A topic that is always of interest to expats is VOIP telephone service. What is VOIP? Well, it is Voice over Internet Protocol, basically it is a telephone service on which you can call overseas using the Internet, and thus avoiding paying long distance International phone charges. There are many different companies offering VOIP service. Some of the companies that I have used over the years include Skype, Vonage, Magic Jack and perhaps a few others as well.
My Vonage Experience
For me, it all got started back in like 2003 or so when I got a Vonage account. You needed to get a special router box and a few other things, but I was able to have somebody ship that stuff to me, and I enjoyed great inexpensive phone service to and from the States for about 8 years. As I recall, I paid something like $20 per month or so for unlimited calling to and from the US, Canada and a few other countries. The service was good. In 2011, my Vonage router quit working after some 8 years of service. It kind of put me in a jam, because I needed to be able to communicate with family and business clients through my US telephone number. I called Vonage for assistance, and they were very unhelpful with me, so I decided to drop them. I figured that as a long term customer they would have wanted to keep me as a client, but it seemed they didn’t really care, so I moved on.
My Skype Experience
My next step was to go to Skype. I already had a Skype account which I had used a few times over the years, and it worked OK. So, after the Vonage fiasco, I signed up for a Skype-In number (in other words, just a US phone number tied to my Skype account) and also a monthly plan where I could make unlimited calls to the USA. This worked well, but frankly, I missed the fact that using Vonage, I could make calls just using a “regular” telephone that was hooked to my router. Needing to be on the computer was a bit of a hassle.
Magic Jack enters the picture
A few months later, somebody told me about Magic Jack. I had actually already heard of Magic Jack, but had never really tried it out or anything. The friend who told me about Magic Jack was kind enough to send me a Magic Jack Plus, a device that hooked to my router instead of my computer, and allowed me to make International calls using my regular telephones instead of my computer. I like it, and it worked great. After using Magic Jack for a year, I had to pay $30 for another year of unlimited calling, which I gladly did. Unfortunately, only about a month after paying for another year of calling, my Magic Jack Plus device bit the dust. I could no longer get a dial tone on my phone, and through some testing, I found that the unit was broken. I tried everything I could to fix it, but to no avail. So, I had a year worth of calling that I just paid for, but no way to use it.
Back to Skype for me. But, frankly, I still did not like Skype all that much. I just found that it was not that versatile in the ways that I wanted it to be.
After a few weeks of using the Skype, I found myself wanting to find out how to fix that Magic Jack, so I started doing some Internet searching. I still could not find any way to get the unit working, but I did come across something that I had not considered. In one of my searches about Magic Jack, I came across some indication that Magic Jack now had Apps that worked with either iPhone or Android Phones. I use an Android phone, so this sounded kind of interesting. I quickly found this video:
This really caught my attention. I could use my existing Magic Jack account (with that credit that I just purchased) with my Android device, even if my Magic Jack unit no longer worked. Perfect! I quickly downloaded the App onto my phone, got it all configured, and it worked great! I was so happy. After getting it working on my phone, I installed the App on Feyma’s phone, and also some other family members, all using the regular Magic Jack number that we had been using for more than a year.
Just a quick note… on the video they talk about how if you don’t have a Magic Jack account, there is a bit of a hassle for people calling you using the Magic Jack App. But, the key is that if you do have a Magic Jack account (which I do), they can call you hassle free by just dialing your number, like any other phone call. So, if you want people to be able to call you, just sign up for an account. It will cost you something like $30 per year, but to me that is well worth the money.
So, for any expats out there who want to use Magic Jack, but don’t necessarily want to have to get the Magic Jack unit, this may be a great solution for you. I know it works great for me.