Get an Obihai OBi100 voice-over-IP adapter for $29.99
Designed to pair with Google Voice but compatible with other VoIP providers, this little gizmo promises free (or at least dirt-cheap) phone service for life.
Whenever I write about landline alternatives like the NetTalk Duo or Ooma Telo, readers invariably line up to sing the praises of the Obihai OBi100, a voice-over-IP phone adapter that many say is a better alternative.
It's definitely a cheaper one, especially today: Obihai (via Amazon) has the OBi100 VoIP Telephone Adapter for $29.99 shipped. That's after applying coupon code TALK2DAD at checkout, and about 25 percent off the regular price.
Update: The coupon code does not appear to be working at the moment. I'm checking with Obihai and will update the post again when I have more information.
Update No. 2: Fixed! Looks like there was a link issue. I just tried the code and it worked. However, according to Obihai, supplies are limited, so this may sell out soon. Good luck!
The OBi100 works much like an Ooma or MagicJack Plus: You plug in your existing cordless phone system, connect the OBi100 into your router, and presto: you've got dial tone.
Actually, there's a bit more to the setup than that, 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.
Let me pause right here to note that although Google has offered free calling for the past couple years, it's unknown how much longer that gravy boat will continue to sail. Fortunately, the OBi100 works with a variety of services, including Sipgate One, which is indeed free for life. So even if Google starts charging, you should be able to find a freebie (or dirt-cheapie) alternative. Will there be hassles involved in switching? Perhaps, but, hey, that's part of the cheapskate lifestyle.
Update No. 3: Well, I'm batting 1.000 today: Sipgate is apparently no longer accepting new customers. If anyone knows of any other free VoIP services, share the deets in the comments!
OBi calling features include caller ID, call forwarding, three-way conference calls, and voice mail. However, although you can block anonymous callers, there's no blacklist feature, which I've found invaluable on my Ooma Telo for thwarting telemarketers and other unwanted callers.
What's more, Google Voice doesn't allow you to port an existing home number, so you'll need to rely on your GV number if you make the OBi100 your primary phone service. And the device doesn't support 911, though you can configure it to call a local emergency number if someone does dial 911.
Though it may lack some of the plug-and-play simplicity of your MagicJacks and Oomas, the OBi100 is extremely versatile and highly configurable. Even better, it has the potential to free you from your monthly home-phone bill -- forever. If I wasn't already an Ooma user, you can bet I'd have this sucker plugged into my router.
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