HolidayBuyer's Guide

Get an Ooma Telo home phone system for $39

From the Cheapskate: This VoIP box gives you free basic phone service or extremely cheap advanced phone service.

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Hi, cheeps. Let's talk about yesterday.

First, the Lenovo two-in-one sold out pretty quickly -- not surprising given the size of the discount, but kind of disappointing given that it was Lenovo itself selling the machine, and not a third-party reseller with limited inventory. Some buyers got as far as the checkout page, then received an out-of-stock message. Aargh.

Second, arguably even worse, StackSocial ended up cancelling all Fujifilm Instax 8 orders after the fact. Trust me when I say this was incredibly frustrating for everyone involved, not just you. StackSocial has been a great provider of deals over the years, and I take it at its word regarding the cause of the issue: a shifty supplier.

Photo by Ooma

I know the company has already processed refunds and sent letters of apology, but let me apologize as well for anyone who felt burned. Every so often, things like this happen. On the plus side, now that I know the Instax 8 is such a popular item (who knew?), I'll be on the lookout for more deals!

In the meantime, this: You are long overdue to cut the cord, landline-wise. In my house, phone service arrives over the interwebs, and has for years. The delivery mechanism? Ooma. Total cost for my home phone? Zero. (Well, very close to zero. Read on.)

For a limited time, and while supplies last, Lowe's has the Ooma Telo home phone system for $39.99 shipped. (In-store pickup does not appear to be available.) That's lower than the lowest price I've seen for a refurbished unit, and this one is new.

Update: Proving that the universe hates me this week, this is already sold out. Aaaargh! Sorry, cheeps.

Update No. 2: If you want something similar -- and similarly priced -- you can get the Obihai Obi200 VoIP box for $47.99 shipped. Many people swear by this item (see some of the comments on this very post), which lets you use Google Voice for unlimited free local and long-distance calls. It actually offers a lot of the best Ooma features, including call blacklisting, at no additional charge.

Curiously, the Lowe's product page refers to this as the "Ooma Telo Mounted Emergency Alert Device," but it's very clearly just an Ooma Telo. And what that is is a touch-operated, answering machine-style black box that plugs into your router. (You'll need broadband internet service for this, natch.) You then plug your existing cordless-phone base unit into the Telo. Presto: you've got dial tone, same as if you were still using a POTS line.

Once you own this hardware (which sells new for $99.99), you're looking at nearly free local and long-distance phone service -- forever. Your only bill will be for taxes and fees, which in my area comes to around $3.50 per month.

That said, you might want to consider paying a little more. The included Ooma Basic service affords a handful of phone features: caller ID, voice mail and so on. If you want extras like free calling to Canada, a second line, three-way calling, call forwarding (in the event of an internet outage) and voice mail delivered via email, you'll need Ooma Premier, which runs $9.99 per month. Best feature by far: call blacklisting, meaning you can block telemarketers and other unwanted callers.

Also, porting your existing number costs $39.99 -- unless you prepay for a year of Premier ($119.99), in which case it's free.

So, yeah, Ooma does nickel-and-dime you a bit, but most of the extras are optional. And depending on what you're currently paying for basic landline service, $10 per month for tons of telephone goodies may prove a great deal.

As for quality, I've been an Ooma user for about six years and couldn't be more satisfied. Even with the Telo installed "behind" my router (rather than in front, which is the recommended setup), call quality is much better than I ever got from Vonage. As for Ooma's customer service, I can't really comment because I've never had cause to use it. Everything just works.

I realize lots of folks are abandoning their landlines altogether in favor of cell phones, but sometimes it's more convenient to have traditional cordless phones scattered around the house. Safer, too, as there's more likely to be a phone within reach in case of emergency. At just $40, this is hard to pass up. And at that price it's even cheaper than the Obihai boxes people are always recommending to me. (I think Ooma is an easier and more versatile solution.)

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Bonus deal: Game time! If you like open-world mayhem of the most over-the-top variety, look no further than the hyperviolent, hyperhilarious Saints Row series. For a limited time (and based on past experience, it may be very limited), Amazon has Saints Row IV (for Windows) for just $3.75. Regular price: $14.99. That's for the digital-download version, which you'll redeem via Steam.

Note to parents: The game is very much rated M (Mature).

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