Landline!   Most of the landline services are closer to landmines than goldmines.   Our biggest grip about landline service: OVERPRICED!   C’mon, over $30 per month for service that ties you to your home?   We pay about that much for our monthly wireless service!   And the “digital phone” service peddled by your local cable/broadband provders is priced at about the same $20-30 monthly rate.  But there is one pretty notable exception:  Ooma.   We love her/it/them???

oomaOoma is a California-based consumer telecommunications company that allows its users to make phone calls anywhere in the United States with very small monthly service fees.  We were skeptical when we first signed up in 2011, especially with the large upfront cost of $199 (cost has dropped since 2011)  to buy the interface device. But for the two years that we’ve had the service,  the quality has been surprising good and the service quite reliable.  Moreover, you don’t need a computer to use it; it will connect to any phone device. But you do need high-speed internet.

We’ve been paying, on average, $3.00 per month for government-mandated access fees.  Within about six months, the device is pretty much paid for, assuming you’d pay $30 per month to Vonage, your cable company or some other VoIP provider.   Ooma is definitely one of of the better deals out there if you use your “landline” phone a fair amount.

All in all, if you are considering buying “digital phone service” from your local cable or landline provider, you should definitely consider these options first. If you use your phone a lot and don’t want to sit in front of a computer, Ooma may be worth a look-see.   Currently, the Ooma box is available on Amazon for about $120 and occasionally Costco will sell it for less. We’ve found Groupon and other daily deals offering the Ooma Telo box for under $100.  If you don’t mind sitting before your computer when you chat, then some of the the web-based services such as Skype, Yahoo and Google are decent options but the voice quality is nowhere near what is offered by our first love:  Ooma.

If you’ve purchased the Ooma, as we have recommended in other posts,  then you can download an Ooma app on to your Apple mobile device that will allow your mobile to connect to the Ooma network — at no extra cost.    Unfortunately, the same free app isn’t available for Android, at the moment.   However, Ooma claims a $9.99 app is available at Google Play for Android phones…..but not tablets.   It hasn’t gotten very good reviews, so we can’t recommend it at the moment.

If, for some reason, Ooma isn’t enticing you,  there are other fish in this particular VoIP sea.  Our computer guru Bob Rankin recommends the Magic Jack.  Itis fairly affordable, has a lower up-front cost and the quality is OK. We weren’t thrilled with it when we tried it back in 2010, but reportedly Magic Jack’s call quality has improved.   Vonage has also jumped into the fray recently with “Basic Talk” which is a less attractive offering.   The upfront cost is low but the annual costs increase substantially.

There really is only one justification to hold on to your landline service:VoIP is more vulnerable to power outages than landline service but that particular problem is also solved by having a mobile phone, at least until the battery runs out. 911 emergency service can also be problematic with VoIP. A landline terminates at a fixed location. When you call 911 from a landline, your location is automatically and surely transmitted to the emergency response center. But since they are not traditional phone services, VoIP providers now have to provide emergency 911 calling. However, you should always have an alternative means of accessing 911 or similar emergency services, such as a landline telephone, mobile phone or a neighbor. Some people just don’t want that kind of uncertainty when their lives may be on the line, so that’s a consideration when deciding whether or not to go with a VoIP-only phone solution for your home.    But, really, if you have landline service, you need to explore VoIP options — especially our favorite:  Ooma.