Can MagicJack Replace Your Landline?

Category: Telephony

A reader asks: “I've seen commercials for Magic Jack, a device you can plug into your computer for really cheap phone service. It sounds too good to be true... is MagicJack a scam, or does it actually work? Can it really replace my landline?” Read on for answers...


What is Magic Jack?

MagicJack is for real. In a nutshell, it's a device that enables very inexpensive VOIP calling (phone calls over the Internet). The Magic Jack phone service competes with Vonage, Skype, BasicTalk and other VOIP telephone service providers.

The MagicJack device has evolved considerably since its 2007 debut. It was the number one VoIP service choice among consumers surveyed by market researcher Frost & Sullivan in 2013 and it’s currently the best-selling consumer VoIP product on Amazon. Let's take a look at the current array of MagicJack products and services.

The hardware side of MagicJack is both simple and confusing. There are two options: MagicJackGO and MagicJack Plus 2014. Both are minimalist devices with a USB plug on one end and two jacks on the other, one for a phone line and the other for an Ethernet cable. Plug a standard phone into the phone jack, and connect to your computer via USB or directly to your router via Ethernet. Register your device once and that’s it; you’re up and VoIP-ing!
MagicJack GO

What’s confusing is that there is no apparent difference between the MagicJackGO and MagicJack Plus devices. There is no mention of better sound quality or reliability, no feature(s) that one has and the other doesn’t. The only difference is in the price and the term of included phone service.

Unlimited calls to landline and mobile numbers in the USA and Canada are standard, and international rates are competitive. Features include caller ID, voicemail, call waiting, call forwarding, conference calling, and 411 service. Number porting is available, allowing you to keep your current landline number. The phone carrier service is the same across all products; it’s provided by MagicJack’s sister company, YMAX.

What Does MagicJack Cost?

With the MagicJackGO, you get 12 months of service for $59.95. MagicJack Plus costs $39.95 for 6 months of service. Since there's no difference in the hardware, that makes MagicJackGO a better deal, unless you're skeptical and don't want to commit to a full year.

For either device, renewing month-to-month costs $5 ($60/year); 6 months costs $20 ($40/year); 1 year costs $35; and 5 years costs $99.95 ($20/year). With the five-year plan, your monthly cost is only $1.67! (Compare MagicJack's pricing to Vonage, BasicTalk or Phone Company service.)

The free MagicApp for Android or iOS enables free local and long-distance calls to any numbers in the U. S. and Canada on your smartphone using WiFi or 4G service. WiFi is widely available for free, but using the 4G service you'll have to keep in mind your data caps and charges. Worldwide calling is free app-to-app or app-to-Jack device. If you have a companion MagicJack device, you can set up your MagicApp number to ring at your MagicJack home or business number and on your smartphone simultaneously.

Can I Fire the Phone Company?

Magic Jack is so simple and so cheap that some people thought it was a scam when it first appeared. But MagicJack has proved to be quite real. A few years ago, after hearing a couple of my friends swear by the gadget, I did some research and found that MagicJack really does deliver what it promises. You pay a flat fee per year, and you never get a phone bill.

Using MagicJack, you can make free calls to any phones in the United States, Canada, Puerto Rico, and the U. S. Virgin Islands, or to any other MagicJack user anywhere on Earth. People who want to call you can reach you at your MagicJack phone number, no matter where you happen to be.

So YES, you can even cancel your land line service with the phone company and cut them out of the loop. I've heard from many people over years who have done just that.

Another benefit is international calling. If you take the Magic Jack with you when you travel, you can call any phone in the US for free. And people can reach YOU by calling a US number. Also, if you have a family member who lives outside the US, and they have a reliable Internet connection, this can be a significant savings on overseas long-distance fees.

Like any VoIP service, MagicJack needs a fair amount of reliable bandwidth; at least 128 Kbps in both directions. DSL, cable, fiber, and other land-based broadband works well with VoIP, but dialup and satellite connections are likely to be problematic.

Most MagicJack purchasers on Amazon give the service high ratings for call quality. Even faxing is possible with MagicJack, according to those who’ve tried it. Currently, it’s the easiest and certainly the cheapest way to cut the landline and switch to VoIP calling.

You can try MagicJack for up to 30 days without obligation. Just sign up with a credit card at the company’s site; a $5 shipping fee will be charged when your order ships. If you keep the device and service after the trial period, your card will be charged $39.95 or $59.95 plus an “administrative fee” of about $3.00.

