Monday, June 22, 2009

The Magic Jack and Other Gadget Diversions


This gadget is truly one of the most defect-riddled and fraudulently promoted electronic gadgets ever. Ignore the PC Magazine "Product of the Year" award, and the ads you see on television. As if the dropped calls, misdirected calls, horrid audio quality, credit-card overbillings, atrocious customer service, and lack of responsiveness to complaints were not enough, this device has caused friends calling me on my Magic Jack number to incur long distance calls as a result, even though they are calling locally!

A friend of mine who lives on Granville, 8 blocks from here, called me on my Magic Jack number from her AT&T land line numerous times within the last 6 weeks, and was billed $22.00 by her land line carrier, AT&T for these calls. They were made from her 773-area code number to my Magic Jack 773-area code number- a strictly local call. She called me, and incurred these charges as a result. She complained to AT&T, and was rudely informed that AT&T had the discretion to determine whether or not a particular call is a toll call.

Please note that AT&T provides the long distance connection for Magic Jack, as the Magic Jack user interface proclaims when you connect your device and it boots up.

That makes AT&T a party to the Magic Jack fraud.

I am lodging a complaint with every relevant authority, including but not limited to the Illinois Attorney General, the Federal Communications Commission, the local BBB, and every state and national elected official representing me, and if you are a Magic Jack user with similar issues, I would urge you to do the same.

It's not likely I can get a refund at this point, for I purchased the device two months ago at Radio Shack and paid cash. Unfortunately, after 4 weeks of relatively problem-free operation, I trusted and discarded my receipt, which was a mistake. Things started downhill steeply after 6 weeks of use, and now the device is utterly useless.


In my endless quest to squeeze the buck and tweak the watt, I'm game for any technology that can combine many purposes in one and eliminate a bill, while making life more convenient and enhancing my emergency preparedness.

One of my cherished aims has been to totally untether myself from landlines and go completely wireless, which is now really easy and economical. My plan was to get the wireless broadband from Cricket Mobile, then purchase a Magic Jack for economical phone service.

Unfortunately, the first stage of this plan worked better than the second stage.

I ditched my RCN internet cable in favor of Cricket Mobile's unlimited broadband, which gives me unlimited wireless connectivity and 3 gigs of downloads, with no "hot spot" necessary, for $$40 a month. I'm happy to report that the connection is flawless and that this is the best internet connection I have ever experienced. It seems faster than my old RCN connection, which is $37 a month, and it compares very favorably to the wireless broadband offered by Verizon and Sprint, which use the same CDMA technology but cost $60 a month for unlimited broadband plus 5 gigs of downloads. Believe me, the 3 gigs you get from Cricket is so ample for the needs of most personal and business users that you will never know or get the good of the extra 2 gigs Sprint offers. I really don't see how those two carriers can compete with Cricket, especially since they make you sign 2-year contract while Cricket requires no contractual commitment. Cricket's cellular telephone service is the most inclusive and economical out there: $40 a month for unlimited calling and texting in the lower 48 states, $35 for unlimited calling, long distance or local, but no texting, and you get a $5 discount if you bundle it with the broadband. There is also no contractual commitment for the cellular phone. All in all, I'm thrilled with my Cricket service and believe that this company is the best mobile carrier out there.

Additionally, the salespeople at the Cricket store at Sheridan and Lawrence bent over backwards to be helpful, to the point of letting me try out my Magic Jack VoIP device and phone on their connection before I bought their broadband card.

I'm not so happy with the Magic Jack. In fact, I'm thoroughly disgusted, and have had to give up making outbound calls using this device, which makes it a waste of money since I'm past the 30 day trial service. I bought the device at the Radio Shack on Sheridan near Loyola, and I would strongly recommend to Radio Shack that they drop this product if they have not already done so. You may have seen this gadget advertised on TV. The Magic Jack is a little gadget that employes VoIP technology, or Voice-over-internet Protocol, to tranmsit and receive telephone calls over your computer, saving the cost of a cellular or land line connection. This technology was first offered by Skype and Vonage, which are subscription services. The Magic Jack works differently. You buy the device for $39.95, and that price includes a year's worth of phone service, unlimited calling at any time in the lower 48 states, and very cheap rates for calling other countries. You plug the device into a USB port on your computer, and then plug any conventional land line telephone into it, and the device boots up automatically with no installation software, and you are ready to call. At set up, you are given a choice of phone numbers, and that number is permanently assigned to your device. A great feature is that you can carry this device around the world with you and make phone calls off your local number, using it, from anywhere. After your first year, you can renew your service at $20 per year, or you can buy 5 years of service for $59.95. Sounds great, huh?

