251980)

          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:Good... (Score:2, Insightful)

        by hoxford (94613) on Saturday August 14, 2010 @03:00PM (#33252038)

        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) on Saturday August 14, 2010 @03:45PM (#33252262) Homepage Journal
        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) on Saturday August 14, 2010 @05:09PM (#33252718)

        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:Good... (Score:3, Interesting)

      by h4rm0ny (722443) on Saturday August 14, 2010 @02:09PM (#33251816) Journal

      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 effectively locked in. And being locked in, lets them squeeze a lot more money out of us.

      The technology ought to be simple (indeed, it is there), but good luck getting it.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 14, 2010 @02:11PM (#33251830)

      Actually, for circuit switched calls (which are still the standard in GMS and WCDMA), this is not true. Each phone call takes up a limited resource, both in the base station, the controller and in the core network.

      For VOIP, yes, it's just bits. Here in Sweden, one of the largest cellular operators (Telia) has even stated openly that they do not see a future other than being a "bit pipe", and that they are quite happy with that.

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

        by TheRaven64 (641858) on Saturday August 14, 2010 @02:23PM (#33251894) Journal
        Even as a bit carrier, there are two valuable services on top of just carrying bits:
        • Quality of service guarantees.
        • POTS bridging.

        My mobile phone came with a SIP client, and when I am near a WiFi access point I can call any other SIP users for free. Most people don't (yet?) have a SIP address though, so most calls go to my SIP provider who then routes them to a POTS number. This kind of bridging is something that carriers currently offer, but they bundle it with data, so you pay for the call as a single item, rather than for the bandwidth and the bridging as separate items. I'd love to see legislation forcing them to bill the two separately and offer the same rates for the data part irrespective of who you use for termination.

        Quality of service is also very important for voice. GSM quality uses about 5MB an hour. The bandwidth requirements are tiny - a minute of a YouTube video will use more than an hour of talking - but latency and (especially) jitter make a big difference to the perceived quality of the call. Giving higher priority to voice traffic (e.g. reserving some fraction of the available bandwidth for each call) is a valuable service above and beyond just shuffling bits.

        • Re:Good... (Score:3, Informative)

          by ericrost (1049312) on Sunday August 15, 2010 @07:42AM (#33256222) Homepage Journal

          You just used a lot of words to say that they don't really do much aside from cripple that data you're trying to use for SIP calls by prioritizing their own traffic above it. I don't bother with the cell network at all, as I'm pretty much always near wifi, and over a standard network, SIP call quality is fantastic. Over 3G, it sucks, and its only because of "QoS" crippling.

    • by muppetman462 (867367) on Saturday August 14, 2010 @02:19PM (#33251878)
      Man, I make data calls all the time, sipdroid and google voice, nothing easier than that.
    • by nurb432 (527695) on Saturday August 14, 2010 @03:00PM (#33252044) Homepage Journal

      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 )

  • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Saturday August 14, 2010 @01:51PM (#33251722) Journal
    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 all standard features in the telcomm field. MagicJack just has no taste at all about it and can't seem to afford the veneer of respectability and impenetrable legal verbiage that their better established competitors can.
  • by commodore64_love (1445365) on Saturday August 14, 2010 @01:54PM (#33251744) Journal

    "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?
    • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 14, 2010 @02:05PM (#33251792)

      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.

      That's what's magic about it, now you hear it, the next moment you don't.
      And they don't give jacks**t about improving their magic.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 14, 2010 @02:07PM (#33251804)

      I travel extensively and use a MagicJack to keep in contact with my friends & family in the states... Although the quality isn't quite toll quality, it's pretty good. Certainly usable. In fact on my current trip (Norway, Israel, and Germany) it's worked fine in all three countries.

      As with any VoIP solution the quality of your IP network makes quite a difference. I do make it a point to keep it on the "AirCard (3G)" setting. That uses a codec designed for VoIP rather than just packetized G.711. The vocoder handles packet loss better than G.711 plus it seems to allow the jitter buffer to catch up quicker (on initial call I can always hear it resize).

      I found the quality better than Skype but as with any VoIP provider, YMMV with the phase of the moon...

