There are all kinds of options available for both residential and business customers in the voice over internet protocol (VoIP) market. Many cable providers now have VoIP service plans, and there are also dedicated providers of residential VoIP and hosted private branch exchange (PBX) service. Those aren't the only types of phone service available, though, as there is also a third option that can help people save even more money. This third option also uses VoIP, but instead of a monthly service fee, the customer only needs to pay for a device upfront and can then make and receive calls free of charge going forward. There are many of these devices on the market, and the Ooma Telo is one of the more popular options.
Ooma has multiple types of phone service available, including an office option for businesses, but the Telo is its most well-known and widely used product. Here’s how it works – a customer buys the Telo device, connects it to their internet, and then they have what is essentially unlimited calling without paying a monthly fee. Ooma's sales pitch is that the user gets all that for just the initial hardware cost, which is currently $99.99 for the standard Ooma Telo device. The big question for consumers is whether the monthly savings are worth it compared to the competition.
The Ooma Telo certainly has its advantages, but there are also some potential issues that consumers need to keep in mind. This guide will cover the advantages and disadvantages of choosing the Ooma Telo.
Benefits of the Ooma Telo
There are plenty of reasons to like the Ooma Telo. Of course, the low cost involved will attract many people who just want basic phone service without paying too much. If the user has an internet connection with sufficient speed, they’ll be good to go with making and receiving calls this way. There are also several other key advantages that make the Ooma Telo such a good alternative to other phone service options.
1. Unlimited Calling without a Monthly Fee
This has been mentioned and it’s clearly Ooma’s biggest selling point. The user can get basic service without paying a fee every month, eliminating a common monthly expense for many households. There’s just that initial investment of $99.99 for the device. The user can then connect it, get a phone number and they have free phone service.
Now, there can be certain limitations surrounding this unlimited calling service, but these tend to only apply in very specific circumstances. Potential limitations will be explored in detail in the drawbacks section. Considering how inexpensive the Ooma Telo is and the calling capabilities it offers, it’s certainly among the best phone service options.
2. The Option to Choose a New Number or Port an Existing Number
If a consumer wants a new home phone number, they would typically need to get one through a major provider that charges a monthly fee. That’s not the case with the Ooma Telo, as the consumer can get a new phone number free of charge.
There’s also the option to port an existing number over, which is ideal for anyone who wants to keep their current phone number. There is a one-time fee of $39.99 per number to do this. Another option would be signing up for the Ooma Premier plan, which has a base monthly fee of $9.99.
3. User-Friendly Web Interface and Apps
VoIP providers are constantly improving their services, and that includes making their web interfaces and mobile apps more user-friendly. Ooma has done the same, which is a big plus for its users. Even on a basic plan without a monthly fee, Ooma users get to use its mobile apps and online portal.
This means that the user can check their phone line’s info and logs at any time through their computer or smartphone. They can also change their settings. Reducing costs through Ooma won’t cost the user in terms of functionality or accessibility.
4. Compatibility with Almost All Landline Phones and Hardware
The Ooma Telo is compatible with a wide range of devices, including almost every landline phone on the market, along with modems and routers. And one area where Ooma is ahead of the pack is in terms of how it connects to the user’s broadband internet. The user can hook it up to a computer, which is the typical method available through Ooma and alternative companies, but the Ooma Telo doesn’t even need to be connected to a computer. Any internet connection hookup will suffice. Users have the option of purchasing phones through Ooma, but they’re also free to use their own or choose phones from other manufacturers.
Ooma’s compatibility with so many devices is a major advantage over quite a few other VoIP providers, which require users to get hardware through the provider. They often sell this hardware through their service plans at a higher cost than the consumer would expect.
5. Excellent Call Quality
People may expect that call quality would be an issue with such inexpensive phone service, but fortunately, that’s nowhere near the truth. This is another area where Ooma holds up very well with its more expensive competitors.
From tests of the Ooma Telo and customer reviews, the consensus is that it delivers high-quality calling with crystal-clear sound. Of course, there can still be interruptions on occasion, but that depends on the user’s internet connection. If the user has their network configured properly and they have enough bandwidth, there shouldn't be any problems. Considering the Ooma Telo's low cost, its call quality is very impressive.
Drawbacks of the Ooma Telo
Despite that long list of benefits, it would be a lie to say that the Ooma Telo is flawless. There are also several drawbacks that consumers should be aware of before going with the Ooma Telo. Of course, this is one of those areas where the drawbacks that a consumer notices will vary from person to person. That’s why this list of drawbacks will stick to the most noticeable issues. These aren't necessarily deal breakers, as drawbacks are to be expected with service at this low of a price point, but they are worth noting.
