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Ooma Telo, Linx and HD2 Handset Reviewed - Features

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Ooma's features come in two groups. The Basic feature set comes with the price of the Telo base station and incurs no monthly fees (except if you use optional fee-based services). The Premier feature set adds many things that you may wish were bundled into the Basic feature set, so it's important to know which is which. The table below shows some of the difference between the two service levels, with the full list shown here.

Ooma Basic vs. Premier feature comparison
Ooma Basic vs. Premier feature comparison

Some of the features I'll be referring to are part of Premier, which Ooma tries to hook you on with a free 60-day trial that automatically activates when you start service. But after 60 days, Premier costs $9.99/month or $119.88 a year. Those good at math will notice again that you don't get a financial incentive for signing up for Premier, except for the lovely selection of gifts, one of which you can choose if you sign up for an annual Premier subscription.

One of the reasons for the impressive range I noted with the Linx is the DECT 6.0 standard, which operates on the 1.9 GHz spectrum. Rumor has it that Siemens decided on the DECT 6.0 name under the assumption that customers would not want a measly 1.9 GHz phone when 2.4 GHz and 5.8 GHz seem bigger and better. The truth is that 1.9 GHz has better range and the frequency is uncrowded at the moment, making it perfect for cordless phones.

Ooma is marketing its HD2 handset as a home phone that is like a smartphone. The HD2 does have some nice features that are smartphone-like and make a lot of sense, but it's not quite there yet. A cool feature is the syncing of Yahoo and Google contacts and the syncing of Facebook pictures to the HD2. With the HD2 handset, gone are the days of entering names and phone numbers manually.

It should be noted that sync is not initiated on the phone, it's done within the My Ooma Portal. In some ways this provides more flexibility because manipulation can be done on the web vs. on the phone.

However, "syncing" is a very loose term, especially how Ooma uses it. For those of you used to the Contact sync of a smartphone to Exchange or Google where you simply add a contact to Google and it shows up on your phone at the next sync, Ooma "sync" is more manual than this. It's actually a one-time import via the My Ooma page granting permission to your Google account, much like Facebook authentication for forums.

That said, the Facebook import is a nice option. When synced, the picture of the person calling comes up on the color screen of the phone along with their name, a very nice touch. An example image is below.

An example image of the HD2 with Facebook picture
An example image of the HD2 with Facebook picture

The HD2 is a nice handset for the things that a handset is supposed to do. As mentioned, the screen is color. Redial and speakerphone buttons are on the face of the phone in easy-to-use places vs. having to go hunting for them. Voicemail is easily accessible and very intuitive. Phonebook and Call Logs are also easy to use and self-explanatory.

The phone has an Intercom function as well. I pressed it, not expecting it to work with the Skype phone connected through the Ooma Linx. To my surprise, the Skype handset started paging and we were able to talk between the two. Intercom isn't that important to me, but I know for my parents it would be. My retired father works out in the shed often, while my mom is in the house.

The last notable feature of the handset is the Do Not Disturb function that allows you to put the phone into a mode where it will not accept calls. It's a nice feature and would be even nicer if DND could be scheduled via the My Ooma page.

The Ooma Telo functions like a simple router, base station and answering machine all packed in to one. The image below shows the callouts of the Ooma Telo. One intriguing thing that I did not test was the Send-to-VM button. I also noticed this was available on the HD2 handset. This would be useful for home office use or anyone who doesn't like taking down messages.

The callouts of the Ooma Telo
The callouts of the Ooma Telo

The Ooma Telo also has a USB port that can accept Ooma Bluetooth or Wireless adapters. The Bluetooth adapter lets you use Ooma for Bluetooth earpieces and for making/receiving calls via bluetooth on your cell phone. It supports up to seven Bluetooth devices. The Ooma Wireless adapter enables you to connect the Telo to your LAN via wireless instead of Ethernet.

Unfortunately, there is only one USB port on the Telo, so you can't have your wireless and Bluetooth too. I didn't have either of these accessories, so I can't vouch for their quality.