      • by commodore64_love (1445365) on Saturday August 14, 2010 @02:57PM (#33252026) Journal

        >>>I do make it a point to keep it on the "AirCard (3G)"

        What other settings does the MagicJack have? If the quality really is that poor, then I'll just stick with my calling card. It's only 5 cents a minute.

        (looks up G.711) - "G.711 is an ITU-T standard for audio companding. The standard was released for usage in 1972..... G.711 uses a Pulse code modulation (PCM) sampling rate of 8,000 samples per second, with the tolerance on that rate 50 parts per million (ppm). Non-uniform quantization (logarithmic) with 8 bits is used to represent each sample, resulting in a 64 kbit/s bit rate." ----- Yeah that certainly wouldn't work over the internet. It was designed for and needs a dedicated line where 64k is guaranteed.

        Does MagicJack, Skype, or any other VOIP work over 50k dialup?

        • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 14, 2010 @03:07PM (#33252086)

          What other settings does the MagicJack have? If the quality really is that poor, then I'll just stick with my calling card. It's only 5 cents a minute.

          It doesn't have any other settings really. It's a bit of a closed platform. I find it works pretty good for what I need though and I know when I had it on G.711 the quality was worse. But it depends on many things -- also whatever SBC/switch you are homed to and how congested the IP links are to that.

          Yeah that certainly wouldn't work over the internet. It was designed for and needs a dedicated line where 64k is guaranteed.

          Actually -- G.711 is what the PSTN uses. However, most VoIP typically uses a packetized form of G.711. The G.711 stream is broken up into frames, typically on the order of 20ms or so, and sent wrapped up in RTP. This really is the case for many VoIP products these days since 64K is considered an insignificant amount of bandwidth. The problem is that a good Vocoder (e..g G.729) can cope with packet loss much better (packet loss concealment) because of the model state in the vocoder.

          Does MagicJack, Skype, or any other VOIP work over 50k dialup?

          I dunno -- it's possible. When you think about it you can compress voice quite a bit. For example, GSM compresses voice down to 6.4Kbps if you make it aggressive enough. But there is overhead in the RTP header, whatever is framing your dialup (SLIP/PPP), the fact that a 50k modem isn't always 50k, etc.

          I think a 50kbps internet connection would drive me crazy for other reasons! Even traveling around the world I expect my Internets!

          • by commodore64_love (1445365) on Saturday August 14, 2010 @03:34PM (#33252204) Journal

            >>>>> It was designed for and needs a dedicated line where 64k is guaranteed.
            >>
            >>Actually -- G.711 is what the PSTN uses.

            Yep. Dedicated line with guaranteed 64k throughput.

            .

            >>>When you think about it you can compress voice quite a bit. For example, GSM compresses voice down to 6.4Kbps if you make it aggressive enough. But there is overhead in the RTP header, whatever is framing your dialup (SLIP/PPP), the fact that a 50k modem isn't always 50k, etc.
            >>>

            That's true. I regularly listen to a voice-only talk station that's only 10k streaming, and a London music station (Radio Jackie) at 12k. And yet still have enough room to pull-up a webpage. Dialup really isn't not that bad if you have an accelerated service that uses image compression. My laptop's Dialup loads webpages almost as fast as my DSL at home (i.e. less than 10 seconds).

    • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 14, 2010 @02:35PM (#33251942)

      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) on Saturday August 14, 2010 @06:21PM (#33253104)

        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?
      • by HermMunster (972336) on Monday August 16, 2010 @12:51PM (#33265128)

        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 big of a problem as the TK6000. I have both and use neither. I set up a free phone number from sipgate (I believe they are out of numbers now due to an article posted on Lifehacker) in conjunction with my google voice. It runs on a computer running freepbx (a linux based PBX system). I have a Linksys voip box connected to a phone. All incoming and outgoing calls are free in the US and Canada.

    • by rsborg (111459) on Sunday August 15, 2010 @03:05PM (#33258004) Homepage

      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 routing over wifi (congested in their apt. complex) now whereas the laptop previously was wired directly into the router.

