Gadget Guy: Magic Jack

Magic JackRating: 5 out of 5 Price: $40

As gas prices continue to skyrocket, it seems everything from food to consumer goods is following suit. With that even simple everyday expenses, like your phone bill, seem to hurt that much more. So what if there was a way to eliminate or at least greatly minimize your cost of calling mom and dad?

There is with a product called the Magic Jack. The device, which consists of a USB cable and dongle not much bigger than a Flash drive plugs into your computer’s USB port. When you plug it in, it automatically launches a program that installs the Magic Jack software.

Once the program is installed, you register a name and password, are assigned a number and then you’re set. From here, just plug a standard analog phone line into the phone jack on the end of the Magic Jack and you’re set to make unlimited long distance phone calls!

The calls are routed over the Internet to any traditional phone line in the country. Since you plug in a standard phone rather than a computer microphone, the call quality is great.

The cost of the device is just as exciting. Simply pay $20 for the dongle and a yearly licensing fee of $20. After that, all the calls you can make are 100 percent free. Over the first year that comes to 11 cents a day for use of the phone and then the next year it’s just 5.5 cents!

Currently there is no 608 area code available so you’ll get assigned a number from another state. That’s the number your family and friends can call to reach you. The Magic Jack Web site said that once a 608 area code is available, you can switch your number for free.

The Upsides: How can you argue with unlimited calling for $20 a year! The device and software were very easy to setup and use. It accepts accepts traditional analog phones both corded and cordless which means you don’t have to buy any new equipment. So far the billing seems straightforward with no hidden fees.

The Downsides: You do need to leave your computer on to make or receive calls and you need to have a high speed Internet connection at home. Also, you cannot as of yet port your existing number to the device although the manufacturer says that is coming soon.

The Bottom Line: If you’re looking to save on long distance or your phone service in general Magic Jack could be your magic bullet solution.