Three years ago, my wife and I turned off our landline phone and went exclusively to using our cell phones. This has worked very well for us and we haven’t missed the high costs associated with the traditional telephone system. However, we ran into a situation about two years ago when our 12-year-old grandson needed to stay at the house without us and we realized that we needed some type of a phone system available in the event that he needed to summon help.

Upon looking into our options, I did quite a bit of research into the first magicJack. The only drawback I saw was that it required a connection to a broadband Internet source and that it required a computer to be on for it to function. There was a money back guarantee if I wasn’t satisfied, though, so I decided to go ahead and give it a shot.

After it arrived and we got it set up, it seemed that we had found the answer to our problem until we discovered that our grandson was turning off the laptop when he wasn’t using it. Then about three weeks ago I received an offer from magicJack for its new product, called magicJack Plus, that we could purchase for only $34.95 (which included one year of service).

magicJack Plus: No Computer RequiredOnce again, upon receipt of the unit, I found hooking up the magicJack Plus to be very simple. It only required that I plug the unit into a free port on my wireless router. I then had to plug the magicJack into a power supply, and then restart the router. After it was connected, I waited about five minutes to make sure all was well before connecting to the Internet and registering the unit. During this process, I was assigned a new phone number. Yes, I realize that means that the existing one was no longer valid, but that did not really concern me since few people ever called that number — it was only meant to be used when our grandson was alone in the house.

Once I confirmed the connection, I decided that this would be a perfect time to test it out since we were heading to Connecticut for five days and the grandson would be alone in the house after school.

Upon our arrival in CT on December 8th, 2011, I gave him a call as soon as our plane landed to confirm that the new system was working to our satisfaction. It was a pleasurable experience when, after a few rings, he answered the phone and the call was clear without static. I spoke with him for several minutes before continuing on our trip. On Saturday, my wife experienced the same level of satisfaction when she called the new magicJack number and spoke with our daughter, who was spending the weekend at our house. My wife said the call was without issue, clear, and without static. I was pleased with my new purchase until Monday evening.

The problem occurred when my wife spoke with our daughter via cell to cell concerning some packages UPS had delivered to our home. We asked her to call us back using the magicJack phone so we could test how well it performed for outgoing calls. After four attempts, calling on the magicJack Plus failed; our daughter called cell to cell to let us know what had happened.

Being in Connecticut made it difficult for me to check the various solutions to the problem, so I had her try a variety of fixes including rebooting the router, checking all the connections, and finally disconnecting the magicJack from the router and connecting it to a different port. After this last fix it seemed to work just fine, which leads me to the conclusion, once again, that nothing ever surprises me.

Testing it further, to insure that it would be a reliable unit when needed, we once again had our daughter call us on the magicJack on Tuesday morning as we were departing. Once again, the quality was flawless and without issues.

That leads me to this. I have read in the Amazon reviews the many problems people have had with magicJack devices or even Vonage (which I have previously used). In my personal experience, I have found that using a VoIP [Voice Over Internet Protocol] supported router is the answer to most, if not all, problems in using the Internet to make and receive phone calls. Without this type of VoIP, I also experienced dropped calls, static on the line, and unclear or garbled voices, but once I changed routers, my problems vanished and I was able to enjoy the advantages that using a magicJack provides.

What are the advantages of using magicJack in lieu of a landline-based phone? The primary benefit is cost. magicJack charges $29.95 a year for its Plus model after the first year’s service. I doubt that any traditional phone company could match that price.

What are the disadvantages of using a magicJack? If the power goes off, you are without phone services — similar to what happens when the Internet goes down. During that time, you can neither receive nor make phone calls. I would also recommend a very fast broadband connection to take full advantage of the performance that a magicJack device can provide. Some slower DSL connections may not work properly, so take this into account before you buy a magicJack device. My rule of thumb is this: If you can satisfactorily stream a movie to any device in your home without stops, stutters, or other issues, magicJack should work properly for you.

Comments welcome.