First Impressions: Ooma

Yesterday, our Ooma Hub and Scout package arrived just three business days after purchasing (not bad for Amazon’s free super-saver shipping).

Opening the box was reminiscent of opening an Apple product. Those who own Mac’s and other Apple products will know what I mean. Most manufacturers simply see packaging as as way to get products safely into the hands of consumers. Apple, and apparently Ooma too, design their packaging to almost present their products. It’s quite fancy, simple and downright elegant.

But who cares about packaging of the product sucks?

Fortunately, the product itself could easily be confused for an Apple product. It’s design engineers appear to have taken some cues from Apple’s design team. These devices are simple, highly intuitive, easy to use, tidy and clean. Even the colors of white and silver are Apple-like. As a Mac family, we like this of course.

So, we opened it up, found it very easy to understand with a quick start guide and a more detailed users guide. Very few parts in the Ooma Hub. The Hub, the power cord, a phone cord, a network cord. There was also an optional phone line splitter. Before we began installing any hardware, we registered the product which only took a few minutes. The only downside of that process was the lack of available numbers in our calling area, but that’s okay since we’re porting our old home number (more on that another time).

Setting up the hardware was easy. We made it a bit harder because we wanted the device somewhere else in our house and Ooma insists on sitting between your modem and the rest of your network. Some might find this to be irritating, but their reason is to make sure they can prioritize web traffic so that calls don’t suffer should you be heavily using your bandwidth. This setup wasn’t complex because of Ooma, but because of our home network setup. Regardless, we got it setup in no time. From box arriving to installation was 45 minutes to an hour – most of which was spent re-arranging things to where we wanted them.

Once we got things setup, we went ahead and signed up for Ooma’s Premier service. The $99 annual price also included the phone porting which is typically a one-time fee of $39.99. We’re glad we signed up for this. It gives us all sorts of cool features:

  1. Additional phone on-demand phone line – if someone is on the phone, you can just pick up another handset and make a call.
  2. Conference/Party Line
  3. Additional Phone Number anywhere in the US. In our case, we got one in our out-of-town family’s hometown so they could call us without long distance charges
  4. Personal Blacklist (optional) – we can permanently block calls to any number we choose, so when those telemarketers refuse to stop calling, we can just block em’
  5. Community Blacklist (optional) – when enough ooma users vote on blocking certain numbers, they’ll automatically be blocked from calling those who subscribe.
  6. Call Forwarding/Mult-ring – set your phone to forward to your cell phone or also ring your cell phone

These are all in addition to some seriously cool included features that combine the best of many worlds together. The Ooma hub is sort of like an answering machine combined with telco-provided voicemail, yet with a web interface. There’s so many ways to access your messages. Some of the other features we really dig are the do not disturb feature, call screening, custom rings for different r or people, etc.

The voice quality has been fantastic. Should it suffer, one can connect to the Ooma hub with a standard network cable and type http://setup.ooma.com into their web browser where they’ll be directed to the settings for their hub. This is only accessible when plugged directly into the hub! From here, one can increase the allotted bandwidth set aside for calls which should preserve good quality for those who have high bandwidth uses otherwise.

All told, we’re pretty impressed with this product. First it was the savings on the phone bill, now it’s the usefulness and design of the product.

Eliminate Local and Long Distance Bill for Good!

We’re Saving $444/yr

If you could pay between $200-$250 one time and never pay for local and long distance calls again, would YOU do it? We had to ask ourselves the same question when we found out about the ooma Core VoIP Phone System with No Monthly Phone Service Bills.

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We spend a LOT of time looking into saving money on utilities. We’ve been focusing lately on looking for ways to reduce the cost of telephone use. This includes wireless (cell) phone service, local phone service, and long-distance calling use.

Many cell phone plans come with unlimited local and long distance calling. At first, we assumed this would be cheaper, but when we ran the numbers (using a spreadsheet) including the monthly cost, hardware (new cell phones) cost, etc. we did not find using unlimited cell phone plans (or any cell phone plan) to be the right choice for our family. Collectively, we use about 400 minutes of cell phone use per month (between two lines).  Our monthly cost for long distance and local calling is approximately $47/mo. on average. Upgrading to unlimited cell service, or even a limited plan with enough minutes would cost more than this amount per month.

We were already unhappy with how much cell phones cost our family  (more on that another time), so increasing the bill is not appealing.

We also considered magicJack: PC to Phone Jack, but don’t want to keep a computer running constantly. For those who don’t mind, magicJack is an even cheaper alternative than ooma. Our friends overseas really like this because they can get a U.S. phone number with unlimited calling for $40 one-time fee! You might consider this if you want ultra-cheap long-distance.

Further, we looked into using free services such as Skype, Gizmo5, and Google Voice as alternatives. We have accounts with each, but don”t see them as a practical alternative to replacing local and long distance calling, and certainly not cell phones – but they’re great for calling overseas for really cheap. These services too require either a computer to be on, or expensive phone upgrades. We also have friends who promote long-distance services, but we wanted to eliminate the bill – not just reduce it.

After reading copious reviews of Ooma and talking a real-life user, we decided to buy the Ooma. From our calculations, and those who own them, this will drastically reduce our local and long-distance, with a 10-12 month payback followed by unlimited local and long distance calling without paying another bill again!

Here’s what else we like about the Ooma:

  1. We can “port” our home telephone number (unlike many of our friends who have gotten VoIP systems like Vonage, etc). No need to change your number!
  2. It’s easy to install. Plug ooma into your home network router, plug phone into ooma, register.
  3. The device is simple – a few buttons – no rocket science.
  4. Voicemail can be checked from Ooma device, phone call, or online. Messages can even be emailed to us as MP3.
  5. We can get all sorts of cool additional services for $1o0/yr (Ooma Premier) –  again, totally optional. If we do this the first year, the price includes the charges to port (usually $39.99)

Now, this is not something everyone can use because you must have a broadband (DLS, Cable, Fiber Optic) internet connection. Also, if your broadband internet connection does not connect to a router, you’ll need one of those ($50 or less likely). We have DSL which currently costs us $31.99/mo. Because we will be removing our local phone service, we will have to change our DSL to “naked” DSL with a price increase of $10/mo. This is factored into our savings estimate below.

Here’s the math:

  • Existing Cost of DSL, Local and Long Distance per Year: $948.47
  • First Year Cost with Ooma, Extra “Scout” (which I want, but most people would not need), phone # port, and increased DSL Cost: $776.88
  • First Year Savings: $171.59
  • Recurring cost per year after first year: $503.88 (for DSL only, no local or long distance charges any more)
    *(+$100 if you want optional “premier” service)
  • Yearly savings (years 2 and on) $444.59 ($344.59 if you subscribe to Ooma Premier)
  • Savings over 5 years ( first year savings + ( yearly savings x 4 ) ) = $1949.95

Our long distance charges are $16/mo on average – That’s probably a bit lower than most people, so most would experience even bigger savings than us. Hope this news helps you find an affordable alternative to your local and long distance calling. Let me know if I can help you figure out your savings!