Magic Jack, Not So Magical - TechLore Member Review

There is a new device being advertised all over the US right now called "the Magic Jack," a private voice over IP (VoIP) solution allowing you to use a high-speed Internet connection to make and receive calls instead of traditional land-line service.

It said in their TV ads there was a nominal fee of $39.95 to purchase the Magic Jack, which included a $9.95 fee for the first year of service.  After the first year it would cost me an additional $9.95 per year, and there's a five year special available for $59.95. After paying AT&T a little over 65 bucks per month for my local and long distance service, that sounded GREAT! I just had to check this out!  So I ordered one, and 5 days later it showed up in my mailbox.

Setting up the Magic Jack was pretty straightforward. Simply plug it into an open USB Port, then plug a telephone into the port on the Magic Jack. I gave it a few minutes to load the setup, and during the process was given the option to designate my home state. A list of available area codes appeared, and after selecting one, as given a telephone number. With the setup finished, it worked like any traditional phone, I can receive and make as many calls as I want to anywhere in the US and Canada via Magic Jack... for free (well almost free, $9.95 per year). 

Sounds too good to be true doesn't it? From my experience, it was.

I was disappointed from the start. The list of area codes were all long distance from my home,  which meant anyone calling me from a local line would have to pay long distance or toll charges to call me on my new Magic Jack number, relegating Magic Jack to second line and not a replacement for my first. I didn't worry too much about that since it's a cheap price to pay for a second number.

Unfortunately, the actual voice quality is about in line with its low price. After calling my in-laws in Texas and my sisters in Florida, everything said had to be repeated more than once. It seemed worse than a cheap analog cell phone too far away from a cell tower.

Perhaps I was doing something wrong, so I looked for a technical number to call... and failed. They don't offer telephone support. However, they do offer online support. That's okay with me actually, I don't mind online support if it's good.

I chatted with the first gal for over forty-five minutes, performing a series of modem resets, updates, etc. We accomplished little, and I continued to experience the same problems.

She then connected me to a 'senior' troubleshooting technician, and we went though another hour of changing several settings on my computer, as well as going trough all the same things the first tech suggested. I was told I might have a bad modem. Now, I happened to have a few extra gateways, routers, and DSL modems lying around. I swapped out the modem, and experienced the same poor audio I had before.

I reconnected with thier online support, and politely told the technician I was very unhappy with the Magic Jack and wanted to return it for a refund. Their suggestion: maybe I had a problem with the DSL I have. It was worth investigating anyway. So, I called AT&T and had it checked out.  Everything was perfect; my DSL was running up to speed.

I then contacted the online support agents... again, and proceeded to request a refund. I was given a return authorization number and shipped it back to them. I received a full refund on my charge card within three days.

In conclusion, I was very disappointed at the lack of available area codes and the poor audio quality the Magic Jack. In my opinion, the Magic Jack is a great idea, but they have several issues to work out before it's worth anyone's time or money.


"They don't offer telephone support."

Ironic for a company that sells a telephone service. ;-)

I've read several reviews of Magic Jack, and there are a good number of people who rave about it. VoIP solutions can be rocky, and the quality is largely dependent on your home internet upload speed and what else is going on with your web connection. Anyone who relies heavily on VoIP services should install a router with decent QoS (quality of service) traffic shaping features. This will help prioritize voice packets over other types of traffic.

I see your argument on area codes, but in reality, the entire concept of the area code is becoming less important every day. Since phone numbers became portable, many folks are opting to keep old numbers in new areas. Also, more and more people are relying on cell plans or all you can eat phone plans, which means things like local toll and domestic long distance charges is fading into memory.

It seems to me that MJ isn't yet a viable replacement for all your telephony needs, and it's only real benefit is that you can use a regular telephone with it. If you don't need a phone, I'd look into Skype's calling packages. It's more expensive than 10 bucks a year, but it doesn't require a computer to be on if you pick up a special Skype phone (waste less power), and the quality is usually pretty good.

If you don't need to use it while travelling, and only need a home replacement, Ooma may be worth a look.

The ooma looks very interesting, how much is the equipment and the yearly service?

The MSRP for Ooma is $249, and there's a $40 one-time fee to port an existing phone number. Their basic calling service is free, and includes unlimited (well, 3000 according to the fine print) free domestic inbound/outbound calls and voicemail. You get a free trial of their advanced calling suite for, which carries a monthly of $12.99 or $99.99 per year.

We have the Magic Jack and it's really good. We also have high-speed Cable internet. I've heard that DSL while very comparable sometimes cannot compete with Cable speeds depending on how far you are from the HUB.

I'm so used to VOIP since that is what we have at work. We have not had any problem with the area codes. The one and only complaint/suggestion is to make it so you don't have to have the PC on. Other than that...i think it's a real good low cost solution to a phone. I mean $10 a year is pennies. Oooma looks really cool, but it's expensive and there are monthly fees if you get the Advanced package. I think the technology is cool, but it will take us quite a while to recover that $249. They have a special offer if you sign up they will port your current number for free. It's another choice in this consumer driven market now.

