The magicJack Plus is due out very soon, perhaps as early as next month, but I was able to get an early sneak peek at it for a review. The big new feature in the MagicJack Plus is that it sports an on-board ARM CPU, which means you can make calls without the need for the MagicJack Plus to be connected to a PC. It looks almost identical to the original magicJack USB stick, but it now has an Ethernet jack for connecting to any broadband connection, enabling PC-less VoIP calling. magicJack Plus is not the first USB stick to offer PC-less VoIP calling though – that honor belongs to competitor netTALK DUO, which I reviewed back in March. magicJack may not be first, but they’re backed up by VocalTec, who has been in VoIP since the beginning, so there is a comfort level that if you choose magicJack Plus, you won’t have to worry about them going out of business. magicJack is also #17 in my Top 20 VoIP Innovators of all time list.
One huge competitive advantage of magicJack plus over the netTALK DUO is that the magicJack plus works both over Ethernet and over the PC’s USB. Why is this important? If you’re traveling and in a hotel that requires a web browser to authenticate onto the hotel broadband connection, you won’t be able to do so using the netTALK DUO. Further, if you only have WiFi available, the netTALK DUO won’t work. The magicJack can leverage the USB connection in instances where you only have WiFi or you need your PC to authenticate to gain access to the Internet.
I spoke with magicJack Vocaltec CEO Dan Borislow about the new magicJack plus. One of the first questions I asked was about wideband codec support. Dan said, “One of the largest carriers, besides ourselves is Neutral Tandem and they have wideband codec availability and they transcode. Obviously, our own gateways have wideband available as well. So for the great majority of calls we can do wideband.” He explained that for magictalk-to-magicjack calls they are already wideband. I asked which wideband codec they use and he explained, “We developed a G.711 wideband codec of our own but we have the capability to do Speex or G.722 as well. But currently we use our own 711 wideband codec.”
When they do launch the magicJack plus they will be simultaneously launching their iPhone and iPad apps. Users could use the iPhone/iPad magicJack app to have a second phone line that follows them wherever their mobile phone goes. magicJack plus users can completely cancel their home landline phone and have the added benefit of being able to receive calls to their magicJack phone number on their iPhone or iPad. This feature kind of reminds me of Line2, except Line2 it costs more ($9.95/month) and it only works on your iPhone, Android device. Though Line2’s higher-end packages do offer a PC softphone. (Note: I’m waiting for the beta code to try the magicJack iPhone app and will update this post with my thoughts once I play with it.)
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