MagicJack, Simpler VoIP than Skype?

322 Comments

Who says the TED conference is only about movie stars and old basketball players? According to MarketWatch columnist Herb Greenberg, TED will be the official launching pad for MagicJack, a USB-based VoIP offering from telecom vet Dan (Tel-Save) Borislow that could make Skype’s simple setup look like calculus.

According to the just-live MagicJack website, the main “magic” appears to be an oversized-looking thumb-drive thingy with a USB connector on one end, and an analog phone jack on the other. Greenberg’s column says the total price for a device and a yearly subscription for all-you-can-eat dialing in the U.S. and Canada should be between $50 and $60 $29 and $39 the first year, $19.99 a year thereafter; so far, no other details have surfaced on how the pricing, connection and billing actually work, and whether it won’t be another free-calling fiasco.


Asking whether it could be a Skype-killer, like Greenberg does, is pure linkbait — at $50-60 $29-39 for the first year, $19.99 per year thereafter plus international charges, ain’t no way that’s gonna beat free, especially since millions of folks have found Skype plenty simple and already have it installed. But is MagicJack the type of innovation that should have communications conglomerators like Cisco, Microsoft and Avaya worried? Much more likely, but that doesn’t fit as nicely in a headline.

UPDATE 1: Pricing info from Greenberg column corrected throughout.

UPDATE 2: See some additional info from Borislow in comments.

Hat tip to IP Democracy for the link.

322 Comments

Carrol Peterson

When will the device be available? April has passed, still the website has no response to buyers.

C Decker

If the MagicJack device is USB and the phone plugs into the device, then how is it that the phone can be used while the computer is off?

Can the MagicJack device be used without a phone plugged into it like the Vonage usb one?

I’m interested in a device that I can plug into my laptop and use to make phone calls with a headset. I would also like to be able to plug my multifunction printer into the device so that I can send faxes when I’m at home. I’d like the device to be small and the MagicJack looks like it is. My question is, can it do the above functions that I am looking for?

Also, will it run on a Mac running Windows XP, and if it does, will it run in OS X using Parallels?

I’d love to be a beta tester, but I’m sure that enough people have already volunteered. I certainly would like to be a tester if you need one for an OS X version of the software or someone to test compatibility with Parallels.

Justin

Hi, I have been doing some research on this MagicJack, and so far this product seems to be amazing. I would much like to beta test this if I could, so if there are any extra MagicJacks out there please email me where to get my hands on one. Also when do they start taking orders?

Gina White

I am so intrigued by this product! I have tried several VOIP providers, the latest being Gizmo Project, which in my opinion is a far better product than Skype and many others. Paul if you have any extra MagicJacks to spare, I would very much like to be a beta tester.

Here’s to much success with MagicJack!

Gina

Srini Murty

I am in the market for a VOIP service. I currently use Skype (paid for it!) as well as a service from CordiaIP. My feelings about Skype are somewhat similar to Dan’s. I hate the voice quality, the fact that one can’t use a normal telephone. I would also like to get rid of CordiaIP only because their customer support sucks. My service was down for three weeks, and then I had to spend practically a half day with a support tech, including allowing him to remote control into my PC to configure my router (I know, I know, that sounds stupid, but I needed the service to be up). Finally, they got it running and promised me credit for the period when the service was down. No luck so far. My only problem is I have a phone number with them that has been splashed all over my business cards and other places. Can I port it to MagicJack? And Dan or Paul, can I get my grubby little hands on one of those beta thingies?

All the best for the MagicJack launch.

Srini

Mark Haney III

Does anyone know if MagicJack is a private company? It seems very interesting to me. I will be at the conference and try it.

Omar Ares

Hi, I’ve been testing MagicJack since early January with the best result so ever. currently I’m in Argentina making calls to my kids in US for free……..with the best quality …….I used to have net2phone or skype, and the quality does not compare…THis is a killer for the guys “on the road”…just open your laptop in the hotel plug MagicJack and call home or work free.
thanks Dan.

Atul Gupta

I am just a user looking for a phone service at my new home. Decided to wait a month for MagicJack rather than sign up for Vonage or SunRocket.

The question above is very relevant to me: why can’t the device plug directly into the modem or router instead of USB port?

