I’ve written about cheap calls to and from the Philippines a couple of times and each time I mentioned Skype as what I considered the best solution. A number of people have left enough comments about magicJack being better and cheaper than Skype that I decided to do a little research.
What is magicJack?
“magicJack” is a computer USB-enabled device that, in combination with the telephone service of the YMAX Corporation, provides a voice-over-IP (VoIP) service to the United States and Canada for a flat yearly fee. A high speed Internet connection is required. The device allows you to plug a conventional land line telephone directly into it. The software is contained within the USB device, but it adds or modifies Windows registry keys. I understand it works on Windows and on Macs, but I don’t see it as being compatible with other Unix-based systems (like Linux or BSD).
Skype, on the other hand, is completely software-driven. Notwithstanding the availability of Skype phones, one end of the communication link requires a computer running Skype. Skype phones won’t work in the Philippines. Heck, regular cell phones only work part of the time in areas outside of metro Manila.
Unlike magic Jack, Skype can be used with a connection as slow as dial-up, just like other instant messengers with voice capabilities. In my experience, Skype calls are clearer than both Yahoo voice and Windows Live/MSN voice services.
According to several sources, magicJack uses advertising to make the service as cheap as it is and tracks calls to provide more relevant advertising. I don’t know about cheap. The device runs about $40 and the service is about $20 per year (both are in US dollars). If you’re calling from the US to the Philippines and you don’t have a local number provided by magicJack to call, the calls are 18 cents per minute — you call can cheaper with a phone card. I understand you can buy international long distance minutes from them for less, but why would you? And what’s this about advertising? I don’t want advertising in connection with any phone service.
I wouldn’t trust the device to last very long in the Philippines. Due to factors such as heat, humidity and corrosion, electronic devices tend to crap out quite a bit here. Although computers tend to last a while, along with USB thumb drives, I’ve seen a number of portable home phones quit working due to corrosion and a few didn’t last more than six months.
Skype costs me about $6 per month (or about $72 per year). That price includes a local number for where my wife currently lives in Arizona. Because of the one-country plan, it’s good for calls between the two of us (at no additional cost ever), but I have to pay additional charges if I want to talk to my son in Germany. Of course, if I talked to him frequently, I could just set up another one-country plan.
With Skype, my wife calls me with her cell phone and I call her on her cell phone. I use a headset with my PC, but I’m sure I could figure out a way to use a corded or cordless phone with it if I wanted to do so.
There are drawbacks to both services and I won’t go into any more detail about it. In my opinion, Skype is the better choice for me. I use it to call banks, relatives, etc. in the US and they have a number they can reach me at and it doesn’t cost them a thing. There may be a local number available with magicJack, but they don’t list which area codes they have available so I can’t even speculate.
Tell Me I’m Wrong
Go ahead and try to tell me I’m wrong or that magicJack would be better for me. My wife will be returning to the Philippines in a little over a month and would bring the magic Jack device with her if I choose to go that route. Convince me. If you can’t, then it’s really no loss as far as I’m concerned. Anything’s better than standard international long distance charges.
[Note: I keep wanting to spell magicJack as "majicJack" (with a j instead of a g and I don't know why) and with or without a space doesn't really matter, so forgive me if I misspell it later on.]