The Pitch: "Never pay a monthly phone bill again!"
April 2009. In concept, the YMax magicJack is a great product, reviewers say. It is inexpensive, easy to install and simple to use. The value is hard to beat -- just a $40 hardware cost and a $20 yearly fee for unlimited local and long-distance calling. Early reports from respected reviewers such as PCMag.com and Laptop Magazine were largely glowing -- in fact, PCMag.com gave the YMax magicJack it's Editors' Choice award when it first reviewed the product in early 2008.
Fast forward to today, however, and things look different. Part of that is technical. Many VoIP (voice over Internet protocol) services, such as Vonage (starting at *est. $18 per month, plus *est. $10 for equipment), connect directly to the Internet through your router. MagicJack, on the other hand, connects to your PC via a USB port and relies on that computer for making and receiving phone calls. That means that your computer must be turned on in order to make and receive calls with the magicJack. With other VoIP services, you can make and receive calls whether or not your computer is running.
That's fine in theory, and the YMax magicJack works perfectly well on a nice, clean computer -- which is how lots of professional reviewers test and why initial reports were so positive. However, most real-world computers are loaded with all sorts of software and hardware, and few are configured perfectly. That can lead to a host of problems that can befuddle even technically adept owners, let alone typical consumers.
Fueled by its positive initial reviews and hyper-aggressive marketing campaign in as-seen-on-TV infomercials, many people have been persuaded to buy YMax magicJack. That's led to a dramatic increase in the need for competent technical support to help the non-tech-savvy get their magicJacks up and running. However, reports widely say that YMax has been unwilling or unable to adequately meet that demand. That's narrowed the base of happy users mainly to those comfortable with configuring their computer's operating system, software and security settings on their own or with minimal help. It's also left many others unhappy.
Other issues have also led to plenty of discontent. Like any VoIP device, call quality depends heavily on the strength of your Internet connection, and downloading a file or streaming media online while calling can muck things up even more. Additionally, your computer must always be on for magicJack to place or receive calls. Not all area codes are available; if yours is not, it could make your number a long-distance one for all inbound calls, including local ones. SpotCoolStuff.com notes that once YMax magicJack's software is installed on your computer, there's no easy way to uninstall it, a comment we've also seen echoed elsewhere. We've also seen numerous complaints about the company's billing practices.
This follow-up review to one posted in January 2008 says that while the YMax magicJack works "well enough" in lab testing to have originally earned the site's Editors' Choice award, hardware changes, firmware changes, infrastructure changes and a little too much success have left the company unable to adequately address customer and technical-support issues. Until that is fixed, PCMag.com finds the magicJack "difficult to recommend for the average, nontechnical consumer."
Review: YMax magicJack (Winter 2009), Mario Morejon, Feb. 4, 2009
2. Laptop Magazine
This blog posting follows up on an earlier full review of the YMax magicJack, as well as other coverage provided by Laptop Magazine. As noted here, many reviewers -- including Laptop itself -- have praised magicJack as a great low-cost telephone product, while plenty of others have had nothing but aggravation. This post outlines some of the issues, and gives magicJack inventor Dan Borislow an opportunity to respond. Links are provided to other YMax magicJack coverage, including Laptop's original review.
Review: magicJack Inventor Responds to Customer Service Complaints, Jeffery L. Wilson, July 31, 2009
This user community covers everything related to broadband communications, including VoIP providers. MagicJack scores a 76-percent satisfaction rating here, good enough for the site's Bronze award. Only a handful of the more than 80 user reviews here are negative, but this site's members tend to be more technically sophisticated than average. A forum here dedicated to magicJack is also a good destination for questions and answers.
Review: magicJack Reviews, Contributors to DSLReports.com
The editors here conduct a head-to-head comparison of three popular VoIP services: Vonage, Skype and YMax magicJack. Features are compared in a handy chart, and set-up, cost and call quality are analyzed. Privacy and customer-service issues are also discussed. Those last areas are where magicJack is said to fall notably short. In the end, the SpotCoolStuff.com editors say they would love to recommend magicJack but can't. Among their complaints is that the magicJack software can't be removed from a computer once it is installed.
Review: magicJack vs. Vonage vs. Skype, Editors of SpotCoolStuff.com
About.com's guide to VoIP services provides a good overview to the pros and cons of YMax magicJack. Though the technical and customer-support issues raised by some others are not addressed, the pluses and minuses of the technology behind magicJack are explained. The service earns 3.5 out of five stars. A small handful of users also post reviews; most rate YMax magicJack even lower. (Note: ConsumerSearch is owned by About.com, but the two don't share an editorial affiliation.)
Review: magicJack VoIP Service Review, Nadeem Unuth
More than 130 users have posted reviews here, and many are unhappy with the YMax magicJack. The site's editors say, "MagicJack's reviews are quite alarming given the sheer volume of disappointed customers that were never able to enjoy the benefits of service they were promised." Connection quality, non-working devices and the lack of customer or technical support are cited as recurring issues.
Review: magicJack -- VoIP Reviews and VoIP Ratings, Editors of and contributors to VoIPReview.com
This is a user-to-user help site for YMax magicJack users. The magicJack reviews forum includes lots of user feedback on the magicJack, along with user-written suggestions on resolving any issues. Additional feedback can be found in a rants-and-raves forum. A separate technical support forum is dedicated to solving specific issues.
Review: magicJack Reviews, Contributors to MagicJackSupport.com
More than 120 users have weighed in on the YMax magicJack at Amazon.com. Responses reflect the polarized reactions we've seen almost everywhere else. Notably, magicJack receives nearly the same number of one-star ratings as five-star ratings (out of five).
Review: magicJack: PC to Phone Jack
More than 20 YMax magicJack users have weighed in here, giving magicJack a middling 3.5 out of five star rating. Opinions are very clearly split. Those with solid Internet connections and those who can get a phone number with a local area code are the happiest. Some complain about voice quality. One user claims he was bumped from the service for making too many calls to Canada.
Review: magicJack Reviews and Ratings, Contributors to InfomercialRatings.com