Cheap to buy, cheaper to use, what’s the catch? Know what there is to know about magicJack and magicApp
magicJack is a bit of a curveball in the VoIP space: with an emphasis on personal use and the ability to “cut the cord” (the landline one, not the Internet one), it has the potential to free up some extra cash without costing too much in itself.
Easy to use and set up
Works with existing hardware
International calls cost extra
Questionable security commitments
Limited business functionality
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Fifteen-year-old magicJack continues to occupy a niche area of the market, but with so many companies pushing subscription-based business models, could this low-cost alternative set to challenge the traditional landline finally have its day?
magicJack works by setting up a plug-and-play device in your home, somewhere between your router and your phone, bringing VoIP capabilities to your home phone line. In an effort to appeal to more customers, the magicApp extends this into the palm of your hands.
magicJack VoIP: Plans and pricing
Unlike most other VoIP services, magicJack requires specific hardware before you can even consider adding things like its smartphone app. The devices features a USB plug, an ethernet port, and a further port for connecting to phones. This costs $59.99, though it can be found on offer from time to time and currently sells for $49.99.
For this one-off payment, you get access to 12 months’ services using both the magicIN (receiving calls) and magicOUT (making calls) services, or 15 months’ services using just the one service. Beyond this, users can sign up for one, two, or three-year plans at the cost of $43, $79, and $109 respectively. Clearly, the longer commitment you’re willing to make, the more money you can save, and remember, these are paid annually so there are no monthly costs unlike traditional landlines.
Prices vary somewhat for renewals depending on the services you choose, but expect to pay less than $43 for a year of unlimited calling.
There are various plans available. (Image credit: magicJack)
magicJack VoIP: Features
Let’s turn our attention to the ports, because these are likely unfamiliar to anybody toying with VoIP services (though they’re not too dissimilar to some landline setups). The USB is designed to power the device, and can be plugged into an adapter or a computer.
An ethernet cable should then be inserted into the device and the router, while a third cable can connect the device to a phone. This means, for example, that any calls coming through your home phone system with magicJack installed will be using VoIP.
The company claims that one of the major benefits to this is crystal clear voice quality, and of course the reduction in monthly outgoings, though you’ll still need an active Internet connection.
Among the list of included features are free voicemail, free call forwarding, free call waiting, free caller ID, and even free conferencing calling.
This is primarily a US service, though the company has recently announced Canadian number porting, too. All calls between magicJack users are free, however international calls are charged at varying rates. A call from the UK, for example, will cost from 2.2c/minute. Expect to pay from 19c/minute from Jamaica. Credits can be bought separately, however they expire after six months which raises questions over whether magicJack is suitable for international calling.
Connect magicJack to your home phone or use magicApp. (Image credit: magicJack)
magicJack VoIP: Interface and in use
Further leveraging the benefits of Internet calling, magicJack works with a dedicated smartphone app for iOS and Android, which it calls magicApp. This enhances the experience by offering unlimited text messaging to US phone numbers on top of the calling functionality of the physical device.
Like magicJack, unlimited, free-of-charge magicApp-to-magicApp calling is included. The app also integrates with your phone’s contacts so it’s easier to identify known phone numbers.
Users looking to take the mobile functionality without the home-destined hardware can pay a monthly fee to use magicApp, too, though because it’s a service that has regular consumers and personal customers in mind, they are likely to already have minutes included in their plan so the use cases for this can be quite limited.
Use magicApp to call or send messages using your contacts. (Image credit: App Store)
magicJack VoIP: Support
Support channels are aplenty, and as you would expect, there is an extensive catalog of self-help articles to point you in the right direction, many of which are handily laid out in step-by-step bullets.
Beyond this, there are a number of phone numbers to choose from depending whether you’re after sales, customer service, and so on, and an online chat. However, the online chat is purely a chatbot, and when things get tough, you’re directed to a form for email communications, which means real-time support isn’t available online.
Follow self-help articles or get in touch with an advisor. (Image credit: magicJack)
magicJack VoIP: Security
A statement reads: “We are not responsible for the disclosure or interception of your information before we receive it… please note that this is not a guarantee that such information may not be accessed, disclosed, altered, or destroyed by breach of any of our physical, technical, or managerial safeguards.”
With the company wiping its hands of elements of customer security and privacy, this undoubtedly raises some questions, especially for users who may be using magicJack’s lines for business.
magicJack doesn’t share many direct rivals thanks to its niche that sees it tackling personal customers, offering low prices, and a piece of hardware that usually isn’t requires by other VoIP providers.
Vonage for Home (opens in new tab) is one such example, however it can be considerably more expensive. That said, it has more features and can appeal to some smaller businesses, too.
While it is a niche product, magicJack offers an interesting proposition that allows customers to cut their phone lines, helping them to reduce monthly expenditure. We like the low-cost business model, and it’s made even better by a complementary app that works with the hardware that you receive when signing up for magicJack. Its uses are fairly limited, and international calling will set you back money in credits, but if you’re the type of person who doesn’t use the phone an awful lot, it may be the perfect money-saving hack.
With several years’ experience freelancing in tech and automotive circles, Craig’s specific interests lie in technology that is designed to better our lives, including AI and ML, productivity aids, and smart fitness. He is also passionate about cars and the electrification of personal transportation. As an avid bargain-hunter, you can be sure that any deal Craig finds is top value!