Glad someone is having good luck with the not so Magic Jack. I personally know 8 different folks and all are not related to me, that have returned them! I am told by AT&T that the hub is right down the block from me as the tech I trust, as I have known him for years. I would not even have the Magic Jack if they did have my area code. Yes it is only pennies a day but if you cannot communicate without every other word dropping out who needs it!? Be as it may in my opinion it is crap technology and should have did a lot more research. and product improvement before hacking it on local TV like most of the other cheap gadgets someone comes out with.

Thanks. I'm sorry MJ didn't work for you. I'm glad that you gave it a chance. Also glad to hear that it didn't take months to get your money back once you had decided.

I'm sorry to hear about the negative review. This looked very interesting to me. Thanks for doing the review.

MagicJack is truly a second best! Constant and consistent problems with the line and resetting Never EVER has fixed the problem. Basically mine is plugged in just to occupy and keep a usb slot warm! LOL

Be as it may my next door Buddie did not heed my warning and said it sounded too good to pass up. I told him didn't your momma ever tell you if it sounded to good to be true it probably is, his is back in the mail, on it's way back to its creator. its nothing more then another fancy gadget for a computer!!

gives a nice blue backdrop to my CPU case! *giggle*

to tell you the truth that pretty blue light is the nicest thing about thenot so magic-jack! LMAO!!!

I've had my MagicJack for about a year and a half now. When I first received my MagicJack I experienced the same call quality issues on a couple calls but after contacting online technical support I haven't had an issue since.I too only had the option of selecting a long distance area code for my phone but didn't find that to be too big of a deal since everyone I knew had unlimited long distance on their land line or cellular phones.

To only have to pay $39.99 which includes the device and 1 year service. It seems to work better on pc's with high speed cable modems rather than DSL modems.

The features included with my MagicJack are call forwarding, caller id, call waiting, and voice mail which can be retrieved from answering machine or through your e-mail.

The BEST thing about this product is it makes for a great Christmas present. If you have relatives who live in another state or another country they can use MagicJack just as long as they have a high speed internet connection.

Another really awesome thing about this device is if you go on vacation like I did and take it with you to let's say a relatives or friends house who has their pc connected to high speed internet you are able to connect your MagicJack to their pc and make/receive calls just as if you were at home and never left.

Also, once you have your MagicJack activated you are offered to add additional years of service. I myself used MagicJack for a few months and then decided to add their 5 year plan for $59.95 which breaks down to only $11.99 a year and only $0.99 a month for 5 years. Now, you tell me anywhere else where you can get that kind of deal? I'll tell ya where ya can, no where!

So the bottom line in my opinion is the MagicJack is the best little inexpensive invention out there today. I just wish I could have came up with the idea myself cause God knows I'm tired of being in the poor house. Haha

YES indeedy I would have to agree that most likely (as you have already proven the fact) That using a high speed cable modem), the not so magic jack seems to work better but here where I reside, a cable internet set-up cost almost twice per monbth as my 5 meg dsl and it just is not worth the extra expense to invest in the cable setup just to get an extra tele line! but IWILL have to say that my next door buddie has a so called high speed cable internet and still had call quality issues, not that I dont believe you, but we went through everything with the on-line tech assistance and they tried to blame his cable modem for the problems, Then after having the modem exchanged, the tech staff said his brand new computer was the problem!!!

Majic Jack has been touted on the Clark Howard show for years now before I even saw a TV ad for it which was surprising because it is a widely popular and very cheap alternative for the frugral. My antennae went up when the comment of "lack of area code available" was a cause for concern. If you have a problem choosing an area code because it might be a long distance cost for others then you dont need the magic jack, you need to come into the 21st centurty. All the phone companies use unlimited long distance in their plan. Unless you are calling other countries then that would be itemized. Also, if you travel, it would be like taking your home phone with you and calling back in the US without anyone knowing you left the US. If you have to pay 2.75 per minute calling a different country the sound on the magic jack (like an echo) is no big deal considering the price you pay. I get an echo talking over my regular home phone (Att now gone) and cell phone (sprint) calling overseas. I take the cheaper alternative, echo and all and save my money.

I have had MJ for about 1.5 years. It is has been great for me. I have two really good stories that MJ was a God send.

1. My sister-in-law is a single lady with little means of support. So, I had set her up with a (the hotel 1/2 block away was wonderful to agree to this) wireless dongle to connect to the hotel. Through this I have connected her TV's to her computer (like a second monitor), to watch hulu, abc, cbs, ect and spent great time instructing her how to use it for everything she needed. When this was first setup MJ was not around yet, and I contracted vonage (portable dongle) - CONSTANT PROBLEMS with connection, getting it replaced, dropped calls, not getting her calls ect - every week I was on the phone with vonage to fix my sister-in-laws phone problems. Then I got her MJ - no problems, no calls dropped, it just works (now for 1 year) - God Send.

