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.
Fortunately, the NetTalk Duo WiFi makes a good case for still keeping a landline in a pinch. The Duo WiFi is small, angular, and features only the necessary status light, LAN/phone jacks, and a micro-USB port for the AC adapter (included). To keep things visually simple the body is a combination of gloss, plastic, and rubberized matte finishes.
Getting everything up and running only takes a few minutes by hooking up your phone line (and home phone) directly to the DUO WiFi, and then connecting the device directly through a router, home Wi-Fi (which is unique to the DUO WiFi), or to any computer via the included micro-USB cable. It really doesn’t matter how you set it up just as long as you have broadband internet, create an account with phone number (or transfer your own), and complete the relatively straightforward and hassle-free registration process online.
With calling and voice quality as a priority, the NetTalk device was fantastic with no loss in clarity or any dropped calls even when used in wireless mode. Similar to mobile phones, making outgoing calls involves dialing an area code first whether it’s local, long-distance, or toll-free. In testing, the reception was clean when conversations were tied to local landline numbers. Latency was equally smooth and static was surprisingly nonexistent. Calls to cell phone numbers though good was choppier, but as expected any mobile call is only as good as the carriers’ supplied coverage.
Features such as free 411, emergency assistance (911), call waiting/forwarding/ID/blocking, and North American long distance calling (U.S./Canada) come standard. Features on par with traditional landline services is the inclusion of three-way and multi-person conferencing, and exclusive among other VoIPs is visual voice mail and the ability to work as a portable fax machine for mobile business use. If these features aren’t enough, you can even use the free netTALK app on iOS and Android or enjoy free long distance and calling abroad -vas long as it’s to other US/Canadian numbers or worldwide to other DUO devices, of course.
While the DUO WiFi is certainly robust it’s also the most expensive at $64.99 (half the price is a year of uninterrupted phone service). Granted, you do get a lot for the money (especially when compared to BasicTalk even though call quality is identical) but we doubt most people will take advantage of extras like office-oriented faxes. Also, there have been reports from netTALK owners about poor customer service when/if something goes awry such as very slow troubleshooting responses to compatibility issue and lengthy periods of dropped coverage. To be fair, I experienced none of these problems during my hands-on testing but it’s definitely worth mentioning nonetheless.
On a surface level the netTalk Duo WiFi overwhelms the competition with the most features, built-in Wi-Fi, excellent call reception, and probably satisfy the most adamant of home VoIP zealots. However, some of these advantages aren’t as profound outside of the impressive specs, especially with the higher-than-expected asking price and alleged reputation from dissatisfied (and most likely former) netTALK users. If you’re in the market for a permanent landline alternative and secondary mobile VoIP phone the DUO WiFi is a commitment, but a promising one for those brave enough to pull the trigger. Otherwise the MagicJack PLUS ($39.99 including six months of service) may be your next best choice overall.