Ooma Telo Review (Free phone service?)

2010 April 10

Update: For a limited time, save $50 off Ooma and get free shipping!

Ooma Telo offers free phone service, with no monthly fees!  It uses VoIP technology, using your internet connection to handle phone calls, similar to Vonage.  Unlike Vonage, there are no monthly fees.  You pay up front when you purchase the hardware, for around $250.  Ooma has been around since 2007, and this is the second generation VoIP hardware.  It is easy, easy to set up, and voice quality is very good as long as you have a half-decent internet connection.  And you can keep your existing phone number!

Really Free?

Yep.  All domestic US calls are free.  International calls are cheap, if you care.

But there are two asterisks to free**.  First, there is an annual fee of $11.75, beginning in your second year of service.  This is to cover regulatory fees and taxes.  Notice that is annual, not monthly.  So less than $1/month after year one.  No biggie.

The other potential cost is an optional premier service, called Ooma Premier. It costs $10/month and offers some extra phone service goodies.  For some people, the extra features (such as 3-way calling and caller blacklisting) are worth the cost.  But beware: when you first sign up for Ooma, you are automatically enrolled in Ooma Premier.  The first 60 days are a free trial, which is nice, but if you don’t opt-out before the trial is over, you will begin to be charged for Ooma Premier.    No biggie, you have 60 days, just don’t forget to opt-out if you aren’t interested.

Porting your existing phone number to Ooma will cost $39.99, or free if you subscribe to Ooma Premier.

Overall Impression

I really like this phone service.  It is my first VoIP experience.  Well, I guess that’s not totally true… until recently I have been doing the triple play deal with Time Warner Cable for phone, TV, and internet.  Their phone service is actually VoIP over the cable connection.  I’m quite happy to say goodbye to $30/month for local phone service.  Yes, the initial cost of the Ooma Telo is a bit steep, but it will have paid for itself in less than 1 year.  See my post running the Ooma numbers for more details.

Call quality is good, and a standard high speed internet connection will be fine, such as DSL or cable.  For more details on if your existing internet connection is sufficient, see my post running the Ooma numbers.  You can use your existing phones.  I plug in my cordless phone base station directly to the Ooma.  You can also have Ooma take over your whole home phone line circuit by plugging it into a wall jack.  I think you have to disconnect from the telephone company first, though.  You get caller ID and call waiting.

Other Cool Things

The Ooma dial-tone has short musical tone when you first pick up…  it’s a pleasant touch, I think.  You can also change the tone.

I really like our current answering machine/cordless phone setup.  Got a great price at amazon.com for 3 cordless phones + answering machine (AT&T Digital BlueTooth Cordless Answering System (TL92378)).  This phone system also integrates with your cell phone over bluetooth, so you can take/make cell phone calls with the cordless handsets.  Nice.

One thing has annoyed me about this phone, however.  It tracks recent calls and makes it easy to redial or save a number, however, just like a cell phone, long distance calls are logged as 10-digit numbers, without the leading “1”.  Try redialing a 10-digit phone number on a regular land-line and you will fail.  Annoying.  Works on a cell phone, why can’t land lines figure this out?  Well, Ooma figured it out, and has fixed my #1 annoyance with my cordless phones!

Ooma also seems to have some nice voicemail features, including google voice integration, but to be honest, I’m not using that stuff right now.  I’m not motivated enough to learn a new system, and we have a decent answering machine currently that works just fine.  So I just have our answering machine set to pick up after 4 rings, and Ooma set to 5.

That’s my impressions so far!

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