      I setup an old core solo MacMini for just this purpose and they run MJ through that, and now call quality is quite excellent (ironically also renders MJ's mandatory advertizing quite useless, as the only way to see content on this device is to switch TV channels, which is only done to diagnose when MJ isn't working).

      In fact, now that I remember it, most VoIP providers (Vonage, Lingo) suggest you put their VoIP bridge hardware *in front* of the router for performance reasons.

  • 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.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 14, 2010 @02:25PM (#33251910)

      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.

      I found out the hard way such things only apply if you can get a lawyer. The law is largely for people that can aford it. There's two actual justice systems in this country, Civil and Criminal. Civil law is based on lawyers. You have the right to represent yourself but your odds of winning are low.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 14, 2010 @02:43PM (#33251968)

      are you speaking of the anti-trust lawsuit [wikipedia.org] started in 2007 [justia.com]?

      • by commodore64_love (1445365) on Saturday August 14, 2010 @03:02PM (#33252050) Journal

        No I'm talking about the case Paypal already lost sometime around 2004 (which was before Ebay acquired them). The court set-up three tiers of award: ~$75 for class 1 which included everyone, ~$250 for class 2 that had documentation showing Paypal stole the client's money, and class 3 for people who lost thousands. Their claims would be reviewed individually by the court.

        Hopefully I'm remembering the details correctly. I fell into class 1 and had about 75 dollars deposited to my paypal account, which I then withdrew to my bank account.

    • by noidentity (188756) on Saturday August 14, 2010 @03:20PM (#33252162)
      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."
    • 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 sleeping pills I ever read.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday August 15, 2010 @03:42AM (#33255606)

      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.

      Basically it means unless they break a law, or violate some consumer protection statute, you can't sue them. So for example if you're just pissed off about their customer service, no lawsuit. If you're pissed about it not working very well, you might be able to sue under "product fitness" or even "false advertising" laws.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 14, 2010 @02:31PM (#33251926)

    Let's keep things in perspective here. Magicjack is a $20 product with service that costs up to $1.67 month. For $40 you get the hardware, with a money back guarantee (if you don't trust MagicJack directly, buy it from Best Buy or Radio Shack) and a full years of unlimited phone service. How much litigation / arbitration rights do you need. Who is going to file a lawsuit for $40.

    I bought a MagicJack and it has worked great for me. I like it a lot more than Skype.

    Sure, the informercialness of the product is really cheesy but it appears to be working for them.

    I am looking forward to see what MagicJack comes up with next. More competition seems to be very good in the telecommunications space.

    • by localman57 (1340533) on Saturday August 14, 2010 @02:49PM (#33251996)
      I think you're missing the point. The point isn't whether it's worth $40, but what they're doing in addition to providing the obvious service. There was a time when party-lines were cheaper than single-service lines. But the trade off was that your neighbors could hear all your business. At the time, people were up-front about that. If Magic-Jack's business plan is to allow you to trade your privacy for cheaper phone service and a bombardment of ads, good for them. As you say, more competition. Let the market decide. But they need to be up front about the whole cost including the non-monitary compromises you're making using their service.
    • by black6host (469985) on Saturday August 14, 2010 @04:08PM (#33252364)

      >>and a full years of unlimited phone service.

      It's not unlimited. Believe me. I bought 2, one for me and one for the wife. Within 2 days they suspended her account for over usage. Their terms say they can do so if you exceed the average callers usage by a factor of 20. Of course, they don't tell you what the average is. No warning, just cut her off. Then, mine starting not working unless I restarted the software every time I wanted to make a call. Coincidence? I wouldn't know but since we share the same IP address I believe not. No problem, we took hers back, got our money back and I use mine to connect my cordless phones to Skype. Would not recommend that anyone buy Magic Jack.

      • by jp10558 (748604) on Wednesday August 18, 2010 @02:10PM (#33291478)

        Hmm, this doesn't jive with what I've heard on the dedicated (though unofficial) forums. You can use 2000 minutes before there's any AUP issue. I recall they did have a limit on the number of different numbers you could call in an hour because they were getting telemarketers buying them and their TOS was home use, not business.

