Review: Ooma Telo, eh? 1


Overview

In the age of cellular phones, the Internet, and portable tablets, paying the typical $40 or more a month on a traditional landline just doesn’t make sense anymore.  While many have rid their landlines – opting for their cellphone as a main means of communications – others are still yearning for the tangible feeling of a desk phone, or the classic ring of an office line.  While we’ve seen IP phone services like Vonage and MagicJack – my experiences with them have been rather grim – they’re often clumsy and complicated to set up involving the use of a computer.

In the United States, the Ooma Telo has proven very successful as an Internet-phone solution for the home/home-office.  Calls are routed through their servers, and all you pay for is the unit that connects to your router, bringing your calls online; and the mandatory government access fee in your province or state – it works out to less than $4 a month here in Toronto.

According to Ooma, “Based on an average Canadian phone bill of $40/month, the Ooma Telo pays for itself in just six months and customers will save more than $200 in the first year, more than $600 in just two years and nearly $2,000 in five years.”

I was given the opportunity to review the unit thoroughly over the past couple months, and below are a few of my thoughts.

Setup and Ease of use

When I first received the Ooma Telo, I was extremely impressed at how simple the setup process was.  There were only a few items: the Telo unit; a power adapter; and an ethernet cord.  C’est tout.  That’s all she wrote.  For the first time, I did have to plug the Telo into my computer to set it up on my home network.  For the typical computer-user, this is an extremely simple and straightforward process; You put in your personal information, your credit card info, and you’re given a phone number.

The system was designed to be set up next to your router, but if you’re like me and wanting to use your phone near your office desk, you can purchase a Wi-Fi adapter for an additional cost of $50.  I highly suggest it as it dramatically improves the portability of the Telo; allowing you to place your phone anywhere.  Virtually, you can set up your phone anywhere there is a power wall-outlet.

Support

I did experience several minor issues while setting up my Ooma Telo unit.

I had trouble setting up the Ooma Telo Wireless adapter.  At first, the ethernet connection would work flawlessly, but the wireless functionality wouldn’t connect to the Ooma servers, even when it was still connected to my home network.  It turned out that I received a faulty unit; however Ooma gladly replaced it for a functioning one.

My other issue – still remaining unsolved – is the caller ID format when placing calls.  Typically when making a call, the Canadian caller ID follows the “+1 (416) 555-1234” format (including the International ID).  When making a call from a cell-to-landline, landline-to-cell, cell-to-cell, or landline-to-landline, it follows that exact format.

For some reason, the Ooma follows the format without the International ID in the phone number.  When making a call from the Ooma to a cellular phone, the format appears rearranged, showing “+41 6 555 1234.”

Notice the “1” missing from the phone number, throwing off the proper format of the phone number.  What this means is that the phone is recognizing the “+41” as the International ID – in this case, Switzerland – when it really should be “+1” (North American International ID); “416” (Toronto Area Code); and “555-1234” (phone number).

Essentially, what this means is that if you have the phone number in the contact list with the “+1” International ID added (i.e. “+1 (416) 555-1234”), the contact won’t be recognized when the incoming call is received, and your phone will think that it is a long-distance call being made from another country – from a different number (“+41 6 555-1234”) – Switzerland (+41), in this situation.

I’ve attempted to make support calls to ask about this, however every attempt has proven inconclusive, with no firm answer given or explained to me.

I hope this issue will be resolved sometime down the road, as it can be rather irritating at times.  Let me be clear, this is me being picky.  This is in no way, a deal-breaker.  Stay tuned for an update.

Pros
  1. This one is a no brainer.  In the long run, you’ll be saving significantly more money, as you won’t be paying upwards of $40 or more a month with a traditional landline.
  2. Once the system has been setup successfully, Ooma Telo works just like a regular landline.
  3. With the Ooma Premier service, you get a variety of advanced features including: Instant Second Line; Three Way Calling; Multi-Ring; Back-up Number; Google Voice Extensions; and FREE calling in both United States and Canada.  Ooma Premier is $9.99/month or $119.99/year.
  4. You gain a truly reliable service with LIVE support when you need it.  Again, all you pay for is the unit itself, as well as the additional mandatory government costs in your province or state.
  5. Inexpensive International calling rates all around the world.  Whenever you need to reach out abroad, Ooma provides you the functionality at very competitive rates.  Now you can stay connected without emptying your wallets.
  6. You can port your current phone number at an additional cost.  They do all the work for you; and you sit back, and relax!
Cons
  1. You will require more space as the Ooma Telo unit will need to sit next to your phone.  If you’re tight on space, this may not be the option for you.
  2. It is recommended that you have a solid, high speed Internet connection.  If you Internet connection is weak, this may compromise your sound quality.
  3. Setup may require a relatively computer-savvy individual.  This unit isn’t exactly “plug-and-play,” and having general knowledge of a router is important for troubleshooting.
Bottom Line

I was a little skeptical at the beginning.  I wasn’t sure whether the unit was going to present problems with my current Internet setup, as well as whether it would simulate all or most of the functions on a regular phone.  I was extremely impressed with the features of their Premier service, including the Google Voice Extensions.  I conduct my business primarily through my Google Voice phone lines; the Ooma phone did a phenomenal job handling high-volumes of PR and business related calls.

As for the everyday consumer with the desire of having a simple phone line for calls to the family across the country, this is a great solution.  You get solid call quality, an advanced voicemail system, as well as free calling right across the country – something you don’t get typically with tradition landline providers.

The Ooma Telo is now available at www.amazon.ca and London Drugs in Canada at an MSRP of $229.99 CAD. The Ooma Telo includes a one-year limited warranty, a 30-day money back guarantee and a free 60-day trial of Ooma Premier service. Additionally, live customer service will be available by phone moving forward in both English and French.

Disclaimer

This product was provided to me by the folks at Ooma for review purposes.  I am in no way affiliated to them, and opinions expressed here are solely mine.  Any questions, media related inquiries, and other information can be directed to me by visiting the Contact page above.


About Winston Sih

Winston is currently the Digital Media Producer-Correspondent for City television stations across Canada, producing content for the network’s digital properties including Breakfast Television, Cityline, CityNews and Entertainment City. He is also an on-air correspondent for the network’s in-house productions where he can be seen reporting on the latest social news and trends.

  • Mark Hansen

    I’m a huge fan of Ooma. I’ve been using it since it came out in Canada, and I’ve ditched my Bell home phone service since. I will not be turning back. Great service, wonderful alternative. Lovely post, Winston.