Welcome to They Make That?! If the title wasn’t enough of a giveaway, this is a new weekly feature to Landmark where one of our writers will tackle a couple of bizarre, unique, new, or just plain awesome products that our Lifestyle team has been able to get their hands on and review it so that you, our loyal readers, can look at it and loudly proclaim, “They make that?!”
In this installment, we review a device that lets you have free long distance calling.
netTALK Duo – $49.95, plus $29.95 annually
Anyone who’s ever seen the incessantly obnoxious MagicJack commercials knows that the MagicJack is a device that connects your phone to your computer and allows you to make unlimited long distance VoIP calls after paying a nominal annual fee. The netTALK Duo is the MagicJack on steroids, essentially. With its ability to plug directly into a wireless router, rather than a computer, the Duo is far more appealing to laptop users, such as myself, than its competitors. As well, it offers a supplementary smartphone app that allows you to make and receive calls on your VoIP line via your BlackBerry, Android or iPhone using your data plan, rather than your cell phone minutes. The Duo also boasts live, telephone technical support (more on that later).
The concept of the Duo is fantastic, but it falls short on execution. When I first set the device up (which is one of the simplest technical processes I’ve ever encountered), I had some minor static issues stemming from a bad telephone cable (my fault, not netTALK’s). Since fixing that, however, I’ve made about three calls on my Duo; on two of those I gave up mid-way through and called the person from my cell phone, tiring of myself and the other caller shouting “Hello? Can you hear me?” every few minutes. On the other call, I had no complaints–the audio quality is slightly above that of a decent cell phone call. As for the telephone technical support, I made two attempts over two days to reach them. On the first day, I was on hold for quite a while, and my call was disconnected before someone answered. On the second day, I hung up after nearly five minutes on hold.
At $29.95 a year, the Duo would offer me savings of at least $450 per year, which is substantial given how much I–and I’d suspect most others–have to funnel into phone/internet/cable any given month. In reality, I’d save a fair bit more as the Duo’s base plan covers calling anywhere in Canada or the United States and I’m a bit of a long distance fiend. And, unlike many other VoIP services, the Duo offers enhanced 911–a necessity. The jury is still out on whether or not the device offers the reliability that conventional landlines once the kinks are sorted out but the price benefits are too big to ignore.