Oct 31, 2008
By nature I am not an early technology adopter. I purchased my first iPhone just last week, and only started twittering about 5 months ago. However, due to utter frustration with traditional phone companies, I tried Ooma very early.
Ooma is a Palo Alto startup with hopes of changing home phone service for the better. Buy the hardware (an Ooma Hub and Ooma Scout @ $229.99) and enjoy free phone service for life. No bills, no surcharges, absolutely free phone service. It uses VOIP (Voice over IP), so all you need is broadband internet service.
They have two things going for them that are game changers in my opinion: the business model and the product. Ooma does both incredibly well.
The business model is obvious. Who can argue with free phone service after paying a one-time price? They also have a service called Ooma Premier that I will use, at $99/year. It simply adds some additional features and capabilities that are well worth it, and by the way have never been available with traditional phone service providers. For a full list of the great features out of the box and with Premier visit http://www.ooma.com/learn/ooma_features.php.
The physical product is very well done, and no other mainstream VOIP companies have figured this part out. The design and packaging is Apple-esque and ease of use is refreshingly simple. You can access multiple lines, voicemail and phone settings, all from 8 little buttons on each unit. The scout and hub work with any normal phone, too. From the web interface, you can access voicemail, add new numbers and more.
As for the actual service, this is no Vonage (which is a good thing). I had Vonage for a while, and it was really awful. I could never talk on the phone while uploading files, or even watch a streaming video, without the call breaking up or disconnecting all together.
Ooma has somehow figured out the dropped call thing. It's amazing, I have purposely tried to max it out by uploading big files and streaming a few videos at the same time, and the call is NEVER effected. The cute little blue light turns to red if service is interrupted, but that's never influenced by how much bandwidth you are using on your computer.
Right now my current setup is still with one traditional line for the business, and I have 2 Ooma lines (one business, one personal). I can access all 3 from one phone. Using the system is worry-free, and so is setup.
The really cool part is the Ooma Scout. One or multiple Scouts can be in any other room of the house/office, separate from the Hub. It does NOT require a direct internet connection. Simply connect the Scout to the phone, and to the phone jack (no router or modem required) and it works. Don't ask me how, but it does.
So what's the downside? The service has not quite caught fire yet, a little more than a year after launch. They are slowly making their way into retail stores and homes around the country. However, the startup is well funded (one investor being Ashton Kutcher, actually) and should come out on the other side.
I give Ooma an overwhelming recommendation for those out there looking to save money on phone service while enjoying an expanded feature set. My savings after Ooma expenses will be $570 in the first year, and $900/year after that.