Traditional landline service is dying out at a rapid pace, and now even popular VOIP service like Vonage are losing customers to super inexpensive cheap calling services like Skype and MagicJack. The netTALK Duo gives new life to your landline phone and enables unlimited calls to the U.S. and Canada for just $29.95 a year. No monthly bills and no long term contracts required. If that sounds familiar, that is because the netTalk Duo is in direct competition with MagicJack, and more particularly their new upcoming MagicJack Plus, which we recently reviewed.
It’s difficult not to talk about the netTALK Duo, without also talking about MagicJack,since both companies offer such similar products. As a brand, MagicJack is a bit more well known than netTALK, but MagicJack has until now been hampered by the fact that it needs to have a computer turned on in order for it to work. But that is all about to change now that MagicJack Plus is coming out, which bypasses the need for a computer altogether. That said, the netTALK Duo device has been around for over a year, and it works independently of a PC, so you could say that the folks over at netTALK have gotten a running start in this area.
Setup with the netTALK Duo is simple. The box comes with a USB cable, AC adapter and ethernet cable for connecting to your router. All you have to do is connect the Duo to your router via an ethernet cable, and to a landline headset. Alternatively, you can connect the netTALK Duo to your PC using USB and bypass having it connected to your router. Once you have plugged the MagicJack device into your router and a landline headset, the Duo will auto-sync with netTALK’s servers to activate the device, and the phone will ring to indicate that the device has been activated. This happened almost instantly for us. You’ll then have to log in to netTALK’s account management system online to set up a phone number. The set-up process was very quick, efficient, and painless. NetTALK did not bombard us with any additional offers the way MagicJACK does the first time you set-up your device. Alternatively, if you decide to use your netTALK DUO device by connecting it to your PC, you will have too go to www.nettalk.com/downloads to download its USB driver. This is unlike MagicJack PLUS which has its software preloaded on the MagicJack Device.
Some of the standard features that come with netTALK’s year of service include 411 directory assistance, call forwarding, call waiting and caller ID, Visual Voicemail, Voicemail to Email, an Online Customer Account Management Application, and a free U.S. phone number. netTALK also offers a Canada Call plan which includes a free Canadian phone number. Unfortunately, at this time number porting is only available in certain areas for the netTALK DUO. On the other hand, number porting will be available for MagicJack Plus.
NetTALK Duo costs a bit more than MagicJack Plus. The device costs $69.95 with a year of service included upfront, versus, MagicJack Plus which will cost $59.99, when it finally goes on sale. Each additional year of service costs $29.95 for the netTALK duo, while MagicJack Plus costs $19.99 a year. Both services provide you with free calls to the U.S. and Canada. NetTALK Duo is also fax friendly, which is something that Ooma and MagicJack don’t offer. We’ve also found that netTALK’s international rates are significantly more competitive than MagicJack’s international calling rates.
Another area where netTALK shines, and manages to really one-up MagicJACK is the fact that they offer smartphone apps for iPhone, Android, BlackBerry, and Windows Mobile. This helps NetTALK not only compete with MagicJack, but also Skype, since you can use the service over 3G, 4G or Wi-Fi to make unlimited calls from your smartphone – even when you’re abroad – sans the netTALK Duo device. The app even lets you record conversations. The app does have some limitations though – for starters, it limits you to 30 minute calls at a time. But future versions of the app will let you link your netTALK DUO phone number to the app, it will add international calling, and the ability to receive calls on your iPhone to your netTALK number – without paying for cellular minutes. Overall, the app really has the potential to be a Skype mobile replacement, even if it doesn’t offer all of the features that Skype mobile offers. That said, the netTALK app is totally free to use – even if you don’t have a netTALK Duo device. It’s free for everyone to download and use.
We also found that netTalk’s account management interface to be more modern and polished than MagicJack’s user interface. This isn’t quite a deal breaker, but MagicJack’s account interface really needs a face-lift.
On top of that, netTALK also offers a Videophone application for PCs that lets you make and receive video calls using your netTALK account, and it also lets you do five-party conferencing. However, your netTALK Duo device will have to be connected to your PC in order to use the Videophone software. And unfortunately, this software is currently PC only.
So far we’ve found the call quality with the netTALK Duo to be better than MagicJack Plus. Callers sound louder and clearer to us, and we have been told that we sounded sharper to callers as well, compared to when we called them using MagicJack plus. That said MagicJack Plus’s Call quality is fine, but netTALK’s call quality is a little better – and most notably, it is able to get louder.
On paper, netTALK pretty much one-ups MagicJack in many respects. We love that netTALK offers you smartphone apps too. That means that you don’t even have to travel with the netTALK DUO device to save money making calls, especially when you are traveling abroad. Personally, I have a Skype unlimited calling to the U.S. plan that I use when I’m overseas, but I’m going to cancel it and just use the netTALK Duo app instead. The netTALK Duo device itself is pocket friendly, if you want to use it while traveling too. netTALK Duo does cost a bit more than MagicJack, but the price difference is negligible, especially since netTALK also boasts Live Tech Support, which is something that MagicJack doesn’t offer. Overall, both devices offer great value, so it’s hard not to recommend either. But at the moment MagicJack PLUS seems to be delayed and it hasn’t landed on store shelves, so unless you need to have a number porting option available to you, the netTALK Duo is highly recommended for its ease of use, convenience, solid call quality, and competitive international rates. The netTalk Duo retails for $69.95, with the first year of service included and a 30 day money back guarantee.
The Good: Very easy device setup, very good call quality, free smartphone apps available, Very competitive international rates, device works independently of a computer
The Bad: The Videophone software is PC only, smartphone app has limitations
Update 12/9/2011: netTALK Duo is now offering free number porting.
Update 3/17/2012: netTalk has just announced the netTALK Duo WiFi