        These complaints are very rare, and usually because someone has very unusual usage patterns. That said, they do the same thing ISPs were getting in trouble with, calling limited service unlimited.

    • by RicktheBrick (588466) on Saturday August 14, 2010 @05:41PM (#33252856)
      I have a little bit of experience with the Magicjack system. First my son-in-law had one. Since it is connected to a computer, it will not work unless the computer is turned on. I do not know how many times I called and his computer was not powered up and working. I can just see someone whose house is on fire or a medical emergency waiting for the computer to boot so they can call for help. Why can't they make one that is a stand alone device that works on cat 5 so one can connect it to one's router and eliminate the computer. Second is the man I work for. He has one and has a old computer that he runs 24/7. He has an area code that is hundreds of miles away so if his neighbor wants to call him the call is a long distance call for that neighbor. He has a phone line from that computer to a phone with more than one lines so he can use the magicjack by pressing its line on the phone. Anyway I guess it is okay for calling out and for people who would have to use long distance to call you. I do not know how they can charge so little since I use my Charter for my phone company. The cost seem to be attractive until one adds all the fees and taxes. The real cost is not that much better than Verizon's phone service. How do they get away without paying for 911 services? How about federal and state taxes too? That is why I do not use vonage since they will never quote the true cost since taxes and fees are always added to the quoted price and after one does that the true cost is not worth not having someone to call and complain to if there are any problems. I have used Charter for about 3 years now and have not had any problems with it. It has a adapter with a coaxial line to it. I have a cordless phone connect to the adapter and I have 3 other cordless phone in other rooms that use that system and it works fine. But since the first year has expired the cost is not any better that Verizon and I have that adapter box which will not work if there is no power so if I lose power I will have no way to call for help. I have a old cell phone that I keep charged for that purpose since I can call 911 on it if I lose power or if Charter goes down.
  • 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 Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 14, 2010 @03:05PM (#33252064)

    Skip to 6:45 to hear about MagicJack:

    http://boingboing.net/2010/04/04/npr-on-slapp-lawsuit.html [boingboing.net]

  • 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 Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 14, 2010 @09:51PM (#33254280)

      Google MagicSilence. It is a plugin / app that suppresses the magic jack window until you specifically open it. Quite useful.

      • by maillemaker (924053) on Monday August 16, 2010 @11:46AM (#33264278)
        awesome!
        • by HermMunster (972336) on Monday August 16, 2010 @02:45PM (#33266554)

          The way that program works is that it looks at the window title of the active window and dumps it into the background or minimizes it. Anyone can write a program like that.

          You can probably start the magic jack program as a service instead of as a start up program that way it will load in the back ground but not require you to log in to your computer. Though, I personally see no value in having passwords on your account (which is why you aren't logging in) or you have multiple accounts (which I don't recommend either), or you have the asp.net account (in which case I would recommend you delete the account). That way, when you start the computer the magic jack program will start in the background and you will go to your desktop once you turn the computer on.

          • by maillemaker (924053) on Monday August 16, 2010 @03:04PM (#33266776)

            This used to be a desktop machine, and I had multiple accounts for various family members.

            Now that it is the "TV computer", I will delete the other accounts and take the password off of the default account.

            Still like the MagicSilence application though.

  • 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.
  • by MogNuts (97512) on Saturday August 14, 2010 @04:07PM (#33252362)

    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?

    • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday August 15, 2010 @10:14PM (#33260210)

      I've used Vonage for over 5 years with next to no issue other than the odd call being choppy, but most of the time it is as good as a standard POTS line.

      That being said I've recently switched to voip.ms and am currently waiting on the Vonage number to port over to it. Quality wise I'm finding voip.ms to be on par with what I got with Vonage, which also tells me Vonage is using value routing when you place calls. With voip.ms a call within Canada is $0.0052/minute on the value route. I had Vonage's 500 minute plan ($19.99/month in Canada), with voip.ms that number of outbound minutes will set me back $2.50 or so. I averaged less than 300 minutes total usage on Vonage each month, so it is much cheaper for me to use a PAYG provider.

      I also have a MJ line but I rarely use it as I find the quality to be much poorer on it most of the time. Not bad for $30/year mind you.

