Ooma, The “One Year Later” Review

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3 Feb 2010

Ooma, VoIP a Year Later Review

This is the second “One Year Later” review that I’ve done where I feel like a day, a week, or even a month just doesn’t do service to a review about an item(s) that should be used and critiqued over the year to find any and all problems, quirks and hopefully all of the good parts all enough time to come to the surface. Just a bit over a year ago, I purchased one of the Ooma Hub and Scout combo packages and decided I was going to test it. As with all over VoIP platforms, the Ooma Hub depends upon your internet connection. Your connection goes down, so goes your ability to use your phone.

That’s the nature of VoIP.

But just like Vonage, who I have been with for 7 years, or just like magicJack who I’ve kept for 2 years whenever I travel, and now Ooma – which I’ve kept now for slightly over a year. I tend to stick to commercial VoIP solutions because I like the support they give me. And in one year, I’ve had to contact Ooma only once for an outage last April that lasted for about 4 hours. Mind you, I don’t even make that many phone calls, but seeing that little red light just bothered me enough to send them an e-mail. They promptly responded and solved the problem in under a few hours for all users of Ooma. No problems since.

Unlike magicJack, there’s no implicit limit to how long a phone call can last. You can talk for 60, 90, 270 minutes and it will not disconnect you. The voice quality is on par, if not better than an AT&T landline. In fact, people have heard more of what was going on in my background than an AT&T landline. Sometimes, that’s not a good thing… but that’s another post 😉

Ooma does require a hefty price for their equipment. Their newer Ooma Telo hardware just screams out über-sexy with that fingerprint magnet black plastic and smooth corners, while the older (see above) equipment would be just fine in a 1960 retro styled home alongside your childhood Han Solo blaster toy. Call me odd, but I love my older one just fine. Ooma Telo can be purchased from Amazon.com, Best Buy and other retailers starting around $199.99 to about $249.99. Good part though? There are zero monthly bills after that. But you have to hope that Ooma stays in business so you’ll still have the ability to call out and not just have a pricey piece of kit in your house.

So how does Ooma make money? Besides investments by people ranging from Ashton Kutcher, Ooma’s Creative Director, to venture capitalist that have put in as much as $18.3 million in investments just in Summer of 2009; Ooma makes money from Premier Subscribers and from pre-paid overseas phone calls. Mind you, their rates aren’t exactly the best, but I’d venture to say they’re pretty darn close. But the experience of calling overseas is hit or miss. Phone calls to Germany and Britain were flawless. Better than a cellphone in most cases. Phone calls to Japan, China and New Zealand… went badly. I had to call them again in order to be heard in most cases. And I have a 10mb digital cable connection that’s pretty solid most of the time.

Premier Subscriptions cost $9.99 a month, or $119.99 a year – up from $99.99 when I first purchased my Ooma Hub and Scout – and offers quite a few good perks: Instant Second Line™, Three-way Conferencing, Multi-Ring (the ability to ring more than one phone, like your cellphone for instance) and a rollover, Back-up Number when the internet isn’t being friendly.

For all intents and purposes, I didn’t renew my Premier subscription, despite being grand-fathered with a few other perks that are no longer part of the Premier subscriptions, I just didn’t find myself using it. I have call-waiting. I have caller ID. I can call all of the US without a problem. I have voicemail that I can check via the internet – Ooma’s web interface is actually quite decent and easy to use – or I can check directly on the machine itself. The speaker quality on the Ooma Hub is good and loud. I have e911 access that’s accurate to my house street address. And if you’re another Ooma subscriber, wherever you’re at, I can call you for free. Take the machine to China, once you’re plugged in, I can call you like it’s a free call.

To be honest, that’s all I need. I really don’t want nor need a landline, but having a second line in the house is cool to have in case somebody insists on sending a fax, which Ooma supports too.

But the bad parts about Ooma… I seriously can’t tell you how long they will be around. I’ve gotten a year, so I’ve gotten my money’s worth. They’ve secured more money, they have a presence in Best Buy and Radio Shack, as well as an online presence via Buy.com and Amazon. So I know they’re selling quite a few. Despite being extremely easy to set up, setting up the Ooma behind the router really isn’t suggested. I’ve had some quality problems and what I ended up doing was splitting from the modem to the Ooma Hub then to my wireless router. No problems sense.

Is this the telecom killer? Nope. Is it a good for everybody? No. Is it good if you can find an Ooma Telo or Ooma Hub for cheap? Heck yes. If you’re adventurous, I’d say get it – not knowing if Ooma will go all Sunrocket and instantly close shop on you is a serious fear to have. But for the last year, I’m actually impressed with my Ooma Hub. It saves me cellphone minutes per month. Heck, I have my Google Voice account hooked into my Ooma phone number… so I’ve gotten my money’s worth. But I’m hesitant to buy this for my mother, despite the Ooma Telo being sexy as all get out.

Final statement: Easy to set up, pretty kickass barebones without a Premier Subscription, but it’s just too risky to purchase if you’re not used to being on the edge. I’d call this a 3.5 out of 5 (Only If You’re Brave) – oh, and I don’t even use the Ooma Scout since I use only VoIP and not the landline functionality that Ooma supports.

3.5 out of 5 (Only If You're Brave)

[ Links: Ooma ] [ Related: magicJack “Year Later Review” ]

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