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My Ooma Experience

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Reviewed by Christopher
February 22, 2013
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Thanks for the review- I've been looking into getting the new generation of handsets for my Ooma Telo but hadn't seen any reviews of them. I was a little nervous about making the investment without reading about some first-hand experience. Looks like I'm going to getting 4 of them to replace the Panasonic basestation +4 handsets I currently have.

A lot of what was written was pretty much spot-on and consistent with my personal experiences with Ooma, which I've had for about 8 months now. The biggest problem for me was when I went from AT&T DSL to Comcast cable, and here is a bit of a warning: If you use someone like AT&T for both phone and DSL, and you want to port your current phone number to your new Ooma, then beware- AT&T will totally close your account (which is tied to your phone number), when the port goes through. In other words- once your number is ported, your DSL will be cancelled at the same time! So, make sure you have it setup with your landline provider to continue your internet service when the port is completed. I didn't do this and my internet service was down for a week during the transition (I was dumping AT&T for its crap service and high costs and went with Comcast (eeck) because the speeds were much higher and the service was reliable in my area). I had to tether my BlackBerry to my PC to use the internet, which, surprisingly, worked a whole lot better (and faster it seemed), than the AT&T DSL I was dumping!

Another reason for going over to Ooma was that Consumer Reports really gave it high marks vs. the competition. Yes it has a high initial cost of ownership, so let me show you the math for my case:

AT&T: $55/month, $660/year (and that's JUST THE PHONE! DSL was ANOTHER $55/month!)

Ooma: Telo: $218 (including tax), Premier ($120), State Taxes (mandatory) $4.50/month, $54/year.

Total initial outlay + taxes for 1 year: $392
Total cost for subsequent years (Premier + taxes): $174

Difference between AT&T and Ooma for one year: $486

Time for Ooma to pay for itself (initial cost/subsequent cost) (in months) vs. AT&T: 7/3

So as you can see, Ooma has really been economically sound for us.

Something that isn't shown in the numbers was how many times the crappy AT&T DSL went down (lots), and the numerous times they sent a technician to the house to 'fix' it (at $100 a pop!) (and they never once resolved the issue!). I went from 4Mbps/768Kbps on DSL to 20Mbps/6Mbps on cable, and even after the intro pricing goes away, I'll only be paying about $10 more per month for 5x the speed! Reliability has been outstanding (no outages), but the billing was a mess for the first 5 months!

Anyhow, our Ooma is connected to our Motorola cable modem/router via the internet port on the Telo. Voice quality has been extremely high on both ends. No one has mentioned the caller-ID issue in the article. I live 7 miles outside of a metro area of about 100K in mid-TN, while my family lives in rural W TN, rural MS, and rural NE OH, and none have mentioned any degraded sound issues.

The biggest gripe I have is that you can't talk over one person has to stop long enough for the other to get in a word...sort of like talking on a CB radio or walkie-talkie. I've learned to use my cellphone for calls that require a lot of back-and-forth.

Using a fax machine is a hassle: it no longer auto-answers, but this can be fixed with the addition of a second line (which is free with Premier, I think, but also requires their handsets). It used to be that one would have to dial a prefix in order to fax, but now that isn't true. It's also nice not to have to dial +1 for long distance- just dial the 10-digit number if a call is outside your area code.

My home's phone system is wired to a central point in my house and attached to a patch panel. The Ooma connects to it but I had to jury rig it to do so using a couple of keystone jacks and an extra RJ45 plug. By doing it this way, all of my phone jacks in the house are linked to the Ooma (currently running 12).

Finally, and this was hit on briefly in the article, you have several options for how the Telo handles your missed calls. Whenever someone calls the house and leaves a message, you can set it up for the service to send you an email with an attached MP3! You can set this up to as many email addresses as you like (we are currently using 2)...and that is FREE (or included in Premier). And when the service is down (only once and I think that was on my end), your calls will be transferred to another number (like your cellphone).

So, the whole thing has been extremely positive for me and I would wholly recommend this device. If you do, shell out the $120/year for the Premier service. (you can prepay it)