Todd

I had the opportunity to use Magicjack last night for the first time. It is absolutely the BEST invention to come around in ages. The calls were crystal clear. My landline phone (AT&T) has had awful sound quality since I moved to my current house in Chicago in 2004. I tried Skype but was so annoyed with the echo and delay (USB cordless phone) that I stopped using Skype. MagicJack is exactly what is needed by busy people like me: full time job, 3 kids who I spend tons of time with when I get home (homework, playing, talking). By the time they’re in bed, I have no time to mess around trying to figure computer “stuff” out (mainly because i have no interest in computers). MagicJack installed itself in about 2 minutes time. After that, I plugged in my phone and started making calls. It is UNBELIEVABLE!!! I’ve already begun spreading the word on this.

I have a question and a comment: Can I port my current number to Magicjack for incoming calls?

My comment: The price point is incredibly low. I wouldn’t suggest raising it but I would realistically pay upwards of $50 for the hardware, EASILY. Probably more than that. Just a comment there, this product is THAT good. These computer journalists who have all the time in the world to mess around at their computers all day are not in touch with the real world, where people crave ease of use and simplicity . . . we don’t want to have to have 13 different VOIP providers, dozens of routers, etc. We don’t want any hassle’s.

This service BLOWS SKYPE OUT OF THE WATER!

Thank you Mr. Borislow! You are the BEST thing to happen to phone service since Bell created the phone!

just me

i use skype. i paid $38 per year for skypeIN. i have unlimited calls to any phone in the US and Canada for $30 per year. i have USB skype phone; i just plug it into my USB port, sign-in Skype, and talk from there.

i traveled to other countries often, and i use call forwarding (skypeOUT) about 18 cents per min.

if i switch over to magicjack, i’d pay $20 per year after the 1st year plus international charges.

how are the international charges comparing to skype??????

Todd

I am one of the people who is very computer illiterate, tried Skype (and hated it) and really didn’t want to deal with VOIP providers and whatever it took to get their product hooked up. I was so excited about Magicjack, and still am. THIS is the product for me and my family. Skype was a joke. My friend uses Yahoo and all I hear is echo when he calls.

From a non-techno geek, Magicjack is very exciting. I’m sold. $20 a year. How can you beat that?!!? I just don’t understand why people are ranting about magicjack. Ah, well . . .

Darren

Hi,

I am involved in sourcing and evaluating various electronic components. Currently, I am on the hunt for the best voip usb stick. I would like to take you up on your offer to get one of the magicjacks to tryout. Note: I am currently looking at several options.

Kind Regards,
Darren

Brad

I have Sunrocket and am currently trying ViaTalk. I would be interested in beta testing the MagicJack if you have any devices to spare.

Markus Goebel

Hello Dan,

after all we are calming down, but still I want to answer you comments, being polite and only argumenting about the device and it’s pricing. There were some personal attacks that have not been started by me. But I understand that attacks on ones product can easily been taken personally.

When you went to go to in your backyard and
swig down some Becks,do you bring your laptop
outside with all those songbirds and talk
to your favorite girl?

That’s exactly what I don’t like to do: Grab my laptop just to make a phone call. There is a device that’s called “telephone”. You don’t have to boot it. You can take it to the backyard and make phone calls. Only that it is easier to use as a laptop, weighs less and is just as mobile because I use a wireless phone. This phone is connected to my WLAN-Router/VoIP device (Fritz!Box) so that I have calls to 30 countries for free. Still I find this much more comfortable as the MagicJack. But let’s please not start the fight again!

If you want to learn more about the Fritz!Box (that I am not affiliated with, but only a fan) click here:

http://www.avm.de/en/

What happened when you were finally making time
with your girl, and Voip!Stunts only server
caught on fire and she might have hooked up with
somebody else by the time they restored their
service? (we have 31 we use)

That’s a good point!

I agree that Voipstunt can possibliy dissapear from one day to another. They are obviously underpricing. The outage because of the fire was the first I experienced in two years and lasted only 4 hours. Too short to even sell this news to the media!

Voipstunt is a very “no frills” service. They are just cheap and I don’t know if they give any kind of support. But for me they failed only 4 hours in two years.

Were you surprised when you started getting
billed 13 cents a call,when the Voip!Stunt promo
was over after 120 days?

