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Free home phone service, anyone?
Whenever I write about landline alternatives such as the Ooma Telo, readers invariably sing the praises of Obihai, a voice-over-IP phone adapter that many say is a better alternative.
It's definitely a cheaper one, especially today. For a limited time, and while supplies last, Newegg has the Obihai OBi200 VoIP telephone adapter for $34.99 shipped. Regular price: $49.99.
The OBi200 works much like the aforementioned Ooma, MagicJack and similar products. You plug in your existing cordless phone system, connect the adapter to 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 VoIP service -- it can work with up to four simultaneously. But once that's done, you should be looking at free or super-cheap local and long-distance calling forever.
Let me pause right here to note that although Google has offered free calling for many years, no-one knows how much longer that gravy train will stay on the tracks. But even if Google starts charging or shuts down Voice, you should be able to find an inexpensive alternative. Will there be hassles involved in switching? Perhaps, but, hey, that's part of the cheapskate lifestyle.
OBi200 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 for thwarting telemarketers and the like.
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 OBi200 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.
I haven't used an OBi200 myself, as I'm a longtime Ooma man, but I think the 2,700-plus user reviews on Amazon are pretty telling. They average out to 4.6 out of 5 stars.
Though it may lack some of the plug-and-play simplicity of your MagicJacks and Oomas, the OBi200 is extremely versatile and highly configurable. And 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.
Bonus deal: I have long been fascinated by light bulbs that double as Bluetooth speakers, though I've never actually tried one. Today, Meh has a deal I couldn't pass up: four Awox StriimLight Bluetooth LED Speaker Lights for $30, plus $5 for shipping. You get two of the standard model and two of the mini. I suspect these will sell out very rapidly, and I apologize if you miss your chance.
What stinks, right up front, is that you can't pair any of them together. But I'm still eager to deploy these in different rooms of the house and see what happens. If you've tried any StriimLights, hit the comments and let me know what I'm in for!