Review: Ooma Telo home VoIP system, part 1
This will be a multi-part review of the Ooma Telo home Internet-based phone system. Part 1 will cover the details about my situation and why I chose Ooma, as well as the setup and use of the Ooma Telo base and Ooma HD2 handset. I will be posting additional reviews about the system as I spend more time using the equipment. I hope you find this useful!
Before Ooma, I was one of those people who still had (and was paying way too much every month for) a landline phone system for my home. I kept the landline because the AT&T cellular reception at home was unreliable. I also run a home-based business, so having a dependable phone service is mandatory. Even more, I felt tied to my landline as I have a home security system that uses the landline to send signals to the monitoring center. Last, I REALLY didn’t want to deal with getting a new phone number. Rather than resolve this mess of issues, I kept paying the nearly $40/month for a landline that I barely use.
I knew a stand-alone Internet-based phone system was the way to go, but unsure of which to choose. With most Internet phone systems, I would likely have to upgrade my ADT security panel with a cellular add-on so it could still communicate with the monitoring center (I was able to do this for $100 fee and a $5/month increase in my bill). Also, my calling needs are bit unique. I only make a few calls a day, but I do regularly need to call the US and Canada. And, I really wanted the new system to be able to work with my existing landline phone number.
Vonage was one option. You get a lot of minutes and coverage area for your money, but you still have to pay about $40/month with taxes and fees, which would be about a wash with my current bill based on my calling habits. I considered Magic Jack too. After a little research, you can find that Magic Jack is, in fact, a very credible piece of hardware. The new Magic Jack Plus costs between $50-70, and then has an ongoing monthly fee to cover taxes, etc. I opted against Magic Jack primarily due to complaints about customer service and quality.
Enter Ooma Telo! Amazon.com offers the Ooma Telo system for just under $130. It’s quite a bit more than Magic Jack, but we’re really only talking about an extra two months before the system pays for itself. And, how can I go wrong with a device that at the time of this post has 3,775 reviews on Amazon.com with an average rating of 4.5 stars (Magic Jack has just 3)? I use Amazon.com A LOT, and 4+ stars with over 3,700 review is not common.
Throughout the weeks I spent deciding to buy Ooma, I used their chat-based customer support at least ten times to get answers to questions. The wait time was always short (less than a minute) and my questions were always answered completely. I decided to buy both the Ooma Telo base and one Ooma HD2 handset. Buying the HD2 handset allowed me to use Ooma Telo and continue using the existing landline (the handset is totally optional, and Ooma Telo absolutely will work with your existing landline handsets. More on this later when discussing how to setup Ooma Telo).
Setup was easy. Open the box and enter the details from the Ooma Telo base into the Ooma.com website. Complete the registration steps on Ooma.com, including adding a credit card that will serve as the payment for the unavoidable monthly taxes/fees — just more than $5 for the Chicago area (the site provides a tool to show you what your charges will be). You will also choose up to two new phone numbers in any area code(s) you want (more on “porting” your existing landline phone number to your Ooma service later!). Once the online setup is complete, you need to connect the Ooma Telo base to your home Internet. If you have ports available, you can connect the Ooma Telo base to your router with the provided ethernet cable. If wi-fi is your best connection option, you can buy the optional Wireless Adaptor that can be plugged into the back of the Ooma Telo base to connect to your wi-fi network. Once power is connected, the system will bootup, download any software updates needed, and you are ready to call.
My HD2 handset was charging while I completed the base setup, and it was charged enough to make a call when I was done. To use the HD2 handset, you first need to register the device with the base by pushing one button on the base — very easy. The handset has a rounded back and round edges, and is quite comfortable (more so than my iPhone, for sure). The menu system will be self-explanatory for most, and the setup guide will answer any remaining questions. The sound quality was as good as I hoped, and I was pleasantly happy not to have a complaint or concern. For those that want to use your existing landline handsets, all you need to do is use a phone cable to connect the Ooma Telo base to an existing landline phone jack. Ooma Telo then broadcasts the Ooma dial tone through the household wiring. Connect your existing handsets to any other phone jack connected to your wiring and you’re set.
Note: in order to use the existing household telephone wiring for Ooma, your landline phone service must be disconnected. If you have DSL Internet service in addition to your landline phone service and it has not previously been done, you will need to have the service provider de-couple the Internet and phone connections at the main junction box. This will separate the phone and DSL signals, and allow you to continue getting Internet service once your landline is canceled (needed for Ooma). The service provider may or may not charge to do this — there was no charge for me).
Once you are setup and running, you can access and manage all of the Ooma phone service settings online at my.ooma.com. You can setup, listen to, and manage voicemail – including sending email and SMS messages related to voicemail. In addition, you can setup call forwarding, integrate with Google Voice numbers, import contacts and sync with HD2 handset, view call history, and manage basic account details.
You can also add features from the website portal, including porting your existing landline phone number to your Ooma account. As I mentioned earlier, I wanted to avoid changing phone numbers for all of the reasons you can imagine – having to inform friends, family, clients, as well as updating profile info in the countless other places (credit cards, schools, etc, etc) where I have that phone number listed. I have already initiated the porting process, it takes just a few clicks and 1-time fee of $39.95 (Magic Jack charges $19.95, but there is an ongoing annual fee of $9.95 to keep the porting active). The porting process is supposed to take 2-4 weeks, and the progress is trackable when logged in to your Ooma account.
Another hidden benefit for me is the Ooma Mobile app. Once the free Ooma app is adding to your iPhone or Android device, you can use Ooma mobile to make phone calls when you are on a wi-fi network. This means that you can call any location in your Ooma coverage area (default is US and Canada) from your mobile phone from anywhere in the world. At least for me, even though I have a standard US-only cellular calling plan, I can now call back to the US and Canada when traveling without worrying about international roaming charges. How cool is that?
In all, so far so good! I am completely happy with the purchase. It is a fun toy and useful product. Customer service has been very good. The quality of the hardware is good. The design and functionality of the my.ooma.com website is good too. There are cheaper ways to get a the VoIP phone system, but I am a believer in “you get what you pay for”, and so far Ooma has definitely been worth the investment.
More to come once I spend more time with Ooma and the phone number porting…
Interested in Ooma for yourself? Use this link to get $50!