That’s never happening. When the 120 days are over the countries I call cost about 1 Cent. I just don’t miss the 120 days. When there is no money anymore on my Voipstunt account the phone does not work anymore. In this case I have 9 other VoIP providers installed in my Fritz!Box (as fallback options and also because I a am a geek who tries out all the VoIP services). But normally I do a quick Paypal to Voipstunt and a minute later I can go on making phone calls.

Lastly, Fritz!Box told me that it is impossible
to use Voip!stunt softphone on it. How did you do
it.

Well I don’t know to whom you talked and what’s your technical background. But I suppose you know how easy it is to configure a VoIP device like the Fritz!Box. You just have to type Voipstunt’s login name, password, registrar, proxy-Server and STUN server into Fritz!Box’ built in website and yet you can do the first phone call. This takes about 1 minute.

It’s not “impossible” to use Voipstunt on a Fritz!Box. I do it every day. As well I use Sipgate, GMX, Tpad, Ekiga, Gizmo Project, FWD and others on the same device. As I said I try to check all of the interesting VoIP services.

I like the VoIP industry very much and see it with the eyes of a client. To me and to my buddies the most appealing point is to save money. VoIP should work like a PSTN telephony but cheaper.

Jump on the magicJack bandwagon,for you surely
have nothing to lose.

Good idea. I accept the peace offer. After all I am a journalist who is eager to check out every new VoIP service. If I am wrong with what I write in GigaOM’s comments, my own blog or my articles I am always open for further discussion and to rectify what I said.

Now that you are more educated after you wrote
your prior pieces, where can I send you a couple
Betas. You have my email. It is one thing for me
to write about it, but when you try it, you will
fit right into the magicJack fan club.

OK, I will email you and I promise that I will definitely write something good if it convinces me. You know my doubts as stated above. But maybe the MagicJack is such a great device that suddenly it becomes a pleasure to make calls on a laptop instead of a phone.

I suppose that all you VoIP companies are very nervous because you have to deal with razor sharp margins. And then comes a guy like me who openly explains how he tries to get it all for free. This can be a pain, I know, and the reason for flaming my comment.

See me as a voluntary beta tester! The voice of the thrifty client. :)

Best regards,
Markus Goebel

Paul Kapustka

Yes, let’s all try to keep flames and name-calling out of the discussion. Dan, please send the MagicJacks along, if there are any extras I will be glad to share them with any readers (just leave a comment, can get the email from that privately).

Dan Borislow

Markus

When you went to go to in your backyard and swig down some Becks,do you bring your laptop outside with all those songbirds and talk to your favorite girl?

What happened when you were finally making time with your girl,and Voip!Stunts only server caught on fire and she might have hooked up with somebody else by the time they restored their service?(we have 31 we use)

Were you surprised when you started getting billed 13 cents a call,when the Voip!Stunt promo was over after 120 days?

Lastly,Fritz!box told me that it is impossible to use Voip!stunt softphone on it.How did you do it.

Jump on the magicJack bandwagon,for you surely have nothing to lose.

Paul

Now that you are more educated after you wrote your prior pieces,where can I send you a couple Betas.You have my email.It is one thing for me to write about it,but when you try it,you will fit right into the magicJack fan club.I think you are upset I did not send you the First Beta,maybe we can heal that wound.

Dan

Markus Goebel

Hello Andrew Jed,

let me reply directly to your comment. I think you are wrong with what you wrote and you still don’t convince me.

Didn’t anyone listen or read?!

The initial cost will be $30 – $40 for the
magicJack device…with FREE unlimited local
and long distance calls – through your analog
phone (or headset on PC if your prefer). No
subscription or fees the first year whatsoever.
Each add’l year is planned at around $20.00.

And? What is so great about that? For $40 I get one year of unlimited local and long distance calls as well, as I explained in my comments. And I don’t even have to switch on my computer to make them. So the MagicJack would worsen my situation if I would change my at home configuration for it.

PLUS you can have your entire home wirelessly making FREE calls.

And wo what? That’s what I do already with my configuration. I have a DECT phone connected to my Fritz!Box that let’s me wirelessly do free phone calls without the need to switch my computer in.

There is so much more.
Making rash and unfounded comments prior to
knowing the facts seems very, well, wrong –
to say the least. Markus Göbel states in his
web site he is a journalist?

Well, thanks for your appreciation of journalism as a profession. But maybe you don’t know: Even journalists can make mistakes.

