MagicJack app brings totally free calling to iOS

No, it's not "free to other MagicJack users and 5 cents/minute to landlines," but just plain free to any number in North America. Wow! Alas, call quality is spotty.

Rick Broida Senior Editor
Rick Broida is the author of numerous books and thousands of reviews, features and blog posts. He writes CNET's popular Cheapskate blog and co-hosts Protocol 1: A Travelers Podcast (about the TV show Travelers). He lives in Michigan, where he previously owned two escape rooms (chronicled in the ebook "I Was a Middle-Aged Zombie").
Rick Broida
2 min read
Call Jenny or anyone else in the U.S. or Canada, absolutely free, with MagicJack for iOS.
Call Jenny or anyone else in the U.S. or Canada, absolutely free, with MagicJack for iOS. Screenshot by Rick Broida

Move over, Skype. Watch your back, Line2. Good news, iPad and iPod Touch users. The new MagicJack app lets you make unlimited free calls to the U.S. and Canada, no strings attached, no credit card required. 

That means if you're a heavy gabber, you could theoretically drop to the cheapest available iPhone voice plan--and keep on gabbing. Of course, it also gives iPad and fourth-generation iPod Touch users an option for totally free phone service.

The first time you run the app, you get three choices. If you already have one of the famed MagicJack voice-over-IP gizmos, you can sign into your account, use your existing number, and access all of your associated contacts. That effectively gives you a second phone line for your iPhone--complete with its own voice mailbox.

If you're not already a MagicJack customer, you can quickly sign up for an account, and get a new phone number (sort of) in the process. That "number" is actually a 10-digit code that callers need to punch in after calling a main MagicJack number--a fairly major hassle, and a fact that's not explained anywhere within the app. (Nor is the number listed; it's 305-848-TALK.)

Alternately, you can skip both options and just start making calls. That's how I started my MagicJack testing, though later I linked the app to an inactive (but still operational) MagicJack account.

The company recommends using a Wi-Fi or 4G network, despite the fact that the latter isn't yet available for iOS devices. (Hmmm, did they just drop an iPhone 5 launch clue?) I never got as far as testing it on AT&T's 3G network, as my Wi-Fi tests were sufficiently revealing--and not in a good way.

Nearly every call I made had one problem or another. On the first, I heard a couple rings, then silence for several seconds, then more rings. The person on the other end had answered on the initial ring, but said I "wasn't there."

On the next call, I talked for a few minutes, then learned I was "breaking up." Shortly after that, the callee couldn't hear me at all, so I had to hang up. Later I called another friend and chatted for about 6 minutes. He sounded great at my end--loud and clear--but reported that at one point, my voice dropped out for a full 10-15 seconds.

I then completed an 8-minute call that was nearly perfect from start to finish--loud, crystal-clear, and with only one or two tiny audio hiccups.

Your mileage may vary, of course, and you have nothing to lose by taking MagicJack for a test-chat. Also, a MagicJack rep informed me that the company is being bombarded with sign-ups, so my issues may have been due to server overload (which hopefully MagicJack will iron out). 

I hope so, because the app itself works beautifully, and the service is undeniably appealing. Free calls to and from most of North America? Suh-weet!