LAS VEGAS--Ooma, the company behind the popular free VoIP home phone service, just got a little flashier.
Here at CES, the company introduced the Ooma HD2, a new $59.99 cordless handset that's designed to work with its existing Telo box, which drives the Ooma system. The company says the handset offers improved "HD Voice" call clarity and offers smartphone features "made possible by the Ooma cloud-enabled platform."
The HD2 is the company's second-generation handset and it features a 2-inch color screen and picture caller-ID with the ability to automatically display Facebook profile pictures and online contact lists from Facebook, Google, and Yahoo. Up to four HD2 handsets can be used with the Ooma Telo, but existing Ooma users should note that you can't mix and match handsets--if you want to move to the new HD2, you have to put aside any old Ooma handsets you've been using with your system.
For those who don't know what the Ooma Telo is, it's a "free" home phone service that uses the Internet to make calls. We say free with quotation marks around it because the system itself costs money (it carries a list price of $250 but can be found online for less). But aside from that initial investment in the hardware, domestic calling is free and you get very low, Skype-like rates when calling foreign countries.
In case you're wondering how Ooma makes money, it operates on the freemium business model. It offers Ooma Premier, a $9.99 per month optional level of service that includes a bunch of advanced features (Instant Second Line, three-way conferencing, a second personal number anywhere in the U.S., and more). Last September, the company introduced a $49.99 Wi-Fi option for the system that allows you to place the Telo anywhere in your house that's within range of your home Wi-Fi network.
Here are some of the HD2's highlights:
- Integrated 2-inch color LCD.
- Uses latest DECT technology so it offers good range and security and doesn't interfere with Wi-Fi networks and other home electronics.
- Improved voice quality.
- One-touch voice mail access lets users check messages anywhere in the home, and there's an intercom to talk between handsets or transfer calls.
- Up to four handsets can be used with each Ooma Telo.
- Built-in speakerphone and headset port for hands-free operation.
- Can be configured to be used as a baby monitor.
- Picture caller-ID with the ability to automatically display Facebook profile pictures and online contact lists from Facebook, Google, and Yahoo.
- Ooma will make more smartphone-like features available to customers later this year through firmware updates, including MP3 ringtones to help identify individuals or groups when calling.
The Ooma HD2 Handset will be available in February, and as noted, will cost $59.99. We'll offer up a full review once we get our hands on a unit.