The next model magicJack… Let’s call it SOHO, keep it pretty much the same, but fix some things that could be better. I rely on magicJack every day to provide phone service for about $36 per year. What I like about it is that it’s pretty transparent. If I didn’t tell anyone, you would think it was just a land-line. It just does its thing in the background, and when I need it, it’s there. It doesn’t use a lot of power, and keeps my communications costs to a minimum. That said, magicJack could use some improvements. There are some things that users are constantly frustrated about. A few simple changes could make this device even more useful and more transparent.
Watch the video here…
…or continue with the post here!
Here’s a little bit of history, regarding magicJack devices. First there was the original magicJack which was USB only. This device is still probably in operation for some people, but requires you to leave a computer on all the time to use it. That was a power waste. Still, if you were willing to pay a few bucks a month in electrical costs to keep a computer going with a magicJack attached, it was a great VOIP alternative to the traditional phone service.
The next version was the magicJack plus 2012. That’s the one I bought first. This was a well-designed device with regards to form-factor appeal, but the product was brittle and had volume and overheating problems with some customers. It’s best attribute was that it had an ethernet port, so it could be connected to your router directly, rather than connecting full-time to a computer. It was a revolution for voip in that it packaged what had previously been a land-line-only service in a portable physical device. It was one of the first devices that blurred the line between a phone service and the physical device.
The third product was the magicJack plus 2014, which was supposed to offer an array of additional capabilities via various ports and addons on the side of the product. It was bigger, but still had the same problems with volume control and overheating with some customers. During this time, the company was still owned by the original device creator. He attempted to package a lot of hopes and dreams into this one device, but they never came to fruition because he bit of more than he could chew. It was a functional machine with a lot of question marks. I still have one, and it still works, but the USB ports and SDIO port add no real value and frankly never will. After about a year, the magicJack plus 2014 was dropped from production. The one great takeaway from this product was its diagnostic lights. You could tell more information from the three lights on the front of the device than you could from the single light port on the front of the magicJack plus 2012.
The next product was the magicJack go. The company probably saw the magicJack plus as a lead balloon — offering too many unfulfilled promises. It was time to trim the sails and offer a product that came back to the original design mission: Simplified VOIP. It probably has the same innards as the magicJack 2012, except with a plastic housing with blue trim. It still has the same problems with overheating and sound volume as with the magicJack plus 2012, and still uses a single diagnostic light port on the front. At about the same time this product was put out, the website was improved drastically. It became less web-kitsch folksy and more streamlined and professional. Pulling back to create the magicJack go and changing the website were probalby the two best things that magicJack did in the end of 2014.
The last device that was introduced was the magicJack express, which has already stopped production for various likely reasons listed in a previous post. Check it out here.
But we’re halfway through 2017 now. The only physical VOIP device currently offered on its site is the magicJack go, which is three-year-old technology. That’s fairly ancient in tech-years, but the nice thing about the magicJack go is that it doesn’t really have to evolve or change much. The focus of Simplified VOIP is still on mission. YMax and Vocaltec are still in business, and still offer a reasonable phone service (if you’re not in a town with a blocked exchange) and you need voice service to connect with friends or business associates most anywhere in the US or Canada. Yes, the original owner was a genius at design, but can the current owners match him for ingenuity? It may be less about innovation and more about making the product more robust and reliable.
What’s Next from magicJack?
These are my suggestions for what needs to happen in the next version of the magicJack.
Call it magicJack SOHO, an acronym for “Small Office / Home Office”.
Make it bigger. It doesn’t have to be a lot bigger. It just needs to be big enough to hold a second phone port and have better heat dissipation. It doesn’t have to be tiny because the object is not for it to be used on the go. It’s part of a small/home office environment. I suspect most magicJack go devices that are used in any continuing capacity are used in just this fashion. A slightly larger device will be less likely to get lost in drawer or in a backpack.
