Tag Archives: 911

Does the MagicJack Really Work? Yes! (and you can fax too)

Why did I buy MagicJack?

We haven’t had land-line service in our house for six years.  It just seemed like an unnecessary expense month after month when we both carried around cell phones.  Yes, I’m aware of the 911 argument but it has been a risk we were willing to take.  Things change, we had kids, and moved out of a dense neighborhood onto some land. Gentry, my wife, was concerned that 911 service would have a difficult time finding us via cell phone. Plus, our primary babysitter doesn’t have a mobile phone.  So, to ease all concerns, we bought the Magic Jack. I can honestly say… The Magic Jack works.

What is the MagicJack?

There are two components to the Magic Jack: 1. The device itself and 2. A yearly service component.  As far as I can determine the device has several purposes:

  1. It is a USB storage device which, once plugged into your PC for the first time, automatically installs the MagicJack software.  (Updates are automatically applied as needed.)
  2. It is a phone to USB converter. You can use any old touchtone phone.
  3. It also serves as a licensing device.  The installed software won’t successfully start on your PC unless this is plugged in.  You can take the device form PC to PC with ease without breaking any license agreement.

There are a couple of service plans available. We signed up for a three year plan for just a few bucks per year.

How does the MagicJack work?

Just in case you didn’t know, it’s not relly magic. Once plugged into your computer, a program known as a softphone launches and connects to a remote PBX somewhere on the Internet. The cool thing is that all the magic is transparent to the user — all you see is an onscreen phone app.  This is no different than other softphones which are common in corporations.  One of the great things about a softphone is that you are not bound by your home.  You can take your laptop with you to a hotel or Starbucks and make/receive calls as if you were sitting at your desk. Unlike other softphone solutions, the MJ must be plugged directly into your computer so the software can validate your license.

A phone is NOT required – yes, that is correct.  You can plug the MagicJack in and use your built in speakers/mic as a speakerphone.  Alternatively, you can plug in a headset to another USB port or even a Bluetooth headset.  Again, a phone is not required as a long as the MJ is plugged in to a USB port.

Can I pick my own phone number with a MagicJack?

Yes, well, kinda… You select an area code and prefix and you are offered several number options to select from.  We picked an area code for an area in which we actually live, but I would assume you can pick any area code that is available.

Does MagicJack offer 911 serivce?

Yes, when you run through the initial setup you are required to supply a physical address where the MJ will be used.  In the event you make a 911 call, the emergency service will be dispatched to this address.  Keep in mind that if you make a 911 call from Starbucks or a hotel room, the dispatcher will still get your home address.  Oops!

Does MagicJack offer voice mail and other enhanced services?

Yes, these are all included.  In fact, when you get a voice mail it will send it via an attachment to your email address on file. Caller ID, Call Waiting, and 411 are also included.

Can you fax with a MagicJack?

Yes, you can send and receive faxes with an external fax machine.  What’s not as obvious is that you can also send/receive faxes using the same Windows PC that your MagicJack is plugged into.  It sounds hokey, but you need to run a phone cable from your fax/modem port to the MagicJack — yes you have a phone cable in two ports on the same computer.  From here, you would fax like you normally would from within Windows — just set up your fax as a new printer and “print” to it. So, you should be able to fax anything you can print including Microsoft Word docs, email, photos, drawings, whatever…

Will MagicJack run on Windows 7?

I have used our MagicJack on Windows XP, Vista, and Win 7 without any difficulty.  I did notice in XP, that while the jack was plugged in, there was an IP Telephony update listed in WindowsUpdate.  I installed this update and didn’t notice any difference good or bad. This was an “optional” update so those of you who have updates set to automatic might not get this one.

What are the drawbacks or disadvantages of using MagicJack?

This is a best effort service designed to run over residential broadband.  As a result, the voice quality is not equal to traditional phone service.  Additionally, MJ requires an active Internet connection and will not work if you lose access for any reason (including power loss).  Compare this to traditional phone service which gets its power from the TelCo central office and gives you a constant dial tone even if you lose power.

What’s the result?

I highly recommend MJ for personal use. Considering the price, it is very low risk. It is a great way to shave some money off your monthly utility bills. However, MJ does not offer any service level agreements (SLA) so it may not be a wise solution if you are running a business and require consistent voice quality.