September 15, 2009
Cell coverage at my apartment is awful. Two weeks ago I finally got AT&T to open a ticket. It was supposed to be resolved within 5 days. 10 days later they called to tell me it was moved to another group that doesn’t give timeframes. So no luck, but at least this time they listened to me instead of telling me to power cycle my phone.
To work around this poor reception issue, my original solution was to keep the phone in the one corner of the apartment with mostly consistent reception and use Bluetooth. That turned out to be a pain. I’d have to put the phone over there, remember to power up the Bluetooth, and remember that they were both charged.
I had to figure out what to do for a while until either AT&T fixed things or they released the Microcell. The Microcell will connect to my internet and create a mini-cell network inside.
Option 1: Verizon Land Line
I already have Verizon for Internet/TV and the installer hooked it up so all I’d have to do is call to get it turned on. It would have cost at least $30 more/month plus all the phone taxes. Seemed like way too much. Even just for local calls it wouldn’t have been much cheaper than that.
Option 2: Vonage
Next I looked at Vonage. For unlimited it’s $25/month and for 500 minutes about $18/month. I didn’t need a ton of minutes but if you pick the lower plan it was at least $70 for the equipment to get started (equipment I think was $10 on the more expensive plan).
Option 3: Skype
Next was Skype. I already paid for unlimited outgoing calling on Skype. I added the incoming calling, $30 for the year I think. Still, that would tie me to the computer. I tried using the Skype iPhone application to make calls on Wi-Fi, but it dropped calls a lot. I ordered a Skype Wi-Fi phone. It was $150 and the reviews weren’t great. It also was back-ordered on Amazon for a month.
Selected Option: Ooma
Ooma is more expensive to start, I got mine for under $200 from Dell. Its attraction is that you don’t have to pay a monthly fee, ever. For that you get unlimited calling in the US, caller id, voicemail (with email/txt notifications and ability to listen online), and call waiting. You just hook it up to your network and attach a regular phone. There is a premier option for $12.99/month or $99.99/year and you get: a 2nd line, 3-way calling, multi-ring, call screening, voicemails sent to email, blacklists, voicemail boxes, and some other things. They automatically give you premier free at first for 2 months, but I don’t think I’ve used any of those features. None of them are too necessary and I don’t want to get attached to any and convince myself premier is worth it. Here is how I currently use Ooma: When I get home, I turn on call forwarding on my iPhone. All calls are then forwarded from my iPhone to the Ooma line, even if the iPhone doesn’t have service (key in my dead zones). Minutes are charged for this forwarding. The only negative to that is that it doesn’t count mobile-to-mobile minutes, but not a huge deal. Nights & Weekends are still free.
When my phone starts to work via network or Microcell I will still need my Ooma. It’s great for conference calls or any calls that I expect to last for more than a few minutes. When I joined my parents family plan I became more aware of using minutes. On my solo plan I had so many rollover minutes that last year when I was on the phone 40-50 hours each month, it didn’t put a dent in them (not all that time was daytime minutes, but a good bit was). When minutes are tight, a 45 or 90 minute conference call could really cause minute issues. For $0/month, it’s not going to be bad to have around.
So far I haven’t had any troubles with Ooma. No dropped calls and audio quality is just fine. One bonus is that you get the caller id with name on the phone. For some reason I find it enjoyable to see if someone comes up with a family member’s name or some sort of generic one from the state where they got the phone.
I got Uniden phones at Costco so that I could have 2 phones but only need to plug in the base unit. They also have mute and speakerphones in the handset, much needed for those conference calls. I should really get a cut from these companies.