Magic Jack Customer Service

I've written before about MagicJack, and had quite a few people contacting me, thinking that this website is Magic Jack Customer Service. It's not... I'm a tech journalist, and this is a review. I don't get any sort of commission from the company, and I don't have a red phone with a direct line to MJ Headquarters. But you CAN visit the Magic Jack Customer Service page online, or call MJ Support at 561-594-9925. That's all the info I have on Magic Jack Customer Support. Really!

So there are both pros and cons to the device, but I can say that it's definitely not a scam, and works well for most people as a landline replacement. MagicJack is a very easy, highly portable, and affordable VoIP solution. It's been around a long time in "Internet years," and it will probably continue evolving. If you want to cut your phone bill, MagicJack can be a good way to do it.

Got something to say about MagicJack? Post your comment or question below...

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Most recent comments on "Can MagicJack Replace Your Landline?"

(See all 52 comments for this article.)

Posted by:

06 Feb 2015

Most reviews on Magic Jack I have read are positive. I opted to try the service a few months back. This is what they don't tell you. Your router must be compatible with their system or it will not work on a consistent basis. I worked with their customer service for 4 days. The problem was never resolved and I then canceled. Worst customer service I have ever experienced. You can never work with the same representative twice and all started from square one with their trouble shooting procedures. Too much redundancy and after an hour of trading eMails (yes eMails)on 2 occasions they just quit communicating and I had to start all over. And, on top of all of this I had to go hat-in-hand back to ATT and get my land line back.

Posted by:

Cheri Madison
06 Feb 2015

I've had Magic Jack for years. But one thing it does not let you do is call conference lines. So if you're into some internet marketing thing or similar service that has training calls that last an hour or so and are serviced by a long-distance number, you can't call for free on Magic Jack.

Posted by:

06 Feb 2015

I have a friend who moved to Ecuador who has a MJG. Able to do business and keep up with US friends. Occasionally, the connection is bad when we speak. The cost is phenomenal. In a good way.

Posted by:

06 Feb 2015

Problem I Had/have is that with my dsl service from a phone carier i could not get a dry-koop and ie had to get the phone service with my internet meaning i still had to pay for basic phone service. I do have an original magic and even though i spent a lot of time on the phone ,cell phone, with MJ techs i could not get hookrf up with my cable service and windows 7. had to pay for one month service to do that. bottom line...I like the use i had from it but now am not all that happy.

Posted by:

07 Feb 2015

I've had Magic Jack for about two years and it works well for me. I had to pay extra to have my old phone number switched from the phone company and I think I pay every year to keep that number.

Posted by:

07 Feb 2015

I dumped my land line a few years back for cell technology. Which means I do not have a 'phone number' other than the one on my cell. So what do you folks who 'dumped the phone company' use for a phone number? Thanks.

Posted by:

07 Feb 2015

Until you have a spouse with 11 Coronary Stents in his heart ... You will not replace your landline phone.

VOIP phones, will not do 911 and cell phones, while they can do 911 ... It still isn't the same, as with a landline phone, that has your address connected with the landline phone. Should I need an amublance ... I can rest easy, knowing that my 911 will work and they can get to my address as quickly, as possible.

Posted by:

Bill O.
07 Feb 2015

I have had MJ for over 5 years. I sent one to my son who has his own business. He has a two line desk phone in which he uses the MJ for outgoing and therefore his business phone is always available for incoming business calls. I will buy the MJ Plus next.

Posted by:

Jim Cauthen
07 Feb 2015

Thanks, Bob, for all your insights and advice. I switched to ooma four years ago. ooma is a VOIP device that has NO monthly fee. Pay for the equipment up front and no more phone bill, ever. ooma offers premium services for $100 yearly. The main premium feature I use is the Blacklist (number blocking) and it is worth ever penny. I wish they made light bulbs.

Posted by:

07 Feb 2015

I have had MJ for 6 years now and my current subscription ends 2/15/2015. Every issue I have had has been cured with a reboot or simply unplugging it and then plug it back in. It has gone through windows 98 - XP - Vista and now Win7. It upgrades itself per system requirements. I have even sent Faxes. 911 service takes a little while to set, about 2 days or less. If your device has a USB port MJ can and will make calls from anywhere in the world from the MJ number. All voice messages are sent to your E-mail address. I love the fact that I can and DO give the MJ number to whoever I DONT want to have my cell number.

Posted by:

08 Feb 2015

I had Magic jack when it first came out. When I renewed it the second year, they gave me a new number. When I finally got someone in customer service I was told I would have to pay $10 to get my number changed back to the number I had previously, which was the number I had previously ported over to Magic jack. $10 was not the issue, the principle was. Customer service was terrible--they kept telling me they were looking into it and would get back with me. I disputed the charge on my credit card and have had nothing to do with majic jack since. I'm glad to see so many people have had good service, but it left a bad taste in my mouth.

