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Magic Jack: Does it Work?

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Magic Jack: Does it Work?
By: Lauren Keith

Dozens of Heartland News viewers emailed and requested I try Magic Jack on Does it Work Wednesday.

After all, the tiny jack promises huge savings.

It can supposedly reduce your phone bill down to $20 a year!

You need hi-speed broadband Internet, a USB port and an area code recognized by the company.

More on that in a bit, but first, all we have to do is plug in the Magic Jack to the USB port and go!

I head to Carl Black's Cape Girardeau home to plug this in and see if we really start saving money.

"I have a dial tone already!" says Carl.

Wow! That immediate, huh? We can make a call out, but can we receive phone calls?

Well, here's where we wish the Magic Jack could wave a wand over the amount of time it took to download fully.

At least, they give you some comic relief.  Still, 20 minutes later, Carl finally has a new phone number for any phone he plugs into this Magic Jack.  He can now make and receive phone calls. To see, I call Carl's land line phone using a cell with a different area code even.

Sure enough, the phone plugged into the Magic Jack rings and Carl receives my call.  So, can it really be this easy? Well, Carl notes some potential problems.

"If you lose power because of a storm, you don't have 911 available because you don't have a computer," he says.

You might still want an alternate phone to be safe.  Magic Jack warns your local 911 may not work well with this device. We'd test that...but...

"If I click on that 9-1-1 button, I'd probably have police here and I don't want that!" laughs Carl.

No Does it Work test needs to alert the authorities, but I do need to leave this Magic Jack with Carl for a few weeks. I want to see if there are any bad connections along the way.

However, I am going to get it back from him before my 30-day free trial is up--I always question those offers and decided it's time to check that out, too. I'm happy to tell you the company did give me my money back, but I did have to pay to ship the Magic Jack back to them, as expected.

Back to Carl, who will be making that call to order a Magic Jack!

"I'll probably get a second line using the Magic Jack rather than a regular phone for my son," he says.

He's not exactly sure if he's ready to give up his regular phone. Carl says if you use Magic Jack as your main line, you'll want a cordless phone so you don't always have to just talk at your computer desk.

"I used it on several different computers. It worked really well. The only problem--a little distortion from time to time when the screen saver kicked in," he notes.

Carl also thinks he may have missed a few voicemails here and there, but he's still pleased overall.

"That I think happens with any phone," he says.

Also, you need broadband, hi-speed Internet for this to work.  However, Heartland News viewer, Dennis McPheron of Johnston City, Illinois, had major problems with this phone jack.

"I had this thing for about a week. Out of that, it worked maybe three hours!  I spent at least 12 hours on their chat line trying to get it to work!" he said.

Dennis says he even tried using a different USB port, different phones and even rebooting the program....still to no avail...unlike Carl's great results.

"It'd be great if they get the bugs worked out, but there are a lot of big bugs in it," Dennis says.

"Based on price holding at $20 a year, I'd give this a B plus for a primary line. For other uses, kids and business, it's very good, and I'd give it an A on that," says a satisfied Carl.

"I tried it for a week, no luck, and I give it a big fat 'F'," says Dennis.

I'll compromise and dial up a 'C' for the Magic Jack on this Does it Work test.

So, I recommend trying the 30-day free trial off of www.magicjack.com, being careful to make sure you return it before 30 days if you don't like it.  

I've received several emails from local viewers saying it truly did cut their phone bills down to $20 a year and they really like the product.

I also dug a little deeper and learned as of Nov. 11, 2008 the area codes in southern Illinois (618) and western Kentucky (270) are not eligible to sign up for Magic Jack.   The site says more codes will be added.  In the meantime, the (573) code in southeast Missouri seems to work just fine in our test.

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