      • by MogNuts (97512) on Monday August 16, 2010 @08:42AM (#33262456)

        Interesting. See, I had Vonage and had the opposite effect. It was great, but it would cut out. And cut out big time. Not like a cell phone where it would sound robotic but still go through, or you knew if you lost the person. I could be talking and hearing the person and never know the other person couldn't hear me. And then I had them do a firmware update on the adapter and had them utilize different ports. Sounded even worse. Sounded like I was underwater 70% of the time. *However,* I had my adapter behind a router (though I'd never do otherwise and place the adapter before it--a firewall is more important to have). But Vonage was plugged in via ethernet and I tuned my QoS for VoIP (although now that I think about it maybe QoS shoulda been off if my VoIP was on a non-standard port because then it would make my VoIP go *last* in line).

        You would think though having dedicated hardware would make the VoIP solution better. Funny thing is, Skype with a wired ethernet connection has been best (as for VoIP). But again, only good 90% of the time. Which I guess is fine, but not for me. There are times you have have to a call work or a boss or do a job interview. You can't risk it then.

        Anybody please comment on this, but my theory is you really need a fiber line with a specialty router to get quality like POTS. I think the latency, slow upload speeds, many packet requests, and consumer routers not being able to handle the load, will result in VoIP *never* working for consumer-level VoIP. Am I wrong? Or ways to address these issues?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 14, 2010 @06:46PM (#33253292)

    Providers like voip.ms and callcentric offer decent service with DID termination. voip.ms is about $2/month and $0.005 (half a cent) per minute. They support g.729, PCM and GSM codecs, and follow SIP standards (ie. they work on Linux)!

  • by jeremyrnelson (1878772) on Saturday August 14, 2010 @06:52PM (#33253330)
    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 their business model is more solid than MagicJack, without the annoyance of being tied to a PC. My recommendation is to purchase the older Hub/Scout package as opposed to the newer models - there are fewer fees (I think all new users have to pay something like $12/year for regulatory charges), and you can use whatever devices you like. The primary downside is what to do when the device dies (which thankfully hasn't happened yet). Their customer service isn't bad, either. Had to call them about porting a number, and it took a while, but they got it right without bouncing me from person to person in India.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 14, 2010 @07:35PM (#33253588)

      Sounds decent, but $240 is pretty steep when you can get an ATA for ~$50 now. Combo that up with one of the dozens of SIP providers, and you've got basically the same thing, but with a cheaper $1-10 or so monthly bill depending on use and provider. Also, you're using standard SIP service which means it works with any other SIP device or interconnect.

      If you want to get fancy you can combo Google Voice with SIP Sourcery and a free incoming SIP provider like sipgate, and if you don't care about E911 location service, do away with the monthly fee altogether.

      It's interesting to see the different business models the companies are using to try to actually make money off of the exponential price crash of voice phone service. It seems like Ooma's model works best for customers who buy, then immediately stop using the device, or people who need to buy a new device at least every 2-5 years or so.

  • by Mr. Freeman (933986) on Saturday August 14, 2010 @09:34PM (#33254210)
    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.
    • by ISurfTooMuch (1010305) on Sunday August 15, 2010 @04:21AM (#33255696)

      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?

    • 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 no better. For a while now, voice has been just another form of data, as are text messages and various internet connectivity. Meanwhile, tethering is treated as if it was somehow *VERY SPECIAL*, as if those bits cost more for some reason. Somehow, it's all billed at different rates and no matter how many things are "unlimited" in your wireless plan, there's always at least one more thing you need. "What's this overage, I have unlimited text, voice and data?" "You tethered for two seconds, so the limits all came back" "So what is my cost to remove that limit?" "unlimited!"

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 14, 2010 @10:07PM (#33254334)

    I haven't used it myself but NetTalk (www.nettalk.com) offers a product similar to MagicJack but has no requirement to connect it to the PC (but you can if you want).

  • by clint999 (1277046) on Sunday August 15, 2010 @03:30AM (#33255570) Homepage Journal
    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.
  • by TangoMargarine (1617195) on Sunday August 15, 2010 @10:35AM (#33256724) Journal
    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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