There doesn’t seem to be a shortage of phone lines in my household but truth being told, with Skype, Facetime and my iPhone readily available, I hardly use them. While I’m not sure I’m ready to totally cut out the cord, it would be nice to find a way to cut down some of those monthly expenses.
So I thought I would checkout the NetTALK DUO Wi-Fi VOIP (Voice-Over-Internet Protocol) System. It’s an out of the box solution that retails for $74.95; it includes an adapter, a free Canadian phone number and extendable one-year of service, which after 12 months is $39.95CDN per year (multi-year discounts are available). It allows you to hook up a standard telephone handset to make calls and even send faxes via the Internet. It’s flexible allowing you to connect to the Internet three ways; through your computer, router or anywhere you have a Wi-Fi connection.
It offers a number of features you’d expect to get from your phone company and they’re all included free with the NetTALK service. The obvious ones are Call Waiting, Caller ID, Call Forwarding and Voicemail. Visual Voicemail is also available as messages can be sent to your email address and you can listen to them while on the fly. You also get 3-way calling allowing you to add a 3rd person to a call or for a conference call for up to 20 people, you get a dedicated number – likely a 305 area code number, and a pin number access code.
411 directory services is also included and Enhanced 911 service, which is configured by supplying your physical address during the activation process.
Two new features that have been recently added are Call Blocking and Caller ID Blocking. Call Blocking allows you to “blacklist” a phone number, like from some of those annoying telemarketers so if they call you from a given number, they will get a busy signal. Caller ID Blocking enables you to suppress your number when making calls for added privacy
Long Distance & Text Plans
You can make calls anywhere to the US and Canada and optionally you can add low-cost international call rate plans add-ons to 60+ countries starting at $10/month.
Calls between two Duo numbers are also free.
Text Plans are available for only $40 per year. It gives you the ability to send and receive text messages using your Duo phone number through a free downloadable app via compatible iOS, and Android devices and Kindle Fire.
Setup can be fairly easy. The Duo has an Ethernet and phone port on one end while on the other end is a micro-USB connector, which allows you to power the device from either a USB or AC adapter (both supplied).
A card with login information including initial User Name and Password along with the unit’s serial number and MAC address located right inside the box gives you a quick start. It also includes a link to the activation portal. Now I did say the setup can be easy. Remember there are three ways to connect; you can configure your setup automatically or manually and depending on whether you are using a Mac or PC. For Windows/XP/Vista/7 users, there’s a configuration tool. I did find myself a little confused at first. I eventually configured the device by hooking up to my router. My suggestion – don’t be a hero, read the manual and setup instructions. There is an FAQ and a number of videos online to guide you. You might just discover as I did that you can get your system’s IP address by pressing *41# on your phone. Who knew?
If you really get stuck, there’s an (PC/Mac) app you can download to get the folks at NetTALK to configure it for you. Live toll-free technical support is also available seven days a week, but only during selected business hours.
You can also select to assign your phone to a number with any Canadian area code. In fact something new in the last month is the ability, for a fee, for Canadians to port their existing numbers over to NetTALK. (Of course there may be some restrictions, but the online portability checker can confirm).
NetTALK is very similar to MagicJack. The latter, although a little cheaper, does not have Wi-Fi capability nor does it support faxing. Comparing it to Skype OUT, which runs about $3/month, it’s nice not to have to pay extra for a phone number nor do you need a specialized phone to use it.
As for call quality, I used 2 identical Panasonic DECT 6.0 cordless handsets to make calls from both my landline and NetTalk. While the NetTalk was quite clear, it wasn’t always as crisp and prominent as the landline – perhaps much more similar to cellphone quality. With heavy bandwidth use, I also discovered some degradation in call quality. I also experienced occasional tininess. I did have the odd dropped call and had to do a reset, but for the most part the experience was quite acceptable.
What I like about the NetTALK is that you can get a phone line for a mere fraction of what it would cost through a traditional phone company. NetTALK provides long distance and many other features as standard while those same features are “extras” elsewhere. I like that you can assign any Canadian area code and the ability to port your existing phone number is a bonus. Another plus is the ability to use any standard handset, connect wherever you have Wi-Fi and call forward your phone to multiple numbers in a priority sequence, ensuring that you can be found, somewhere.
As for who would cut the cord completely, it might work for some, but not others. There may be an issue for those who have an alarm system that relies on a traditional landline. The NetTALK adapter relies on the Internet and external power so if the Internet is down or power goes out and you have no battery backup, you have no phone. While voicemail is flexible, it is only kept for 30 days and I have not been able to find a way to illuminate my voicemail-waiting indicator.
Finally, live technical support has limited hours and wait time in the queue can be a bit long. Of course you need to keep in mind you’re not paying for a traditional phone company’s infrastructure either.
Personally, for an initial investment of about $75 (or less) and $40 a year thereafter, I think this product has huge value and is ideal for someone who can overlook its shortcomings. This might be someone who hardly uses or doesn’t rely on his or her landline for an alarm system. It seems well suited to replace secondary lines, especially a kid’s line or fax line and it’s an even cheaper solution for those who use SmartRing (two phone numbers on one line).
It’s available with a 30-day money back guarantee and can be found through many of your favorite retailers such as London Drugs, Best Buy & Future Shop as well as Staples and Amazon.ca. For more info visit NetTALK.ca.
FREE TEXT for a year
During the month of February, NetTALK is offering a free unlimited netTALK Text Plan for a year with a Duo purchase. Use code LOVE2013 when registering your device.
Rating: 3.8 / 5
Photos courtesy NetTALK.
Greg Gazin is the Real Canadian Gadget Guy.