A couple months ago I got my first look at the MagicJack PLUS—the latest version of the home-phone gizmo that's long been a staple of TV infomercials.
The original MagicJack, you may recall, promised unlimited local and long-distance calling for a ridiculously low price ($40 for the gizmo and the first year of service, $20 per year after that).
Good news: you can kiss that landline goodbye. The MagicJack PLUS solves many of its predecessor's problems, and it's still an impossibly good deal.
To use the PLUS, you need two things: broadband Internet service (cable is preferable, but DSL will also work) and a router. The PLUS plugs into the latter, thereby gaining full-time access to your Internet service. (Calls are carried over that service, rather than over the copper wires used by the phone companies.) Your computer isn't part of the equation, so it doesn't matter if it's on or off.
You can plug any cordless phone or phone system (the base station, that is) into the PLUS. Once you've completed the setup, you should be able to pick up the phone, hear a dial tone, and make/take calls.
That setup isn't particularly complicated, though the only instructions you get are the terse ones printed on the back of the box.
Also, the MagicJack folks try to upsell you many times along the way. For example, when the time comes to choose your phone number, you can opt for a vanity number (any combination of letters and/or numbers) for $10 annually or a Canadian number (also $10 annually).
Want to transfer an existing phone number? There's a one-time fee of $19.95.
The good news is that once you've completed all the setup steps, you've got yourself a solid home-phone service. In my tests, call quality was very good overall—though keep in mind your mileage may vary depending on the speed and reliability of your Internet service. The occasional echo and/or garbled audio aren't uncommon with Internet-phone solutions like this one.
MagicJack's features are basic but useful, including voicemail, call waiting, caller ID, and directory assistance.
The Plus itself runs $70, which includes your first year of phone service. After that, you pay just $30 per year. That service entitles you to free, unlimited local- and long-distance calls anywhere in the U.S. What's not to like?