Posted by:

Blaine Beaubien
08 Feb 2015

I have been using MJ in Canada, Egypt and China for 7+ years and love it. True, if there is a power outage (like multiple times daily in Cairo) you have no phone. Also, though I have never had to use it, my 1st generation unit doesn't have 911 service, but I understand it is now an option. Besides, I, as most, also have a cell (and with the MJ app...wonderful). Sometimes there is breaking up, but that is rare and mostly due to where the other end's cell is getting poor reception. I'm now on my 2nd 5 year plan @ $20/year and I use my Canadian phone #, so all my calls from China are as if I am at home. It is not perfect (like what is?) but compared to what Ma Bell was gouging for less features, it is amazing! My family and friends who use the service also swear by it, and it was my sister who introduced me to it years ago.

Posted by:

08 Feb 2015

I have had a Magic Jack for years. I would say that it's a decent product if you have perfect hearing, but if not, I would look at different options. There is no way to raise the volume to an acceptable level. This has nothing to do with the speed of my connection, because I have tried other VoIP services and they all work fine. Customer service will tell you how to increase the volume level on the Magic Jack with the computer interface, but there are no such options on the Magic Jack Plus, which is the version that works off the router and not the computer.

Posted by:

Louis Toscano
08 Feb 2015

You still need separate lines for faxing and voice. Splitting lines will not work, especially if you want to use voicemail. I have Ooma which I consider a better quality device.

Posted by:

Joe Sabatino
09 Feb 2015

Going on the 3rd year of mj+ and 10 months of free cell phone thru the mj app.
It made my wifi only Nexus7 tablet a cell phone and has my home phone number so I get calls anywhere that there is wifi.
I've been reading the comments but you do have 911 service on mj - all you have to do is register it online with mj (some areas want a fee - I paid $0.00.)
You CAN get conference calls but you have to go the mj website and get a conference number so everyone can call that special number thats on the conference.

Posted by:

Gloria Huffman
10 Feb 2015

I live on a small Social Security check and was having trouble keeping up with my landline phone and internet/phone bills. So 3 1/3 years ago, in October 2011, I decided to buy the original magicJack for $39.99 at the CVS pharmacy (you have to have your computer on to use it). I opted to keep my landline at the cheapest possible rate, and got a new magicJack phone number. My magicJack is free for all outgoing calls, but charges for incoming calls.

My final solution:

1. I use magicJack for as many outgoing calls as possible.
2. I got a free cell phone for poor people (yes, I did!) that has 250 free minutes per month for both incoming and outgoing calls.
3. I set my magicJack to forward ALL incoming calls to my freebie poor people's cell phone, and if people call in while I'm at home I call them right back. If they call while I'm driving and it's not urgent, I say I'll call them back when I get home. This keeps my free cell phone minute usage very low.
4. I got rid of the expensive internet phone that was bundled with my high speed cable internet service.

a. If the power goes out I'll be without my mJ phone service. I'll use my free cell phone.
b. If my computer goes down, I'll be without my mJ phone service. I'll use my free cell phone.
c. I keep the landline for medical calls in and out, and for faxing when and if I have trouble faxing over the mJ connection (e.g., power or computer problems).
d. I generally fax using the mJ connection with no problem.
e. One big beef with the new mJ dial-up window: I used to be able to instantly see the duration of a call. After the mJ company recently "updated" the user window, I now have to log in and navigate to the Call Logs, where the call and its duration can take a whole day to appear in the log. Sometimes I need to quickly reconstruct the sequence and timing of daily events, so the loss of instant viewing of call durations is very annoying for me.

Posted by:

Paul Glidden
12 Feb 2015

Why does my MagicJack make a buzzing noise every time i use it ?

Posted by:

14 Feb 2015

The problem with it is that they dont say you are going to be charged a 911 fee and dont tell you how much,it could end up to be more than the magic jack monthly fee.

Posted by:

19 Feb 2015

MJ is certainly is NOT perfect, especially their customer service. With three phone lines and paying Frontier $157.00 per month, the math makes it a no-brainer. A savings of $1,779.00 per year. The only feature I gave up, was call-waiting.

Posted by:

21 Feb 2015

One thing to note is that if your MJ device failed then your pre-paid service fee is gone too. They only let you transfer the service fee if you have more than 12 months activated. I have 9 months of service left in my failed MJ device and was SOL even though I have an unused MJ device to transfer but couldn't.

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