As Seen On TV: The Magic Jack - Product Review

By now we've all seen this commercial:

The Magic Jack is essentially a USB device that allows you to make phone calls over the Internet.  The ad above is pretty self-explanatory as to how it operates.

But does it work?

In a word: yes.  This is one of those rare As Seen On TV gadgets that actually does what it is supposed to do.

Here's the rundown:

1. Easy installation-The Magic Jack is pretty much "plug-n-play."  You pop the unit into your USB port and the installation software pops up.  It takes about a minute to input your information-including picking your own phone number-and then it's ready to use.

2. Clear audio quality (for the most part)-Although some issues have been reported (see below), user satisfaction is quite high.  And no phone is actually necessary; you can simply talk through your computer with a regular headset with a microphone.

3. Inexpensive-Boasting unlimited local and long distance calls, call waiting, voice mail, and caller ID, the price of $50 per year is quite a deal.  Plus there's no contract-which is a big selling point in my book.

Looks pretty easy...Looks pretty easy...

But not all is sunny in Magic Jack land.  It does have some issues that need to be addressed:

1. Static-While a majority of users are happy with the audio quality, there have been a few complaints concerning severe static-so much so that the Magic Jack is rendered unusable.  Other audio complaints center on a certain muddy quality of the audio; this appears to be a physical flaw in some of the units and can be rectified by getting a replacement.  But that's not as easy as it may sound (see below).

2. Issues when using with Mac-
It seems that the Magic Jack was designed to be used primarily on PCs.  While an upgrade is available, it apparently still has issues with the caller ID function.  Plus it costs an extra $10.

3. Area code issues-
Apparently not all area codes are supported.  Make sure yours is if you plan on buying this product.

4. Non-existent customer service-One thing that I hate more than almost anything in the world is bad customer service.  Multiple users have complained that the customer service is simply not helpful; some have even gone so far as to say that the service representatives are rude.

It looks to me like the Magic Jack is sort of a mixed bag.  This could be due to the types of computers used by the reviewers.  It has also been suggested that high-speed cable connections are the only way to go with the Magic Jack; DSL is simply not fast enough.  I doubt that the reported issues have anything to do with user error; this thing is too easy to install.

Still, at $50 for a year of telephone service, it's worth checking out!