The Ooma has had a fairly odd history, starting off with a device that's biggest claim to fame was that actor Ashton Kutcher had invested in the company. In the second iteration of the device – now known as the Ooma Telo – the company came back with a device that was more about the device itself than who was putting their money behind it.
The promise is simple enough: Eliminate your phone bills entirely when it comes to a landline. It seems like a wonderful promise, but could the high initial upfront cost potentially scare people away from trying out the wonderful world of VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol)?
Ooma Telo Pros
- Excellent call quality
- Can completely pay for itself in eight months or so
- Works well with your existing phones
Ooma Telo Cons
- Setup instructions are a bit slim and can be confusing if you don't fit squarely into what they envision you doing with it
- No phone service if you lose power
- Best features do have a fee attached to them
Best For: People who wish to do away with their traditional phone lines to reduce bills.
Website: Ooma Telo
Suggested Retail Price: $249.99 suggested retail price, $200 at various online stores
Ooma Telo Hardware
The Ooma Telo hardware is simplicity itself. All you need to set it up is the wedge-shaped Telo and the included power & Ethernet cables. You plug in the power, plug your cable modem into the device and the device into your router, and you should be done once you plug a phone into it. I did, however, run into some issues here. While the instructions said you should place the Ooma between your modem and router for the best results, I saw my newly purchased 50 Mbps speeds fall to 30 Mbps after doing so. I contacted tech support, and they said due to my speeds I would be fine placing it after the router in the chain instead. I switched it up and my speeds returned to normal without any issues.
After that initial hiccup, I plugged my cordless phone base into the Ooma and … encountered another problem on incoming calls. As this was a test unit I didn't see any need to pick a phone number from the company quite yet, but what wasn't covered in the instructions was how to route the cabling if you were only going to use it to make outgoing calls, but not handle your incoming calls. While probably a very small sub-culture of their users to be sure, it was still something that should have bene covered in the troubleshooting section. Once that issue was gone, I started making outgoing calls like a champ with the Ooma Telo, and a few people I talked to said I even sounded clearer than I normally did on my landline. There was absolutely no delay or echo to my calls, and I could find nothing that indicated I was calling over the Internet as opposed to going through traditional copper wires. The calls were crystal clear to say the least.
Ooma Telo Service
Overall the Ooma Telo service is simple to use, and it definitely gets the job done. There are, however, a few oddities. One of the biggest for me was selecting a local number to associate with my account. When trying to work around the phone number issue I mentioned above, I decided I would go ahead and select one of the numbers they offered. The system asks you for your area code and a prefix, so I entered both, and there were no numbers for my town which wasn't a huge surprise as I live in a small community. That is where the issue got somewhat annoying as I couldn't search just by area code. You had to also include a prefix, and I just don't know any others in my area code outside of my town. I actually had to do some hunting to come up with a few, and those also had no available numbers, so it can get to be a bit frustrating if you find no numbers handy for your area.
I am not a huge fan of voice mail, and I really didn't want it on my line in my office where I was testing this, but much to my surprise I found that there is no way to just turn off your voice mail box. I could set it as high as 60 seconds (about 10 rings) before it would answer, but there was no way to just completely disable it. I contacted customer support and they said they could turn it off for me, but that this was a permanent change. What if you wanted to disable it when going away for the weekend? They said that the ability to turn it off and on at will is coming, but the functionality is not yet there.
For the majority of the users, the basic Ooma Telo will be all you need, and that means you can probably make your money back fairly quickly, and save yourself a ton of money in the long run. If you want to do things like port your existing number ($39 by itself or free with a Premium account), add a second line, have three way calling or a back-up for when your power goes out, all of those features are going to cost you extra. All of them come with the Premium account that runs $9.95 a month or $119.99 a year. While an additional cost, it still should see you coming out ahead of traditional phone service.
The Ooma Telo does as it promises, but you have to have some patience with the shortfalls. Some of them your average user will never run into and you'll have a blissful experience with the device, and even those of you who do run into the problems, it really doesn't take that long to work around them and get on with an enjoyable experience.
Four out of five stars for the Ooma Telo. (One star lost for so-so setup instructions, voice mail oddities and the inability to find a usable phone number easily)
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