Talk Cheap: Your Guide to Free and Cheap Phone Service
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Thanks to the fires I’ve lit around me I’ve realized that there are a lot of interesting things out there that can help you save money or live a little better – and that by reviewing them here I will be doing a good service. So once in a while if I stumble upon something of interest I’m going to figure out a way to acquire it and tell the tale.
One of the first things I found was a little device that is designed to provide COMPLETELY FREE PHONE SERVICE by piggybacking off of Google Voice yet actually allow you to use a regular phone. Not only that, this little device also comes with some apps that you can install on your smartphone or computer so that you can have your Google Voice at home and on the road too.
The ObiHai Technology Obi100 is a tiny device (there are several different models) that connects with the free Google Voice VOIP phone service. It allows you to hook up a standard phone that you can use to make and receive phone calls through Google Voice and other SIP phone services along with their own ObiTalk network.
After reading the reviews on this device I knew that I had to try it out for you. However, it is a well-known fact that I’m cheap so the first order of business was figuring out how to acquire one of these thingys without shelling out forty bucks to do so. Eventually it occurred to me that hey, I’m a writer and, ya know, writers can get stuff to review so I went to their website, dropped to my knees and begged.
Actually, I just sent them an email telling them who I was and what I wanted it for – but I would have begged if I needed to . To my delight they sent me one!
I opened it up, read the instructions, connected it step by step and dialed **9 222 222 222 in order to make the required test call.
I received a message stating that I had no service for my device.
Hmmm. Did I read the instructions wrong? I checked again. Nope, it plainly says to make the phone call right after you hook it up. I even had a dial tone so I picked up the handset and tried again.
I shrugged and decided to skip that step. Maybe some sort of update had changed the order of the process? I went to Google Voice, made the requested changes to my settings and then registered at ObiTalk.com. I added the Obi100 to my account and linked it to Google Voice.
At this point you are supposed to wait a couple of minutes and then refresh the page to ensure that your Google Voice account has been successfully linked to your Obi100. According to the instructions you will receive one of two messages: one is a confirmation message and the other says “BACKING OFF,” which apparently indicates an issue with the process.
I received neither message even though I refreshed that page for close to 30 minutes. Out of curiousity I picked up the phone and dialed our local Time and Temp. It worked just fine.
I called my daughter. Worked great.
She tried to call me: Nothing. Just a note in my inbox saying that I had missed a call.
I hit the troubleshooting section.
I scoured the forums.
I reset that sucker numerous times and tried again.
No dice. I could make outgoing calls (with wonderful sound quality) but no matter what I tried I could NOT get the device to ring in.
I even tried another Google Voice account without success.
Frustrated, I quit for the night. I had been looking forward to having an actual phone that rang when a call came in so I could hear it even if I was working outside so I was a bit bummed by this point.
A few days later I tried again. This time the Obi website itself seemed to be having issues. I kept getting error messages as I dug through their site for more information. Once again I was unsuccessful at getting the device to ring. I even tried using the Google Chrome plugin on their page to dial my device through their network (skipping Google Voice) but I was unsuccessful. I could not even get the device to indicate it was online on their website!
Stumped, I dug through their reviews on Amazon again. Apparently when it works it works REALLY well, but when it doesn’t – it doesn’t.
For the record, I even tried bypassing my router and connecting directly to the modem just in case there was an issue there. I was still unable to make their required echo test call (the number with all of the twos), or receive calls from other phones.
As a result I’ve given up. It is a wonderful idea but I must be holding my mouth wrong or something. Perhaps the company is suffering from growing pains and their systems are struggling to keep up. I don’t know.
I do know this: there are a ton of reviews on Amazon that call this device the best thing since sliced bread so maybe I’m just doing something wrong. I’m going to keep it hooked up cause who knows? It might just decide to work one day but until then I can still call out at any rate!
If you decide to try out the Obi100I recommend that you purchase it from Amazon or another retailer that offers free shipping and a good return policy. That way if it DOES work, you’ve got free phone service – but if it DOESN’T you can ship it back without any hassle.
Please read the update. My Obi100 is now working perfectly thanks to their marvelous tech support so make sure to contact them if you have ANY issues!
IT WORKS! An update:
The wonderful people at ObiHai Technologies managed to get my Obi100 deivce working beautifully. They told me that anyone who happens to have any problems at all with getting their devices to work can call their toll-free number or use the support system available to contact them and that they will receive the SAME personalized service that I have. This is a wonderful device and with this option available I heartily recommend it if you are interested in making genuinely FREE phone calls.
Thank you for your support!