Here’s some info to chew on: over the last five years Americans have been dropping their home phones like a bad habit. Whether this mass exodus is due to unnecessary cost, convenience, or a combination of both the trend is undeniable as a record number of Americans have dropped their landline phones entirely in favor of mobile and ‘other’ options.
I’m among the majority who have since moved on to the world of smartphones, tablets even, especially for those moments you can get your point across quicker almost anywhere with IMs, SMS, or email. While this may depress landline loyalists, all is not lost, as plenty of those ‘other’ options have become easier, cheaper, and more available than ever before.
Possibly the most expensive of the ‘easy’ VoIP (Voice-over-Internet Protocol) alternatives out there, BasicTalk comes by way of Vonage, the undisputed king in consumer friendly VoIP home phone service. Why separate the new service from such a trusted brand is beyond my pay grade, but it’s worth noting that the BasicTalk service is easily the most mature and dependable of all the various alternatives out there, essentially the same exact service you’d expect from Vonage.
It has the easiest setup, the best customer service, and by far the most reliable call quality of any recent VoIP service I tested. So what’s not to love when everything seems so perfect?
Basically, you just have a small box made up of gray and black plastic, with only the ‘basic’ of details such as status lights near the front, LAN/phone and power port in the back, and the company logo on top. Aside from including an AC adapter in the package there isn’t much in the way of looks, which is appropriate.
Getting everything up and running only takes a few minutes at by connecting your phone line (and phone) directly to the BasicTalk device, then hooking that up to your router with a LAN cable; and within seconds the cheap VTech cordless phone I was using produced a solid dial tone. It really does work instantly and without a computer, although creating an account, choosing a number, and device registration online is mandatory. You’ll most likely handle this with a customer service representative on a different phone or using a straightforward online registration process. Fortunately there’s no need to install software of any kind.
The BasicTalk Home Phone Device worked as good as any telephone, with no loss in quality or any dropped calls during our tests. Similar to mobile phones, making any outgoing calls means dialing in an area code first whether it’s local, long-distance, or toll-free. In testing, the reception was crystal-clear when conversations were tied to local landline numbers with smooth latency and static-free. Calls to cell phone numbers, though good, were choppier, but this is hardly a surprise since a decent mobile call is only as good as their carriers’ coverage.
Features such as free 411, emergency assistance (911), call waiting/forwarding/ID, and North American long distance calling (U.S./Canada/Puerto Rico) come standard. What isn’t included is three-way calling, conferencing, or any mobile apps. In fact, it’s pretty limited by any standard, which is really disappointing considering its parent company, Vonage, built its reputation by offering all these services at lower prices than any landline competitor.
The lack of calling conveniences put BasicTalk at a disadvantage when compared to its closest rivals, especially if you factor price into the equation. The monthly fee of $9.99 seems affordable but closest competitors magicJack and netTALK offer year-long service for agreeable prices (excluding the cost of the devices themselves). They also don’t skimp on features like three-way calling and the ability to connect directly to a computer and have VoIP with a downloadable smartphone app whenever and wherever you need it.
What’s most disappointing is that the original Vonage service, for all its annoying commercials, offers everything BasicTalk does and much, much more, even a cool smartphone app for those times you need it. Yes, the service may cost a little more (depending on when you subscribe) but if you’re going for quality and features it doesn’t make any sense to compromise when you don’t have to.
For those seeking a cheaper alternative to their landline service, BasicTalk is merely adequate as a bare minimum option, but it’s difficult to seriously consider it over its cheaper and more feature-rich rivals. Not only does it cost substantially more over time, but the lack of main features and functionality make it a questionable option. Like its parent service Vonage, it clearly has the best overall call quality and by far the best customer service, but the asking price doesn’t justify cutting the landline cord when other services can easily do the same tricks (and then some) with a lot more flexibility and at a fraction of the cost.