Ooma is a home phone technology that offers free voice calls in the US, and up to 90% off international calls. It has been around since 2004, as an actual device you plugged in at your home. But today Ooma has announced that the exact same services will be available as an application on your iPhone.
What does Ooma do?
Ooma Telo is a black box that goes in between your phone and your internet port:
It connected your home phone to the internet, and allowed you to make calls for free over WiFi or 3G. You’d want to be pretty certain that you would use your home phone, though, because the box costs $250.
Home phones? Really?
Yep – the growth in use of mobile phones has hit home phones pretty hard. Not many people use their home phones as their main telephone these days. In fact, many people (including myself) don’t even have a home phone. So that’s a pretty dry market for Ooma. Hence, it has released an app version of the service.
How does it work?
The Ooma Mobile Application works on iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad. It offers the same service as the box does: making domestic and international calls over any Wi-Fi or 3G network. It also claims to compress the actual audio of your voice call, reducing the amount of data it uses by up to 60%
It doesn’t offer free calls though. While the box had a high initial price and was free thereafter, the app has a much lower initial price and is merely very, very cheap afterwards. You can buy the Ooma Mobile app for $10, after which national calls will start at under 2 cents a minute – and the cost of international calls depend on where you’re calling. There is a Premier plan on the app which gets you 250 free minutes for US calls, with an optional International add-on that gives you 750 free minutes in total to any country you like.
What we think?
Man, poor Ooma. A box-based VoIP call service might have seemed like a really good idea back in 2007, but the waning popularity of wired phones meant this service was in decline from the moment it launched. On the bright side, Ooma seems to already have its licensing and operator deals all sorted out – so while it doesn’t achieve the “free” promise of on-line VoIP services, it certainly seems to be a reliable way of reducing your call costs.