Last year I took the plunge and canceled my cable TV service. A couple of months ago I decided to trim costs even more and cut the phone cable too. Keeping some kind of home phone service was important to me for convenience and as a backup for my spotty cell phone coverage. After reviewing the options I narrowed things down to the Ooma or using Google Voice through the OBiTalk Device. While Ooma has the more established service, it does have a higher initial startup cost and very minimal monthly fees. The ObiTalk is a newer technology that allows you to bridge your Google Voice service to a traditional phone and after you purchase the OBi Adapter Bridge, the service remains free so long as Google Voice remains free. (Note Google has said that Google Voice calls to the US will remain free through 2012 but have not announced pricing after that.)Eric Mack’s excellent review for CNET pushed me over the edge. Because I already use and love the Google Voice service, I decided I had nothing to lose by trying the OBi.
After reading the overwhelmingly positive reviews on Amazon, I purchased the OBi110 Voice Bridge and VoIP Telephone Adapter. The physical setup of the OBi on my network was a breeze as it simply needs to be plugged into your network and a phone line. In my case, I have an electrical box in my laundry room where all the drops for my cable, phone and Ethernet ports in my house originate. The box has power and houses my cable modem, switch and other equipment so the OBi fit right in and I was able to make all the necessary connections the dial tone supplied by the OBi fed through to all the outlets in my house.
Activating the OBi and connecting it to my Google Voice account was a bit tricky. Although OBi provided an excellent video tutorial and written instructions on their website, I apparently had a non-standard configuration of Google Voice because I used it without a Gmail account. After struggling and failing for an hour or two I contacted OBi’s telephone support and was immediately set on the right path. Once I created a Gmail account associated with my Google Voice account and configured Google Talk per the instructions I was good to go. (OBi uses some kind Google Talk magic to connect the adapter Google Voice) I must complement OBi’s telephone support. I called about 9:00 p.m. Eastern on a Friday night and while their support staff appeared to be very small, they answered the phone call on the first or second ring and stayed with me and walked me through the setup until everything was up and running.
I’ve been using my OBi + Google Voice setup for a few months now and everything has worked flawlessly. The voice quality seems just as good as my cable telephone service and I have many additional features from Google Voice now that weren’t available from my cable company (or required an extra fee) including free long distance in the U.S., caller ID, call screening, call recording, transcribed voicemail, custom greetings and filters. I should note that with my Google Voice setup, the OBi does not support emergency calls, but OBi does have some suggestions for managing this. In my case, I do have a cell phone and a home alarm system that I can use to contact emergency services.
Now, I pickup any phone in my house, get a dial tone and start dialing. The caller on the other ends sees my Google Voice number on their caller ID but otherwise has no ideas what type of phone or phone service I’m using. Best of all, I haven’t paid a dime since the initial purchase of the OBi Adapter. My total startup cost for the OBi was $50 plus a little time to setup (more than normal because of my abnormal Google Voice setup). My bare bones cable telephone service was costing me $25.00 a month.
Part of me is concerned something may happen in the future to break the Google OBi connection, that the price of Google Voice may increase after 2012 to the point where this is no longer an insanely great deal, or the Google Voice service may go away all together as Google is known for adding and dropping services. These all seem like remote possibilities and none are under my control. Even if something does happen to break this setup, I’ve more than gotten my money out of the OBi device and am in no worse of a position than I was a few months ago before I started using the OBi. Overall I couldn’t be happier with the OBi and wish I made this switch years ago!