Ooma Phone Service Review

Ooma Logo
For quite a while I struggled with paying my cable company for a phone line in the house. Sure I got a basic discount off of my “bundled” services, but I really couldn’t justify paying for a phone that we rarely used or when we did use it, we got charged by the minute for calls we made. When we did use it most of the calls were long distance to our family. So with the shift in the economy and my desire to rid myself of as many ongoing bills as possible I set out to find a solution to cutting the cord on my local phone bill.

In my search for the perfect solution I was chatting with a guy at my local Starbucks who said he had made the move to a VOIP phone company called Ooma. I decided to check it out and I am glad I did. Ooma is basically a voice over internet phone which means that it plugs into your existing internet connection and routes phone calls over the internet. So it is basically piggy backing off of your internet connection and therefore saves you from having to pay for phone calls (with the exception of international calls). Since many of us are paying for our broadband internet anyway this is a great way to leverage what you already have to get free phone service.

Getting Started
To get started with Ooma you need to buy an Ooma box. This box looks like any other phone machine and, in fact, includes a phone machine function. You plug the box into your router and then plug your existing phones into the Ooma box. Depending on the phones you have in your house you can use either wireless phones by plugging the main base station into the Ooma box and having that base station give the signal to the other wireless phones without having to plug into the wall. Or you can plug the Ooma into the wall and get smaller Ooma base stations, called Scouts or Telos, that you then plug into your phone sockets to allow for multiple phones in the house. I personally use a Panasonic wireless phone system with the main base station plugged into the Ooma with the other panasonic phones and chargers plugged in at various places in the house.

Ooma Premier
Once Ooma is plugged in, you walk through a set up wizard on your computer that helps you get your number set up, your voicemail customized and tests your connection. I found the process to be pretty easy with no hiccups at all. You get a free trial of their Premier service which adds other things like a second phone number, an instant second line so if one person is on one of your phones you can pick up another phone and have a dial tone to call out, Blacklists and phone number blocking, free 250 minutes on their mobile app to make calls over your data connection on your cell phone to save your cell minutes, and all kinds of other feature. To keep those features beyond the trial it costs $9.99 a month. You can read more about these features here: http://www.ooma.com/premier.

Getting Messages
You have access to your voicemail messages either from the Ooma box, from your phone if it has that feature, through the Ooma website, and you can even have Ooma text you when you have a phone message at home or pay $9.99 a month for a service that will transcribe your message to text and text or email it to you. On the website you can view your phone messages visually instead of going through them one at a time in a row, save messages, and organize them into folders. You can also see who has called in and who you have called and have a running record of phone numbers. There is a contact list you can add and with Premier you can add numbers to the global Blacklist that is constantly updated by other Ooma users. The web interface is a nice way to have your home phone and messages easily accessible while on the road.

Voice Quality
Now my biggest concern about Ooma was the voice quality. I have used other VOIP services and found that the voice quality was poor making me sound like I was in a tin can or had a lot of popping noises in the background. With Ooma I have been amazed at how good the phone quality has been. I have had friends and family tell me it sounded really good and I have not had any of the problems I have experienced with other VOIP services. It is really amazing how good the service is.

It Really is Free(or Really Cheap)
Now I know many of you are wondering, Is it really free after you buy the box? What’s the catch? Well that depends on how you use the service and what box you choose to get. If you get the older Ooma Hub and Scout combination than your service is completely free anywhere in the United States (you have to pay for international calls but the prices are quite good). If you get the newer Ooma Telo units you have to pay your monthly local taxes which are usually around $3-$5. I have the Ooma Hub and Scout and feel like I am not missing much with not having the Telo unit which includes HD voice, bluetooth connectivity for using your cell phone or wireless headset, and the ability to integrate your google voice account. The choice is yours but compared to what I was paying before the monthly taxes make this a huge bargain. So with me having the Hub and Scout combo I got my Ooma unit on sale for $180 and because I had wireless phones I sold the scout unit to the guy in the coffee shop for $50 which means I paid $130 out the door for free phone service for life. So in 3 months I had basically paid for the unit and have been enjoying free home phone service for the past year. If you are in the market for a home phone and are tired of having to look over a phone bill or cut your long distance calls short for fear of what your bill will look like, I would definitely consider Ooma. You won’t be sorry.