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- Rated 4.5 stars
- Ooma Telo VOIP Home Phone Service
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The Ooma Telo is a free alternative to a traditional home phone service that uses VOIP technology.
In today's society, most have adapted to use mobile phones and the Internet as their main sources for communication whereas 15 years ago neither of these were viable options. Due to this switch, many people are ditching their home phone subscription as they are too costly to maintain despite being rarely used.
On the other hand, I know many people who don't feel comfortable canceling their home phone plan for one reason or another yet want to find a cheaper way to keep up their home phone service. In today's review, we will take an in-depth look at the Ooma Telo, a device which paired with Ooma's free service offers full VOIP functionality that mimics a traditional landline telephone at a fraction of the cost.
Ooma reached out to us and provided a demo Telo unit to make this review possible so rest assured my opinions in the rest of this article are solely a result of my hands-on experience with the Ooma service and no outside influences had any affect on the outcome of this review.
As I stated earlier, the Ooma Telo is made possible due to VOIP (Voice Over IP) technology so you will need high-speed Internet installed in your home to make and receive calls. Since the average household is already running some sort of high speed Internet package, I wouldn't consider this an extra expense. According to Ooma, the Telo utilizes a ‘wire-speed quality of service' which means it “only uses a fraction of the bandwidth of standard VOIP technology” this leads to optimal call quality without affecting your network's performance and should work well even on lower-tier Internet plans.
The main expense comes from buying the Ooma Telo unit itself which has an MSRP of $149.99 although it could be purchased through Amazon for the discounted price of $119.13 when this review was written. While this may seem like an expensive investment, the bright side is that the monthly fee is minimal and the unit will more than pay for itself over the course of a few months.
Some of you may feel deceived as I just said you have to pay a monthly fee yet Ooma advertises that the Telo is a “free” home phone service. In their defense, it is free on their part since Ooma themselves only makes money on the Telo unit itself since the small monthly fee goes towards applicable taxes and fees which vary by where you live and are paid to the Government not Ooma.
To help determine how much your monthly fee would be, the Ooma website has a page on their website that allows you to enter your zip code and it will give a break down of the required monthly fees for your specific location. For my current zip code, it only comes out to a monthly fee of $3.79 which is a still heck of a lot cheaper than a traditional land line and nothing to complain about.
There is also a handy calculator on the Ooma website which will output your potential savings gained from switching to the Ooma service. Since I have been relying solely on my mobile phone before getting the Ooma service, I don't have any personal data to compare although after a bit of research, I found it would cost me $32 a month for an AT&T landline at my home with the same features that Ooma offers.
The Ooma Telo is the physical device required for utilizing the Ooma home phone service. According to the manufacturer, the Telo is merely a “small, always-on, network managed, secure Linux computer packed with processing power to keep your calls clear and reliable”. The design makes easily mistaken for a standard router or network switch and it doesn't look out of place when on display in your home. My only complaint is that the Telo easily attracts dust which is noticeable given the black finish.
The design is sleek and appealing with a gloss black casing with a slanted matte black top piece that offers touch-enabled buttons. The buttons light up when the device is plugged in and act as an interface to tell you whether your Ooma is running properly (depending on the color of the lights much like a router). You can adjust the brightness of these lights or simply turn them off completely if you find it too distracting.
The Telo also features a hidden, built-in speaker to view missed calls and listen to voicemail. The back of the device has 2 Ethernet ports, 1 USB, and 1 standard phone jack. The box is lightweight yet well-built and since it is a stationary device, I don't foresee any future issues concerning the build quality.
What I like most about the Ooma Telo is that it is works with any corded or cordless phone and is easy to setup as it does not require a computer. Everything you need for installation is included (besides a basic landline telephone) and it supports voicemail, caller-ID, call-waiting, and 911 right out of the box.
Above is a breakdown of the features you get free with the Ooma Telo service as well as the advanced features that are enabled with the Ooma Premier service. The Premier features cost an extra $9.99/month (no commitment), but each Telo purchase includes a free 60-day trial so you are able to test the premium service out for yourself before being required to pay.
I have utilized the Ooma Premier service during my testing period and I'm convinced the $9.99/month is worth it for my situation. My favorite features included with the Premier plan is the Google Voice support, a second line, anonymous call blocking, and voicemail-to-email (audio) forwarding.
While I didn't have an existing number I wanted to port, you have the option to do so for an additional fee. Unfortunately, this is rather costly at a $39.99 one-time charge. The most disappointing aspect of the porting process is that it takes 3-4 weeks to complete and in the meantime, you must keep your current home phone service active. Anyone who is looking to use the Telo for faxing purposes, you're in luck as it is unofficially supported although this means Ooma can't guarantee that it will work properly in all cases.
I've used the Ooma Telo coupled with their Premier service for the past two weeks and have been more than pleased with the results. Prior to using the Telo, I had only been relying on my cell phone for personal calls and Google Voice (through the smartphone app) for business calls, I did not own a standard landline telephone so I opted to buy the AT&T CL84102 Handset which included a wired base as well as a cordless handset.
The setup was dead-simple and while it didn't require a computer per se, it does involve visiting the Ooma website to activate your Telo unit prior to connecting it to your router and telephone so you'll still need some sort of direct Internet access to be able start using the service.
After spending some time tinkering with the settings and enabling my Premier service trial, I was able to secure two new phone numbers that were each linked to my Ooma account. I was also able to link my existing Google Voice number which I have used solely for business use although I did experience slight trouble initially when I attempted to get my Google Voice number to successfully authenticate with the Ooma service.
The Google Voice integration is ideal for my business line as I can now receive and make calls from my Google Voice number while on the go using the iPhone app or at home using my Ooma. My CL84102 handset works flawlessly with the Telo and both the wired base station as well as the wireless handset function as they would with a traditional telephone service. To my surprise, this includes the advanced features like the Caller-ID announce feature.
Having used competing VOIP calling services in the past, I was skeptical about how good the call quality would be as I've never found it to be comparable to a traditional landline. The Ooma VOIP technology far exceeded my expectations and all of my calls thus far have resulted in crystal-clear reception for both sides and without experiencing a single dropped call. I normally wouldn't use a VOIP service for a conference call merely based on reliability, but I was so confident with the Ooma's call quality that I went for it and executed a 30-minute business-related call without running into any hiccups or bottlenecks in the call quality.
The Ooma Telo is a stellar product that coupled with both the Free and Premier Ooma service offer the full home phone experience without the expensive monthly bill. While you will have to drop $149 on the Telo unit itself, the monthly savings will pay for itself over the course of a few months as the only monthly fees required are courtesy of the U.S. Government (still under $5 a month). The VOIP technology is top-notch with a crisp call-quality that is easily mistakable for a traditional land-line and the advanced features found within the optional Premier service ($9.99/month) bring the Telo's capabilities to a whole new level. Out all of the VOIP services that I have tested, the Ooma has been the most user-friendly, offered the most advanced features, and performed the best in terms of call quality. I would highly recommend the Ooma Telo to any consumers who are looking to ditch their monthly phone bill and start saving money by switching to a VOIP home phone service.
As a graduate of the University of Massachusetts and our Managing Editor, Colt loves testing out the newest tech products/services. His goal is to help better educate other consumers to ensure the most satisfying purchases decisions on consumer electronics and services. When he is not working on creating new content, Colt enjoys spending time with his two Australian Shepherds, Mia and Zoey.