Over one year ago, I got rid of my traditional land line and purchased a Magic Jack from the local Walgreen's store. The claims made by the company in the television commercials seemed too good to be true. One year later, I can tell you the device works very well. Although, the company is not perfect.

If you want to get rid of your current telephone service and get Magic Jack, there are a few things you should know.

Magic Jack costs around $39.95 for one device and a one-year subscription to the service. You can call anywhere in the U.S. or Canada free. You can call another Magic Jack phone anywhere in the world free. If you call outside the U.S. or Canada, rates apply, but they are low.

Magic Jack is easy to use. You'll have more trouble getting it out of the plastic package than you will hooking it up. Plug one end of the device directly into a USB port on your computer. Don't use an extender, except the one provided in the package. Then plug your telephone into the jack on the other end of the device.

You computer should automatically find the new hardware and begin installing the software. You will be asked to name the device and give an e-mail address. Then you will be asked to give your address including your state. From this information, the software will generate area codes for you to choose from in your state. Then you will choose a pre-fix for your new phone number.

If you want to pay extra (around $10), you can choose your own vanity phone number or keep a previous telephone number.

Magic Jack works will on any computer that has high speed internet. It is not compatible with dial-up or satellite signal.

Once you have Magic Jack set up, you can make and answer calls just as you normally would with your phone. You can have a cordless phone system with multiple hand sets.

As long as your computer is running, your Magic Jack phone service will be available.

You'll also have caller I.D., Voice Mail, Call Waiting and the ability to create a Contacts list. You also receive 911 service for your area. Voice Mail and other Magic Jack messages will go to the e-mail address you provide them with.

Drawbacks to Using Magic Jack

As I've mentioned, it will not work with slow connections like dial-up or satellite.

It will not work with a home fax machine or any other system that requires a traditional land line.

You can renew your subscription for another year for only $19.95, but you have to have a credit card. The company wants to store your credit card information on-line. They do not take PayPal or any alternative payment method.

If you try to renew your service and you have not stored your information online, the renewal system will tell you that your service is renew, but it won't be renewed at all and it will be allowed to expire.

No messages are sent telling you when your device is going to expire. You won't know until it happens unless you mark on a calendar when you originally began your service. Communications in this regard from the company are very poor to non-existent.

The way to deal with this problem is to keep an extra Magic Jack device on hand and be prepared to change your phone number.

If your service expires. Remove the device from your computer. I had to remove the device through the Control Panel, then do a search of the hard drive to remove the final components. This is the safest way to install a new device.

Occasionally, the company sends updates through the device. Sometimes these are not problematic, but other times they are. If you have a problem after receiving an update, you will have to contact the company through their web site. The only way to get support is through a 24/7 chat. This is time-consuming because communication is very difficult and the operators are handling complaints from other people at the same time. I had a problem with one of the updates and they did resolve the issues they created, but it took about an hour.

Advantages of Magic Jack

You can change your phone number very easily. You have more privacy than with a normal phone line.

Magic Jack is an excellent choice for households or small business that want to add another phone line.

It is an excellent device for people who have privacy concerns or who are the victims of stalking.

The greatest advantage is the savings. Even if you have to buy a new device every year, it would cost you less than the amount a traditional phone company would charge for only one month's worth of service. And, they charge extra for privacy, caller I.D. Voice Mail and Call Waiting, all of which comes with Magic Jack.

You can purchase them at a local store. This is the best way to acquire the device. There have been consumer complaints from people who purchased from their web site.

In conclusion, the Magic Jack is an excellent device, but exercise caution with any company that insists on storing your personal financial information on-line.