Moreover in this very case none of your arguments convinces me and I still think that I am right with every word I wrote in the comment above.

I am eagerly awaiting your next comment.

And also an answer to Dan Borislow:

What makes the magicJack so different?
1.Ease of use.There is no other device in the
world,where you plug into a USB,up and running
in a minute with plug and play and you plug in
a telephone.This is one of a kind.

Well I have already read about many similar USB stick devices that you plug in your computer and then you can start talking via VoIP, without the need to install a software: Vonage V-Phone, MPlat FlashPhone or Sandisk’s Skype on a USB stick.

OK, with the MagicJack you don’t need a headset but you can use your normal phone for the call. But is this really a breaktrough? When my computer is runnig and I am talking to a friend I just talk into my computer, which has a great microphone and sound with echo cancelation. For what would I need to pick up the phone that is connected to the MagicJack?

The pricing for MagicJack’s phone calls is no big revelation to me as I stated above.

Still I am very open minded for more clarifying comments. Maybe Paul Kapustka can explain and moderate to avoid further defamations? Especially Andrew Jed’s comment did neither please nor convince me.

Best regards,
Markus Goebel

Dan Borislow

Paul

I am Happy to educate your readers,for now.Skype charges for an inbound number and outbound calls.It is like $60 a year.They do not give you a very valuable device,that can be argued is worth $70,to enable you to use your regular phone.They do not offer plug and play,it takes some people a long time to install skype.They are not allowed by law to offer a complete phone service,because they do not offer 911 services.Therefore not a replacement service,because who just wants inbound or just outbound.Do you thinki 911 is important?Their service is terrible when calling outside parties because they do not use dedicated servers,they in fact use their customers computers-it is pretty much a joke.They do not enable you to call from outlook to the outside.They do not enable you to use click to call with a phone on anybody you want to call from your screen.Let me give you a very good story,when I was running Talk.com,we recieved a JD Power Award.It was not because we had the best customer care,it was because we had the best price.People put up with inferior service when the price point is ridiculous low.With magicJack you get great price and great quality.Maybe that is why we sold 20% of the AOL base,4 million customers on my last company.That company offered 30% off MCI and AT&T.This is 97% discount off.I think we will do just fine with MagicJack,done that been there.Thanks you for drawing attention to the new Telecom Revolution part II.This will be better for a lot of reasons than part 1.

Dan

Jake

It’s pretty neat if I can do multiple daily 911 ALI database changes for $20/year.

Paul Kapustka

Dan, any chance you could send us contact info or provide more concrete details on connection methods, pricing, etc.? Clearly this is going to be of big interest to our readers and there seems to be some apples-to-oranges comparisons going on… I mean, Skype is free last time I checked (for Internet calling) so it’s still hard for me to see how MagicJack qualifies as a Skype killer. Maybe a PSTN landline killer or Vonage killer, but for lots of Skype users I am guessing they are happy with the quality at the zero-cost level.

Anyway, you can reach me directly via kaps at gigaom dot com.

Dan Borislow

What makes the magicJack so different?
1.Ease of use.There is no other device in the world,where you plug into a USB,up and running in a minute with plug and play and you plug in a telephone.This is one of a kind.

2.The price for the device and service will be unmatched.For the $40 or so dollars,you will get free LD and Local for a year,you will get a memory stick,you will get software and you will have the only single device that enables click to call.

3.The Network is considerably different than all others.We have 31 Gateways that enables us to achieve the best quality,and the lowest cost structure.There isn’t another consumer marketing company,that can say the same.

4.The CLEC is certified in 49 states with interconnection everywhere.This is a real Phone company.

The list goes on.To compare Skype to magicJack is disgraceful.Their quality of service is far inferior to magicJack as they use their customers own computers for their Network.That is the largest reason Skype has done little in US,Americans won’t put up with this service level.

tye fragier

I love the ideal of magicjack but i contantly have problems with my magicjack. The problems stem from droping calls, not being able to use the magic at all sometimes, and i really do think its because i have windows vista. It seems to me that the internet exployer is always not letting magicjack connect with the pc and thats where all the problems begin.

Is there anyway this problem can be fixed or corrected.
Please look into it and also I can not upgrade my magicjack my pc is not letting me.

trish

I promote the “magic jack” to all my friends & neighbors & anyone who will listen. I just bought one for my brother-in-law to use in his FL vacation home.

