My family has been VOIP (voice over Internet protocol) users for some years now. We had Vonage and Packet 8 in the past and then along came MagicJack. Somewhere along the way Google started offering Google Voice for free nationwide calls (low cost international), which my husband and I both signed up for. It was a great way to have an extra number for those calls we wanted to have a bit more control over and also a perfect backup number to have when we were perhaps switching from one provider to another or just needed a backup number to have someone call. The only requirement is to make a call from it now and then, and they’ll even send you a reminder to do so, so that you won’t lose your number.
We recently learned about Obihai. It acts as a portal to allow Google Voice calls to be routed to a regular landline phone. Of course your other options would be to make and receive those calls to your computer or through an app, but I find this great to have for when you’re at home (which I am a lot). It’s just convenient. You purchase this device once and you’re done. The call quality is very good with a decent internet connection. Our MagicJack has been iffy at times and contacting customer service can be an absolute pain with their hold times and often unresolved issues. We only stuck with them because of the low yearly rates but it has been a frustrating experience at times. We purchased a 5 year plan with them, but after that time is up, this may very well be the end of the line (no pun intended) for us.
The Obihai was very simple to set up. Connect it to an available port on your router and then connect your phone to it. From there you go to the Obihai website and create an account. Allow it to access your Google Account and it sets everything up from there. You’re not restricted to just Google Voice as it supports many other VOIP providers, but I’ve used it as my talking point because it’s what we have. One of my favorite features is that it supports up to four service providers, so my husband and I both have our Google Voice Calls routed to it and there’s still room for 2 more. You can receive calls to the Obihai itself even if you don’t have Google Voice (but why wouldn’t you, it’s free!), but I believe the caller has to have an Obihai or at least the app. The phone number is assigned and located on the bottom of the device and it’s not your typical ten digits, but rather a nine digit number. The app also allows you to receive calls to your smart device.
I attempted to add our MagicJack device, but I didn’t have the configuration information to do so. From reading up on a forum, it appears that you can purchase an adapter that would make it possible, but that costs about as much as we paid for the device itself, so I haven’t pulled myself to give in just yet. I did try rigging our setup with a phone line splitter which threw everything off.
One downside of the Obihai is that you can’t make 911 calls directly using its service. If you are connecting one of your other providers, though, and it’s available using their services, you’re good. You can purchase additional services, if you’d like, starting at $4.99/month and cheaper if you want to pay for more time upfront. Some of these services include call-blocking, caller id specifically for Google Voice calls and a dedicated fax number that allows you to receive faxes to your email.
Until this Sunday 6/19/16 aka Father’s Day, the Obihai is available at Newegg.com for $34.99. Regular price is $49.99.