Doctor's Review: Medicine on the Move

December 11, 2017
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A good trick for cheap long-distance?

Magic Jack (magicjack.com) is a device about half the size of a pack of cards that you plug into a USB port on your computer. You then plug a regular landline telephone into the other end and presto! You can dial up any telephone in Canada and the US. That covers the Jack part. The magic part is that the service costs only $19.95 a year for unlimited calls. There must be a catch, right?

Well, yes there is a catch or two. Not everyone runs into problems but a sufficient number of users do, so it would be wise to Google “Magic Jack reviews” and read them carefully before you plunk your money down.

That said, I’ve used MJ for a month for calls all over North America and I’m more than satisfied with the voice quality and the reliability of the system. I haven’t yet given up my $60-a-month landline with Bell — which also includes unlimited calls in North America — but if MJ’s still working as well in two months' time, it’ll be bye-bye Ma Bell.

Magic Jack is cheap but it’s not perfect. Here are some of the potential pitfalls:

1. The device works on both PCs and Macs, but the faster the computer and Internet connection, the better. At slower speeds voice reception can be choppy. To see if your equipment and connection is sufficient, go to myspeed.visualware.com and click on the test for Voice over IP (VoIP).

2. Don’t buy MJ on the Net where refunds can be iffy. Instead, get it through a store like Future Shop, Best Buy or Walmart who’ll give you a refund no questions asked.

3. Installation is straightforward but many dissatisfied customers report that it’s difficult to uninstall.

4. To receive incoming calls you must select a new phone number. This step is easy to do but you may not be able to find a number in your present area code. For example, I live in the 514 area code but the only number I could get was in the adjacent 450 area code.

5. To have live service, your computer must be turned on. If it is not, MJ will take a voice message and forward it to your email address where you can play it back — a real plus for anyone like me who uses email frequently but doesn’t often check phone messages.

6. You can take the device on your travels and use it wherever you are, a real plus for frequent travellers.

7. The company website has a seedy feel to it and they endlessly try to sell you extra and extended services. Don’t take them. The initial charge will be for $39.95, which includes the device and the first year of service. Some users report that they are billed $19.95 at the start of the second year even if they’ve returned the device and that these charges are difficult to reverse.

This article was accurate when it was published. Please confirm rates and details directly with the companies in question.

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