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Cable and DSL providers have been offering digital phone service as a low-cost alternative to expensive land lines for a while now, and this is truly the wave of the future for home phones -- AT&T already has plans to stop providing traditional land lines in the coming years. So is it time for you to make the switch and start saving money? This review will explain when it makes sense for you and then will look closely at the hottest selling digital phone service, Ooma.
Does Switching Make Sense for You?
Digital phone service gives you far, far more features than traditional land lines, and at a fraction of the cost. Forward calls to other phones; do 3-way calling; get voice messages by e-mail; get called ID and call waiting; unlimited calls in the countries covered by your plan; etc. Most plans are $25 or less per month, and some are under $10/month. And yes, you can port your home phone number over to the new service.
In fact, if they worked flawlessly, there would be almost no reason not to make the switch to digital phone services. One of the big differences is that they don't offer quite the same 911 service -- they offer what's called E911. You can usually take these services with you, so you need to make sure you update your location in the system if 911 is going to help you.
But the bigger issue is that call quality comes down to internet bandwidth, and if you don't have a robust internet connection, you could run into call quality problems. This is especially true if someone in the house is playing an online game, another is watching Netflix (or any internet based show service), and so on. The more the internet is being used, the tougher a time you may have with your phone.
This is true of any internet or digital phone service, though some have better technology to adapt to this than others.
One other thing to consider: when the electricity (or just your internet) goes out, your digital phone goes out too. With traditional landlines, you're usually able to still make calls when the electricity goes out, provided you don't use a phone that gets plugged in. With cell phones available, this isn't a problem for many people, but you should make sure that won't be a problem for you before you make the switch. Most digital phone services (including Ooma) can forward calls to a cell phone when the digital service is not available.
So out of today's digital phone services, why is Ooma so popular?
Simple: once you buy the device (starting under $100) the service is practically free. They have to charge some federal fees, which total a couple bucks per month, but that's it. Use your internet connection and you're good to go.
This "free" service (a couple bucks that they have no control over) includes:
If you're still using a traditional landline and you have services like these, you'll know that they cost a lot. But not with Ooma. And with Ooma, you can choose to upgrade (around $10/month) as well for features like:
When we first switched to Ooma, we had problems with calls blanking out for a couple seconds at a time, then coming back. We tested an upgrade to our internet speed and this completely fixed it. So in this sense, Ooma wasn't free -- we had to get better internet for our home. But since we use services like Netflix and have 4 computers using the internet heavily, this makes sense for us in many ways.
If you have a good speed to your internet -- I recommend at least 12 Mbps as an internet speed, and ideally over 20 if you have several devices using it at once -- then Ooma is a fantastic service with thousands of reviews and 4.5 stars on Amazon.