Ooma offers several optional hardware accessories for the Telo that let you extend the flexibility and reach of the product. One is the $50 Ooma Wireless Adapter, which untethers your Telo from Ethernet and links it to your network via Wi-Fi (802.11n/g), so it doesn’t have to reside in the same room as your broadband modem and/or router.
We were a little concerned that making the Telo wireless would take a heavy toll on call quality, but we couldn’t really notice any difference when we did it. (Of course, this will depend heavily on placement and other variables of a particular Wi-Fi network.)
There’s also the Ooma Telo Handset ($50), a DECT-based cordless phone that integrates various Ooma features such as voice mail access and that supports HD Voice, a form a high-clarity sound that sounds vastly better than standard landline or VoIP audio. Unfortunately, you can only take advantage of it when talking to someone with a Telo Handset or a standard phone that supports HD Voice, and the latter in particular are harder to find than the Higgs boson.
For what it’s worth, we were clearly able to hear the difference between standard and HD Voice audio by calling several Ooma test numbers with both a standard cordless and the Telo Handset.
Ooma offers an optional $50 Telo Handset , but the system works also works with an ordinary corded or cordless phone.
Finally, there’s the Ooma Bluetooth Adapter ($30), which we didn’t have the opportunity to test, but which promises to let you answer calls via a Bluetooth earpiece or answer calls to your linked mobile phone via your home phone. (Incidentally, both the Bluetooth and Wireless adapters are USB devices, and since the Telo has but one USB port, using both devices at the same time requires adding a hub to the mix.)
'Unlimited' Usage Caveat
Ooma‘s terms of service stipulate that it’s intended for residential, non-commercial use, and like most telecom providers the company doesn’t take the word "unlimited" literally. According to an Ooma representative, this doesn’t necessarily preclude use of the service by a small businessperson in a home office environment provided usage doesn’t exceed 5,000 minutes per month (which works out to 2 hours and 40 minutes a day based on 30 days in a month, or just under 4 hours a day based on 21 working days in a month). Anything more, and Ooma may wield the banhammer. Check out the website for more information on Ooma’s usage policies.
The Bottom Line
The Ooma Telo's features and costs, even with Premier service and factoring in the cost of the Telo unit (which works out to $8.33 a month over two years) compares favorably to digital phone service many other VoIP providers. This includes services from an ISP, which typically cost upward of $40 a month and ties you to your Internet provider. If you're looking to unhook yourself from a costly, antediluvian landline by switching to VoIP service, Ooma should definitely be on your short list.
Pros: Easy to set up and use with conventional phones; good voice quality; basic service costs nothing other than monthly taxes and regulatory fees.
Cons: High upfront costs relative to many VoIP services; unlimited calling really means 5,000 minutes per month; many desirable features require $10 per month premier upgrade.
Joseph Moran is a veteran technology writer and co-author of Getting StartED with Windows 7, from Friends of ED.
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