netTALK Duo: Cheap VoIP Calls, No PC Required

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We’ve written about several VoIP solutions, many of which are well-suited for distributed teams. My web-development company, for example, uses OnSIP to connect four employees in three different cities, and we’re very happy with its sound quality and sophisticated features. But most full-featured, business-oriented VoIP solutions require expensive IP phones, awkward computer-based softphones, or difficult-to-configure ATA adapters,  which may explain the popularity of simple, low-cost services like Google Voice and MagicJack.

netTALK has introduced the Duo, which is a hardware-plus-service option that’s somewhere in the middle. The hardware is a little box that’s about as simple to set up as anything I’ve seen. Plug it into an Ethernet connection, power and a phone, then go to the netTALK website to activate it, and you’ve got unlimited calling to the U.S. and Canada, and cheap rates to the rest of the world.

During the activation process, you can choose your area code and exchange, although you can’t select an exact number. You’ll also need to provide your street address so that the service can give you accurate 911 service. netTALK doesn’t yet offer a way to port existing numbers, although that’s apparently in the works.

If you want to, you can connect the Duo to your network and use the company’s software to make calls. There’s even beta videophone software, although I haven’t tried it, as the software and drivers are Windows-only. And there are smartphone apps for iOS, Android, BlackBerry and Windows Mobile, although it’s not currently possible to link your Duo account to the mobile apps.

The netTALK service includes all the basic services we’ve come to expect from VoIP, such as call forwarding, caller ID, three-way calling, and call waiting. But you won’t find extensions, conditional forwarding, or any of the other advanced features that more business-oriented services offer. Voicemails are sent to your email box as a WAV file; netTALK doesn’t offer transcriptions like Google Talk and some other services do.

The netTALK Duo is priced at $69.95, which includes one year of service. Subsequent years are apparently $29.95. If you need cheap incoming and outgoing calls, can do without sophisticated call management features, and don’t want to be connected to a computer all the time, netTALK’s Duo may be a reasonable option.

Have you used the netTALK Duo? What VoIP solutions do you prefer?

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