Wanted: Free High-Fidelity Phone Calls for Life [Review]

With Ooma’s ever-improving system, house phones are about to be cool again.

Wanted: Free High-Fidelity Phone Calls for Life [Review]


We all want to ditch our house phones, right?

Wrong. What we really want is not to be tied to one place. We also might want the luxury of several phone numbers that ring you wherever you go: One number for work clients; another for friends and family. Or a separate number for your home office and your kids’ rooms.

Right now, each extra number you get means more money you send to the local phone company — and in a world of $8 Netflix subscriptions and $3 backups from JungleDisk, well, something seems amuck with a phone bill over ten bucks a month, doesn’t it?

Ooma, which makes VoIP, or voice-over-Internet-protocol, phones, is one of the most sensible ways to reinvent your home or small business telephony setup. Ooma plugs into your Internet connection and makes all its calls through the web, meaning that once you buy the system, you’re done paying phone bills for life.

Ooma has been around for a while, but only in the last couple of months have its products reached no-brainer status. In October, they introduced PureVoice, a level of sound quality that is almost shocking to hear out of an Internet phone. In September, they introduced mobile integration: now you can use your iPhone or iPod touch (over Wi-Fi or 3G data) to make free calls from your home number, wherever you are, for only $5 bucks a month.

After a few weeks of using Ooma I’ve scaled back the pool of minutes on my AT&T Family Plan, and I’ve setup the Ooma so that all voicemails are sent to my Google Voice inbox (Ooma integrates fully with Google Voice, letting you use that number as your primary number, if you so choose.) I’ve also setup Ooma to ring the house phone whenever someone calls my mobile; using their new Bluetooth adapter, I can take calls on the Ooma headset while my mobile phone stays in my bag.


If it sounds like a lot of options, it is; the Ooma is not exactly a set-it-and-forget-it kind of system. To get the most out of it requires tinkering around on the My Ooma dashboard, a web-based control panel that lets you see all your calls, voicemails, settings and phone numbers. (I picked a new phone number with my Ooma system, but you can also port your existing phone number.)

Many of the best features are only available to Ooma Premier customers: instant second line, conference calling, Google Voice extensions, enhanced voicemail and privacy options, and other options come in a bundle that will cost you $120 a year, or $10 a month. If you’re a small business, this is another no-brainer. (We could use that phrase again, but then, you already get the point.)

Available now at Price: $300 USD, including Ooma base station and handset.



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About the author

I've written about innovation, design, and technology for Fast Company since 2007. I was the co-founding editor of FastCoLabs.