Add an aluminum heat sync. Put it right on the front face of the design, pushing through the housing so heat dissipates more adequately. Highlight the heat sync instead of trying to hide it. Anodyze with a bright color, perhaps red. What seems at first to be an ugly thing becomes part of the attraction, and shows that magicJack has heard its users.
Make settings accessible from the intranet. The netTalk DUO II brought this to their product at about the same time the magicJack plus 2014 came out. There is no reason why a password-protected intranet interface could not be made available to the owner of the magicJack device. A responsive, mobile-ready interface would allow for a number of important features to be added to the magicJack SOHO.
Amp up the volume. Most of the people who read my blog or watch my videos have problems with the volume. They can barely hear the other person, or the other person can barely hear them. Imagine being able to control the volumes of your magicJack’s mic and earpiece while the magicJack is connected directly to the router from your browser. This would solve the bulk of users issues with magicJack.
Amp up the power. Amplifying volume means adding more power to the magicJack interface. That might seem to be a challenge, given that we have only a USB adapter’s power to work with. But the device probably is set to use only a small portion of the power available in a USB adapter because of overheating issues in the current design. With a large heat sync, more of the avialable power can be used without overheating the device.
Local call blocking. I get a lot of spam calls. I’d like to be able to block those calls from the magicJack when they call repeatedly from the same number. I would like to option to block anonymous calls too. It would be even better if blocked calls received a “no longer in service” tone. This special tone is used by call centers to keep from calling a number when it’s out of service. You’re basically fooling spammers into removing you automatically from their lists. Call blocking would be available via local intranet access. A user could block the most recent caller with “*67” from the phone or edit more particularly from a call history on the device’s local web interface from a browser.
Round-robin local call history. This would provide a downloadable list of calls, times, durations, whether it’s ingoing or outgoing, and whether a caller was blocked. History could be set to show all calls, or only blocked calls, missed calls or successful calls. As suggested above, a button would be available next to each unblocked number that would allow you block the caller next time.
Higher REN cut-off. The Ring Equivalency on the magicJack go is about 2.1. If you have one or more phones totalling more than that number connected to the device, your phones won’t ring. Even so, some people with modern phones that have low REN’s or a REN of 0 sometimes have trouble getting their phones to ring. Adding a bit more power to the ring-tip might go a little further in solving the next most popular reason people are challenged by magicJack.
Better insulation against power and Ethernet noise. People often have problems getting the device to work because their power has noise that conflicts with the magicJack. The problem can often be solved by plugging magicJack into a wall socket on a different fuse line or by changing brands or models of uninterrupted power supply (UPS), or adding a switch between the router and the magicJack. In other words, insulation against power and Ethernet noise and surges needs to be more robust in the magicJack SOHO.
Add an e-ink mini screen. The screen could contain pertinent device information such as phone number, phone contract end date, what the phone is currently doing, and any diagnostics that might help both the user and the chat support technician. My virtual example shows example icons and text codes that you might see on an e-ink screen. The e-ink screen would have the additional benefit in that it would show the current phone number and service end-date even when the device is off. If e-ink proves too expensive, a monochrome OLED screen might suffice.
Add a second phone line option. Some people might like to have a magicJack with two lines, one for home, and one for business. Rather than buying two magicJacks, you could buy a single device and add a second line optionally via the magicJack website.
What would the new device cost? It should come with service for one year for one phone line and should initially cost about ten to twenty dollars more than the magicJack go. Afterall, some people aren’t going to keep two lines continually.
Add a SOHO service plan. This is not in the video, but magicJack needs to have an office service that doesn’t just cut out if you unintentionally “abuse” the phone. This could be a second tier of service that allows for extended calling time and no blocked exchanges. That second tier might cost about $20 more per year.
If it’s too complicated to add a second line, then even a device with just one phone jack and all the other fixes would make for a much more rewarding experience with magicJack.
Those are my suggestions for magicJack’s next model. I’d like to hear your suggestions below in the comments!