Review: Ooma Telo home VoIP system, part 2
This is the second installment of my review of the Ooma Telo phone system and Ooma HD2 handset. If you missed it, check out the Part 1 post.
I have spent almost one month with the Ooma Telo system and the Ooma HD2 handset. Overall, I am very impressed with every aspect of the phone and SUPER HAPPY to have acutally canceled my landline phone service!!
The following is a breakdown of my final thoughts about the various aspects of the hardware, software, and services I have used.
The sound quality of the Ooma Telo phone system is very good, if not as good as my old landline, and definitely better than my iPhone service with AT&T. I haven’t experienced a single dropped call so far, which is what I would expect. Further, Ooma Telo provides a much better full duplex experience than my cell phone. What do I mean by this? Have you even been on a cell phone when both parties are trying to talk a the same time or the person you are talking to is much louder than you? What often happens is that one person unintentionally dominates the audio and the other person feel that he/she has to wait for a pause in order to be heard. These conversations are filled with having to say “no, you go” and “go ahead” to audibly alert each other who should do the talking. Ooma handles these situations well, and it rivals the full duplex capability of a landline.
The design of the Ooma HD2 handset is good and exactly what you would expect. It is comfortable to hold and has good sound quality. No explanation is needed to understand how to use the phone or navigate the menu and features. I wasn’t able to experience it, but the “HD”, as the name suggests, is supposed to allow for “high-definition” sound quality when speaking to another Ooma HD2 handset. I don’t know anyone else with Ooma, but I would love to try this and see if I could notice a difference.
The Picture ID capability is a nice feature. In the age of smartphones, this is a welcome upgrade from a standard cordless handset. I was able to get this to work, but I needed help from the Ooma customer service team to do so. Read more about this below in the my.ooma.com section.
I do have a few complaints about the handset. After making just one call, I noticed that the handset showed that my fully charged batteries were now at 0% charge. I thought this was maybe an issue with the first charge of the provided rechargeable batteries, but the same thing occurred after another full charge and call. After contacting Ooma and using their suggestion to try standard AA batteries, the issue was determined to be related to the handset and they promptly sent me a replacement at no cost.
Ooma sent a replacement, and the battery meter is working properly. I was a bit worried about the battery life of the replacement handset. After the first charge, the batteries lasted for about 10 minutes of calling and less than 2 days of standby before dying. That is a long way from the stated 5+ hrs of talk time and 2+ days of standby time. The last thing I need is to worry about keeping a charged battery on another device. After contacting Ooma about the issue again, they gave me a credit $6 on my account to cover the cost of buying better quality rechargeable batteries. However, starting with the second charge, the included batteries are performing great. I definitely get 4+ days of standby time, including about an hour of talking during the four days. I did buy a package of 4 Duracell Duralock batteries with the credit, and I am getting even better performance.
The other complaint is the design of the button used to navigate the menu. There are actually two buttons on my handset: a center “select” button and a thin ring surrounding the select button used to navigate up/down/left/right when using the menu. When you put your thumb on the navigation ring, I didn’t always feel confident that I was pushing in the correct spot and often hit “select” instead of the direction I wanted to move. You should be able to use a button like this with your eyes closed. The ergonomics of the button leave room for improvement.
In all, I wouldn’t recommend the HD2 handset. For the same cost, you could easily by a package of 3 Panasonic handsets that will provide good sound quality and more reliable battery life.
I still like the portal my.ooma.com, and it is easy to review the details about my account and calling activity. The portal allows you to import contacts from many popular sources including Facebook, Google, Outlook, or any comma separated “CSV” file. I first tried the Google import process. The steps are straight forward, and you only need to type your Google credentials into the provided form. However, I did experience a problem, and only a small number of contacts came over. Further, the imported contacts seemed to be random and not part of any contact group I had setup in Google. I eventually decided to export the contacts from Gmail using the Outlook CSV format and then import then into my.ooma.com. This worked without any issues, and is probably a better approach as you can choose which group(s) of contacts you want to import from Google.
Once imported, you can then sync the contacts with the HD2 handset. This was pretty slick, and the contacts all came through without any issue. I then decided to add pictures to contacts to take advantage of the “picture ID” feature of the HD2. This did not work. After several attempts, I had to contact Ooma customer support. They had me remove the contact that had the picture uploaded and then manually add the contact back on my.ooma.com, including adding the picture. This worked, but it seems a bit tedious and I will probably only complete these steps for a few contacts. Maybe importing directly from Facebook or Google, if that would work, would be more reliable than the Outlook CSV format. At least I know I can get it to work if I want to.
I started the process to port my landline number to Ooma on Jan 12. The system told me it could take 3-4 weeks to complete the process. This seemed a bit long to me, but I was willing to wait. The process is trackable online at my.ooma.com, and there are 5 steps from “order received” through “completion”. To my happy surprise, steps 2, 3, and 4 completed within 5 days, and the porting was supposed to be completed on day Jan 17. Whatever interruption was expected on the actual day of the transfer went completely unnoticed by me. Once I received the email that the porting was complete, I used a standard phone cable to connect the Ooma base to an existing phone jack previously used for my old phone wiring. Doing this broadcasts the Ooma dial tone throughout the house. I hesitantly picked up one of my old cordless handsets and I heard the musical Ooma dial tone through the speaker. Success!!
Following the porting, some account features (call waiting, call blocking) weren’t working. I called Ooma support and they did something on their end to refresh my settings. Everything was quickly back to normal.
And, at least for me, the number porting from AT&T to Ooma automatically resulted in AT&T canceling the voice portion of my service. This meant my savings began immediately on the completion of the porting process. The downside was that I wasn’t aware of this and spent about 10mins calling AT&T to cancel my already canceled service. All things considered, I guess I would have probably called AT&T anyway just to double-check that my phone bill correctly reflected the cancelation.
I downloaded the Ooma Mobile app for iPhone and used it on several occasions. In any wi-fi environment around the world, Ooma Mobile allows you to call your calling area at no cost (US and Canada is the default area). It worked every time I tried it, and the calling quality equalled that of my normal cell calls. I think my satisfaction level will skyrocket the first chance I get to use this outside the US.
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