Phone Phun

So, we moved into a new house in late December. We’re on a bit of a hill, which is nice. The downside is that the cell phone towers are on the other side of the hill. So, my Tracfone works fine on the deck, but not so well in the office, where I need it. I have a Nexus 4 on T-Mobile, and that works, but the last thing I need are more phone bills.

Some background: About two years ago┬áI got sick of paying monthly cell phone bills. I hate the phone and really only use it for business. So, I need a phone, but use very few minutes. That’s why I went with pre-paid. For about $150 a year I get all the minutes I need. (And since I just talk on my phone, I didn’t need any data.)

The problem with pre-paid, of course, is the ever-changing numbers. I didn’t want to port my number to a provider, then cancel, and have to re-port, etc.

So, I ported my primary (and quite old) phone number to Google Voice. The nice thing about Voice is that you can then set up auto-forwarding to any number/phone you want. Even better, you can have it forward to multiple phones at the same time. This worked fine. Until the new house and the flaky cell service (which is funny, given it runs on the AT&T “we’re supposed to be everywhere” network).

For the past month I’ve been making do with having Google Voice ring both of my phones. I just picked up whichever one I thought would work better. Fine, but a little annoying.

So I looked into VOIP — with the key factor being cheap. I ran across OBI, which is a device you hook into your network. Then you plug a regular phone into it. So, $40 for the OBI 100 box and $12 for a cordless phone — a cheap test, since my T-Mobile bill for the Nexus is $50 a month.

The beauty of the OBI is that it has Google Voice integration built in. So, I plug the box in, do the setup, and tell Voice to forward calls to my cells and to my Chat account. (You don’t really use Chat, that’s just how it hooks in.)

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And, amazingly, it works! My incoming work calls ring the office “land line” phone and my cells. So, if I’m out-and-about, I pick up on the cell. In the office, I pick up the office phone.

Another nice thing is that the incoming and outgoing calls, when run through Google Voice, are free. So, now 99% of my calls run on VOIP for nothing.

And if my cable service / internet goes down? No problem. Voice will just route/ring to my cell.

I’ve been using it just a short time and have been very happy with the call quality. Much clearer than any cell networks. And, I’m looking forward to getting another old school MaBell phone for the office. It’s always nice to slam down the receiver after an annoying call!

Update: One other thing I should add. You can make OBI to OBI calls directly, too, through their network. No need for Google Voice. Or, instead of Google Voice, you can choose a VOIP provider for your network. But, considering the Voice calls are free in the US, that’s the cheaper bet.

The OBI to OBI is interesting because you could set up a device and phone at someones house (assuming they have broadband). Then they can make calls to you for nothing. (You just do **9 and the 9 digit OBI device number.) Great for avoiding land-line “long distance” / toll charges.