Well, not exactly. At first, the device worked very well, with only a few minor glitches, such as a habit of dropping calls. It worked well over my Cricket connection, too, for about the first 6 weeks. However, it's been downhill ever since. At first, there was a steep slippage in audio quality, when people I called said that my voice was "breaking up" , like a bad cell phone connection. This got worse, to the point where my voice is completely unintelligible to the person at the other end, while I can hear them perfectly well. Strangely, people can hear me perfectly well on incoming calls. There are also many other problems cropping up. Some callers have reached other, strange people while calling my number. Often, I cannot call out. Sometimes calls go right to the message box without the phone ringing at all. We are having similar problems with the Magic Jack in our office, even though our connection there is a DSL, and when I googled "complaints about Magic Jack", I pulled up thousands of complaints about the device. Additionally, Magic Jack provides no physical address or telephone number at which the company can be reached, making a person wonder about their basic honesty and intentions. In summary, the Magic Jack is a scam, a half-baked product brought to market and promoted with sensational advertising, before it was thoroughly developed, and unless the company improves its service very quickly, this product will be a huge failure, and some other entrepreneur will pick up the pieces for pennies on the dollar and offer an improved version under a different brand name.


Anonymous said...

Cricket actually gives 5GB and you can continue to use your service past 5GB for no overage.

The North Coast said...

Really? I was told 3 GB at the site and at the store. But no matter, for I'm most unlikely to use even 3 GB, which I'm told is equal to about 74,000 text documents or 1,000 MP3 music downloads. Unless you're into downloading "bit torrents", or are using streaming data like streaming stock quotes or some such, I doubt you'll ever feel limited by it.

I've had the Cricket internet card for two months now and I have never had an internet connection that performed this well. I formerly used RCN, and tried Comcast once. So I'll be back very soon, like tomorrow, to subscribe to the Cricket unlimited local and long distance cellular, to replace the abominable Magic Jack device.

consultant said...

Sorry to hear about your problems with the "Magic Jack".

The part where you said, "..Magic Jack provides no physical address or telephone number at which the company can be reached.."

Isn't this the approach of much of corporate America today? A bunch of nameless, faceless corporations that hide their assets off-shore to avoid paying taxes, customer service that is actually customer avoidance, and public relations departments that are straight out of George Orwell's 1984.

The ReThuglicans, along with some help from a few feckless Democrats, have so trashed our consumer protection laws, that there's practically no one to turn to for help.

America; June, 2009.

I watched Obama last night on Nightline, answering healthcare questions put to him by that 10 million dollar a year pimp, Charlie Gibson. Obama was good, but healthcare is clearly a complicated subject that doesn't present well at all in the confines of commercial tv; especially as conducted by a bought and paid for shill like Gibson.

My point is that most of our leadership in America has become so corrupt and confortable with their corruptness, they don't want to change. I was outraged as Obama was set up, literally as the straw man, while Gibson, and to a lesser extent, Diane Sawyer, basicly read the ReThuglican talking points to Obama.

We are not GOING to become, we HAVE become a South American style country. Over the next few years, watch. You think infrastructure is bad now, just wait. Soon, you'll be lucky to get any kind of wireless signal consistently.

The Pimps have taken over.

The North Coast said...

I agree, consultant, and it's been this way for a long time.

However, at least Magic Jack has to operate in a semi-free market, and we will be permitted to drive it out of business merely by getting the word out. This outfit's reputation has been wrecked so thoroughly and the word is spreading so fast that it's doubtful they'll be around by the end of the year. I notice that CNBC no longer is running their ads.

ATL&T, unfortunately, will still be around, because they're fat and secure because of the many decades of being a government-protected monopoly they enjoyed before the de-monopolization in the 80s. It will take them longer to dig their own grave with their horrid customer service and unfair charges.

Unfortunately, such is not the case with our most powerful Corporate Welfare Recipients, such as General Motors and our biggest financial institutions. The malfeasance and insanity of our largest financial institutions should have put them out of business, but we're being destroyed financially and our essential infrastructure being neglected to prop up the fraudulent lending engine. Fact is, these institutions would not have taken the risks they took except that they knew all along that they would be bailed out. General Motors has been failing for 30 years and has ignored every market signal telling them that they were building the wrong products the wrong way. But GM has been a welfare recipient for a long time, getting the benefit of legislation written specifically to make its road easier, and bloated defense contracts.

Poor Obama is a lost little boy in the middle of all this, and truly does not understand what he's doing when he puts trillions of dollars in government support beneath these institutions, and tries to support the still-overinflated housing market. The FHA is now writing the next wave of bad loans- 3.5%down, and sometimes no-down, on mortgages that are too big to unqualified buyers, with the $8000 tax credit for first time buyers. Renters, who get no tax advantages, are paying for this, and so is everyone else. When will our leaders learn that every time the government tries to influence the market, the results are a disaster?

Michael G. said...

You haters of the Republican party, and worshipers of the Manchurian Candidate--Obama need to get your heads out of the sand.
Put your country first, and the ambition of your political party second. Unforntunately for America, all of you ignorant people will not see the light of day until Obama has ruined this great country.

Anonymous said...

Great blog as for me. I'd like to read a bit more concerning that theme. The only thing it would also be great to see on this blog is some pics of some gadgets.
Katherine Karver
Block phone

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hello Laura! I hope you are doing fine, thank you so much for this review of Magic Jack, I was about to buy it because I have heard many positive comments and marvels about this, but I will not buy it now

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