Wednesday, December 5, 2007

A softphone for your ooma service

How would you like free US calls from anywhere you have your PC and an Internet connection? Want to access your home ooma service from a hotal, at work, or from Starbucks?

Here's how.

1. Purchase PhoneGnome box. $99.95

2. Connect the PhoneGnome to your ooma hub. PhoneGnome LINE port connects to ooma hub PHONE port.

3. Get SIP credentials and SIP Softphone software from site. Sign in and navigate to Features / SoftGnome Remote Access / Edit / View SIP Credentials

You can use the free ExpressTalk software (shown above) provided by PhoneGnome or the SIP softphone of your choice (X-lite works well on the Mac). If you have a Wi-fi SIP phone (or a dual-mode phone, such as Nokia E series, N80, or N95), you can even use that. Dial any US number and the call will be placed over the Internet to your ooma hub through the PhoneGnome box.

You can also use the new Mobile Web feature to make ooma calls from your ordinary cell phone.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

ooma - so what's not to like?

Given all the good things I've said about ooma, there must be some things not to like. Here are a few:

1. After putting in your initial settings, there is not much reason to visit the ooma Lounge, aside from listening to your voicemails, which you can do on the phone.

2. Ooma basically takes over your phone service and cancels what you already have in place with your carrier (you still pay the bill though). You might lose archived messages if you use the phone company's voicemail service. Not everyone will be comfortable with this.

3. There is no way to bypass the ooma hub and force a call to use your landline. This is a minor nit, but there are times when I'd like to do this and I can't with ooma.

4. Caller ID. This is probably the biggest hassle. When you call someone, they may not see that it is you calling on their caller ID. They won't know it's you and so they might not pick up. This can be really annoying, as it's somewhat random. You can avoid this by dialing *82 before each call, but who wants to do that every time you pick up the phone to make a call. I think this single limitation pretty much excludes ooma as a business or professional option (in many states it's illegal for businesses to block caller ID on calls they make).

Of course there's also the price, but I'll assume you've already done the math on that and decided the rather high one-time cost is worth it for unlimited US long-distance calls and free voicemail. In reality, many people will probably never break even, but it's nice never having to think about how much you're spending on long-distance calls (you still have to pay extra for international calls).