1. There Can Be Monthly Costs with an Ooma Telo
The fact that Ooma’s basic phone service doesn't have a monthly fee plays heavily into their marketing. Although this is true, it doesn't mean the consumer won’t pay anything per month. Due to telephone industry regulations, there are still taxes and fees involved.
The user will typically need to pay a 911 service fee, a regulatory compliance fee and a local interconnect recovery fee. There could also be local or state taxes. These won’t amount to much, likely just a few dollars per month, and they’ll depend on the user’s area. To Ooma's credit, it doesn't conceal this from customers. It includes information on these charges in its knowledge base and has a tax calculator tool that allows customers to estimate potential taxes and fees by punching in their ZIP codes.
2. Calling Isn't Necessarily Unlimited
Another big part of Ooma's marketing is that it offers unlimited calling throughout the United States, which includes inbound and outbound calls, for no extra fees. In most situations, Ooma stays true to this. But it does include terms in its fine print stipulating that if Ooma feels a user is abusing or overusing the system, then it reserves the right to cap the user to 5,000 minutes of monthly outbound calling, which would still be almost three hours per day.
This won’t be an issue for the vast majority of customers, and Ooma only has it for everyone’s benefit, as it needs to keep its system running smoothly. For the most part, the limit is unenforced, and Ooma usually only caps a user’s minutes if it’s clear that user is abusing the system. For example, Ooma may cap a business that’s using the Ooma Telo to make many hours of outbound calls per day, since it intended this service for home users. It has business VoIP services available through Ooma Office.
3. Subpar Customer Service
The good news is that Ooma phone service is usually high quality and setup is a quick, simple process. The bad news is that there is one area where Ooma has received substantial criticism from its users, and that’s its customer service. When people have trouble with their phone service, they want to get it solved as soon as possible to stay in touch and avoid missing any important calls. This is one area where many VoIP providers, including residential and business providers, fall short with long hold times.
Ooma may offer free phone support with its basic plan, but unfortunately, its customer service is sorely lacking. It outsources its customer service and has foreign representatives who sometimes have trouble solving caller issues in a timely fashion. Compared to the customer service at some other providers, such as RingCentral with its stellar assistance, Ooma fails to impress.
4. Most of Ooma's Features Are Only Available with Premier Service
The basic Ooma plan that’s available for no monthly fee has a solid selection of features, especially considering the price. These features include call waiting, caller ID, an answering machine, online call logs and voicemail, and number porting. But that’s about it when it comes to the basic plan’s features, and everything else requires Ooma’s Premier Service plan for $9.99 per month.
If a user wants to get a second phone line, make three-way conference calls, call Canada or Mexico, set up do not disturb or call forwarding, or use voicemail monitoring, they need the Premier plan. If a customer is searching for a phone plan that will completely replace their landline, they may need to either spring for the Premier plan or stick to a basic plan with fewer features than they’d like.
5. Ooma Has a Separate Adapter for Wireless Connections
Wi-Fi has become standard for home networks. Homeowners don’t want to figure out how to get Ethernet cables all over their home, and even though Wi-Fi isn’t quite as fast, it’s usually more than enough and it’s very convenient for people to connect to the internet from anywhere in their home. The problem is that the Ooma Telo isn’t Wi-Fi ready.
If a customer wants to use their Ooma Telo wirelessly, then they’ll need to purchase an Ooma wireless adapter for $49.99, making that initial Ooma investment a bit more expensive. The alternative would be sticking with a wired connection for the Ooma Telo, assuming the user has a wired connection available that they can use.
The Verdict on the Ooma Telo
Ooma’s products have their benefits and fulfill a specific niche. Just like the Ooma Office, the Ooma Telo is a great choice for those in need of an extra phone line or people who want phone service at the lowest cost they can get. And the Ooma Telo provides that low-cost service without sacrificing call quality or basic phone features. The user gets a good selection of basic phone features, the option to manage their account through both an online web portal and an app, essentially unlimited domestic calling and fantastic sound quality, all for just the upfront hardware costs and no monthly service fee.
That being said, the features on the basic plan are fairly limited and definitely won’t come near what a consumer could get through other, more expensive providers. There’s also the customer service issues. Most users, especially those who like to do things themselves, probably won’t need customer service in the first place. But when a user needs to contact Ooma for assistance, the customer service experience often leaves a lot to be desired.
There are plenty of people out there in need of basic phone service and nothing more. For them, the Ooma Telo can work very well. It does have some problems, though, and people in need of more features may want to look elsewhere or see if the Ooma Premier Service plan fits their needs.
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