When I am home, I have my magic jack ph. no. forwarded to my home phone (Vonage) so I don’t have to check on my e-mail account for missed calls. They come right to me.

I LOVE THE FACT that NO ONE CAN TRACE my magic jack ph. no. to MY HOME. Dan, you are MISSING OUT ON USING THAT AS ADVERTISING INFO. If anyone has a phone on Vonage for instance, I just go in, change my home ph. to magic jack & if I’m on the road ANYWHERE in the U.S., the home phone calls & any magic jack phone calls to that number come to me.

WHAT COULD BE EASIER? I should do a commercial for you!

Seth Tobias

Herb Greenberg has been using the device (in beta)for quite awhile. The MagicJack’s functionality will make it a category killer. I know. I have been involved with its development for years. To think that this is just another VOIP offer is just plain naive…

Paul Kapustka

C’mon Andrew, it’s all a bit of speculation until we see an “official” release with exact pricing, configurations, etc. I just wonder how this is going to be better than say, a cordless Skype phone (several coming out lately).

Also — why give the devices away to TED attendees, like those folks need cheap calls?

Andrew Jed

WRONG.

Didn’t anyone listen or read?!

The initial cost will be $30 – $40 for the magicJack device…with FREE unlimited local and long distance calls – through your analog phone (or headset on PC if your prefer). No subscription or fees the first year whatsoever. Each add’l year is planned at around $20.00.

PLUS you can have your entire home wirelessly making FREE calls.

There is so much more.
Making rash and unfounded comments prior to knowing the facts seems very, well, wrong Рto say the least. Markus G̦bel states in his web site he is a journalist?

Markus Goebel

The site mentions follow me forwarding as a built
in feature so you can recieve calls on your cell if
your pc isn’t on.

OK, at least they offer this. I really dislike to switch my computer on just to make a phone call or to get one. That’s no advancement in phone convenience but a decline.

Jim

The site mentions follow me forwarding as a built in feature so you can recieve calls on your cell if your pc isn’t on.

The second year charges are supposed to be $20/year from what I’ve read elsewhere. The first year charges are higher for the hardware cost.

If it works and they stay in business, $20 a year isn’t a lot to pay. Wheres the profit coming from?

They are supposed to be giving away 1,500 ‘magicjacks’ to get the ball rolling.

trish

I own & use 2 magic jacks. LOVE THEM. I can forward the magic jack no. to my home ph. no. & if I am doing business on the internet or want to list something where folks CANNOT TRACE my ph. no. BACK TO MY HOME ADDRESS, I simple us the magic jack no. Because I have it forwarded to my home ph., it comes here automatically anyway. LOVE IT.

And when I travel, I take it w/me, plug it in my laptop & forward my home phone (Vonage) onto my Magic Jack – so I get ALL MY HOME phone calls WHEREVER I am.

Love it!

mike layne

can icancel my b/south phone service keep my bellsouth dsl only and use my majic jack to forward calls to my cell phone,site does not say free call forwarding.is call forwarding extra charge

Markus Goebel

What is so great about that MagicJack? I don’t see a breaktrough.

It lets you make phone calls only while your computer is switched on. When it’s off you cannot even receive calls. The MagicJack is basically a softphone on a USB stick, bundled with a $60 dollar a year VoIP contract. – That seems quite expensive and uncomfortable to me.

E. g. with the VoIP provider Voipstunt I have unlimited calls to USA, Canada, Germany, UK and other 30 countries – for about 36 dollars a year (= 10 Euros for 120 days).

I have Voipstunt installed on my analog telephony adapter (Fritz!Box), which connects my normal phone to my DSL connection. This means that I can make those VoIP calls and receive calls when my computer is switched off. It’s works like normal PSTN telephony, but is much cheaper.

I am really not impressed by this MagicJack. It seems as uncomfortable as Skype to me, which annoys me much because it works only when my computer is switched on.

Maybe they want to address clients which don’t understand VoIP. But often the VoIP providers consider their clientes too stupid.

This Jack is not so magic!

To me it seems too uncomfortable and its contract too expensive. Looking for solutions from abroad the USA you would have found much better and cheaper solutions, for instance the one I use: Fritz!Box + Voipstunt from Germany.

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