I love you, Vonage

Holy ones and zeroes, you’re not going to believe this. A few weeks ago I signed up with Vonage as a part of the shake up everything I know about phones effort I’ve been having recently. But I never thought it was going to be this cool.

I got the little kit Vonage sent a couple weeks ago and didn’t have time to hook it up, so it sat in my den, looking at me with those I’m-technology-why-aren’t-you-playing-with-me-immediately eyes. I broke down tonight and followed the eight-step instructions to install the thing. I guess I was scared it would break my Airport or something. Foolish, groundless concerns. It was installed in 10 minutes, and it would have been 5 if I hadn’t been cautious and read everything through even though I already knew how it was supposed to work. Let me tell you something: it’s unexpectedly eerie to pick up your phone and hear a dial tone when it’s not plugged into the wall. The wall jack is just sitting there empty with no cord in it. It’s like the horror scene in the movie where the doll plays its little recorded message when they push the button, and then they turn it over and there’s no battery in the back.

On the list of nifty features Vonage offers, I notice that you can email your voicemail to yourself. This is like a geek dream, people, so you know I’m not going to pass this up. I set it to email a mailing list that will automatically send the voice mail message (in WAV format, but no one is perfect) to a mailing list at joshlewis.org that Stephanie and I (and obviously only Stephanie and I) are on. Then I called my number (my temporary fake number since the phone company hasn’t let go of my landline yet) with my cell phone and I left a very brief, stupid, testing one-two-three message.

I got this in my email ten seconds later. Ten! Seconds! Later!!! It’s crystal clear! It’s beautiful! It’s my voicemail! My cell phone reception isn’t even that good in this area.

Have you ever been at work and wished that you could find out easily if you missed a call at home without dialing your phone number, waiting for your voicemail to answer, putting your pass code in, listening to the lady tell you which numbers to push, blah blah, on and on? Well, this is the solution.

I would highly encourage you all to look into Vonage if you’ve got broadband already. I mean, you get up-to-the-second usage reports of both incoming and outgoing calls, how many minutes they lasted, what numbers they were to, you can forward your calls to other numbers, do the voicemail thing, set up virtual phone numbers… the list is endless. Yes, I realize there are probably quirks and bad points, but this is so much more for so much less. I’ll take it in stride, and kiss my landline goodbye for a stream of bits.

The phone is dead. Long live the phone.

8 thoughts on “I love you, Vonage

  1. VoIP is really cool. A few weeks back I started poking around with different options and found on only vonage but there are a couple other companies with effectively the same service. There are also a few free networks entirely online with people trying all sorts of new codecs and routing, free phone gateways, etc. The thing with voicemail to email was one of the things I really liked about most of the options as well. Given what some people are doing I can’t see things going anywhere but towards it, with even local phone companies getting in on it.

    That said, I went another way completely, and haven’t bothered with even having a home phone. My cell phone has been basically my only phone (other than work) for 6 years, and I’ve been happy with that. Everyone only has to keep track of one phone number for me, and I don’t have to deal with telemarketing. I can see some people having a need for a traditional home phone, but more and more people I know seem to have either already dropped their landline or are considering doing so.

  2. I’m in the “considering” phase. My Vonage package costs me $15 per month, so they’re not hitting me too hard.

  3. So is your Vonage thing a cell phone or this Voice over IP thing? Or both? For being a fairly tech savvy guy I don’t know much about this whole VOIP thing and most companies seem to do a pretty crappy job explaining it.

  4. Mine’s just a “land line” kind of thing, not a cell phone. I still have my cell through Verizon. I’m not yet aware of any cellular VoIP things, but that would be interesting…

  5. Wait… most cell phones are digital these days, no? So I guess it’s already somewhat like VoIP since it’s digital, it’s just that your cell phone may not have what would technically be called an IP address. I don’t know though, I haven’t researched that stuff.

  6. I’ve also looked into this. I have (for now) opted to not use Vonage for service – we are trying the cell-only route for now. I did some research, and was pretty impressed by what I found.

    – VOIP is cool because you can take a VOIP phone, that connects via WiFi 802.11b, anywhere you go where there is a wireless internet connection. I’m not sure if it joins the network with the strongest signal strength, but the mere concept of being able to catch calls without being dependent of location is cool. If I am at home, at work, or at a friend’s house, there is WiFi at all locations, and I can get Vonage service.

    – They have killer long distance rates both domestic and internationally. Something like 3-5 cents a minute to Europe.

    – I could use that Vonage phone if I connect to the internet in a different country. Sneaky, eh?

    – Not regulated as a phone company yet (Thanks MN Court System!) so there aren’t tons of burdensome taxes (yet).

    I ditched my landline phone number, and went with a DSL-only phone line from Qwest that runs at 1.5 Mbps down / 1.0 Mbps up. This is plenty fast, and $33/month. ISP charges would normally run an additional $20/month, but I have a special discount as I used to work at the company that provides my internet access.

  7. Regarding VOIP over Digital Cell networks, this is still a ways off. Right now, a codec inside your cell phone processes and chops up your conversation, and relays it to the cell tower using a digital conversation. This is scrambled in such a way to make the plain vanilla radio crowd have a really hard time intercepting your phone calls. This same digital connection can also carry data packets as well. Your cell phone doesn’t have an IP address, it has an “ESN” = electronic serial number. This is how CDMA networks work – Code Division Multiple Access. See http://www.phonescoop.com/glossary/term.php?gid=8 for details. Another popular standard, GSM, keeps your phone number and identifying information (including address book) on a SIM card – a thumb-sized chip that can be removed from one phone and installed into another.

    Verizon rolled out a technology known as Push to Talk – a copy of an existing Nextel service. Supposidly this uses VOIP for connecting to the other party, but the time it takes to setup the connection and get ready to send conversation data is something like 20 seconds. Someday that will be somewhat less, but that day is not today – yet.

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