Get an OBi100 VoIP adapter for $39.99, make free calls for life
This incredibly popular gizmo plugs into your router, serving up totally free calling via Google Voice or another service. Just one catch: no 911.
Yesterday I wrote about the Ooma Telo phone system, which for $109.99 allowed you to ditch your landline and make nearly free phone calls for life. (Your only obligation: a few bucks' worth of monthly taxes and fees.) Alas, it sold out quickly.
More than a few commenters suggested an alternative: the Obihai OBi100, which can pair with Google Voice (among other services) for totally free calls. And talk about a cosmic coincidence: today the sucker's on sale.
Specifically, Amazon has the Obihai OBi100 VoIP phone adapter for $39.99 shipped. That's $20 off the regular price and about $10 less than you'll find it anywhere else.
I'm not intimately familiar with this device, but it appears to work much like an Ooma or MagicJack Plus. You plug your existing cordless phone system into the the OBi100, plug the OBi100 into your router, and presto: you've got dial tone.
Actually, there's a bit more to the setup than that, at least with this device, as you have to configure it for use with your Google Voice account (or another service, like Sipgate). But once that's done, you should be looking at totally free local and long-distance calling forever.
Update: At the moment, Google Voice will be offering free calling only through the end of 2012. It's unknown whether Google will extend that. However, the OBi100 works with a variety of services, including Sipgate One, which is indeed free for life. So even if Google starts charging for phone service, you should be able to find a freebie alternative. Will there be hassles involved in switching? Perhaps, but sometimes that's just part of the cheapskate lifestyle!
OBi calling features include caller ID, call forwarding, anonymous caller blocking, three-way conference calls, and voice mail. However, I didn't see any mention of a blacklist feature, which I've found invaluable on my Ooma for blocking telemarketers and other unwanted callers.
Also, be prepared to give up your current phone number, as Google Voice doesn't currently allow number porting from landlines. (Someone smarter than me may know a workaround to this; let's hear about it in the comments.) One other important caveat: the OBi doesn't do 911, period. (The device actually has "no emergency calls" pasted across it in big letters.)
Those couple gripes notwithstanding, this is one of the cheapest ways to keep landline-style phone service in your home -- perhaps the cheapest. And the OBi100 is remarkably popular on Amazon, with an average 4.8-star rating from nearly 300 buyers. For 40 bucks out the door, it's awfully compelling.
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