2. My nephew was sent to Iraq. As long as the number was set up in the USA, his laptop with the US Military internet system can call his Mom and Dad as often and as long as he likes, and it calls all the numbers (cell phone ect that skype wants extra money for) - and it worked PERFECTLY, he got to talk to his new baby boy on it. He is back now, but will keep his MJ.

I use mine for faxing, for my cell does everything else and the MJ number is forwarded to my cell phone. But, when in my office and not wanting to use my cell phone minutes - I call out on it all the time with NO problems. I have naked DSL (that is DSL with no phone assignment) - ANYTHING to save some money.

I was on a job (I am a computer tech) and my cell phone died, put my MJ on my computer (it connects via verizon air card) and was able to call and recieve calls to complete the job I was on. There is no way you can beat this for 10 bucks a year !
My faxes go through my computer fax modem not a seperate machine - and magicjack does great.

nice fairy tails lololo!!!!!I DO BELIEVE YOU as for some reason, the MJ works better if it is not used on a cable modem, on, A T&T system sype has always worked well for me except fop the poor customer service . it is great

I'm rather surprised at the problems folks seem to have with MJ. I've had it for a few months now and have had almost no problems at all. No problems with AC assignment and only one problem with clarity. Come to find out, after a little experimenting on my own, it was the hyperactive firewall software that I used that caused the signal to break up. I just shut it off and now I don't have any problems whatsoever with call clarity. My ISP is Clearwire, which is approximately DSL speed from what I have been told, so I couldn't tell you why anyone has a problem using MJ on DSL. (shrug)

I have used M.J. ON THREE DIFFERENT computers with three different ISP all three where lousy sound quality

We have had some bad luck last year with the work share and the bad economy and we searched for an alternative to our phone line (vonage) to save some cash. We found skype but we didn't want to buy the expensive skype phone and were stuck to our computer headphones when we make a call. Then my husband discovered MJ and decided it was worth a try. We have it for almost a year now, we have cable, yes it does have some problems sometimes (poor voice quality) but most of the time it works great! We don't have a land line but we do have cellphones. Our friends do not have problems calling our number, and when we are home, we use MJ a lot to save our cellphone minutes. Imagine not having to worry paying a phone line every month! One less bill to pay every month!

In this economy, MJ is a lifesaver. I think that everyone should try it if they have cable and if their computer is on most of the time (like ours).

I can say that I am not 100% happy with MJ it keeps cutting off I can not finish a decent conversastion.

MJ is basically garbage. I bought one and it dropped everything. I run a web hosting service (my own servers, routers, switches, firewalls, etc, etc), have over 20 years of IT experience and have insanely fast connections and it still did not work even remotely as advertised.

Matt I must disagree with your comment about MJ regarding traffic shaping. You should not have to get into traffic shaping to use this device. It is advertised as a simple solution to phone service, not a newbies introduction to hours of tech hell.

BTW, Matt could you add a spell check to this forum? Thank you for a great site.

Have a MJ and it works fine as long as the puter is on. Every time you fire your computer off, MJ takes quite a while to get going. You sit and watch your puter screen and wait for the puter it as it takes longer for MJ and puter to work up to speed if you try to multitask while MJ reprograms itself. All the while MJ blinks on screen "In just 1 min MJ will be with you". 3 to 5 mins later, MJ and puter are good to go. Sheesh! Why doesnt it stay on the HD like civilized programs do? I turn my puter off when done with it to keep the "Green Meanies" out of it while Im not there. But when working, it works great. 

I was this close to pushing the order button for magic jack, thanks for the info.

boy are you lucky you did not as EVERYONE I know has returned the one they purchased as they were so unhappy with it for the reasons I listed!just also found out that radio shack is starting to sell the not so Magic Jack, man will they I see them advertising it all the time now!> and of course the way they make it sound! IT SEEMS LIKE THE discovery of sliced bread!of course radio shack will sell just about anything. stoop to any lengths to make a buck.
Larry Dillon

I just bought one of these to replace my landline that was only used for Tivo Series I calling for its daily schedule updates. No go. The Test Call sequence says

I have recently tried this device again and it has had no improvement at all??? same noisy lines and low volume with distortion, many dropouts!!!! might as well get two tin cans and some string would work better for a second line!!!????
Larry Dillon.

I actually use one of these overseas in Oman. I am connected through a 3G+ modem to a number local to my family in the US. It works. I tried it on a simple 3G modem, the problem I has was as follows.

Basic 3G services usually have a fast download speed, but a very slow upload speed (about dialup to twice dialup). This may be your problem with DSL and would most certainly be the problem with satellite connections.

So I could hear everyone just fine on my end, but the software on the magic jack was slowing down my voice to allow it to transfer over the slow upload connection going back... So I sounded slurred and drunk on the other end of the phone and it would take about 30 seconds for the person on the other end to get the full message before they could reply. Once WCDMA 3G+ technology came out, I could talk online with no trouble.


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