Apparently my new apartment is also a Faraday cage, and I can’t get any cell phone signal. Walking outside gets me 3g and full signal, but inside, nothing. Thanks to Google Voice though, I’ve been able to just route all my calls to my PC, so I can still do my conference calls.

However, this isn’t so reliable, especially when multiarch was landing and I didn’t figure out how to install the binary plugins for gtalk. Or when I happened to be rebooting into a new kernel, or like the time I forgot to open gmail for a few hours and missed my wife’s call to ask me what kind of tacos to bring home. Dreadful.

So I needed something more reliable for voip that didn’t need a working computer. I’ve not had a SIP provider in a long time and I didn’t want to deal with the complexities of setting up my own thing (more on this later). Plus, I like my Google Voice and phone set up, I don’t want to add another number, etc. Also doing it “the right way” with SIP means getting a phone with an ethernet jack plug on it, which apparently quadruples the price of the phone.

I briefly investigated consumer femtocells. But that’s a pipe dream, and even if they were around and affordable you know carriers are looking forward to charging you for having one even though you’re the one paying for them to get the damn signal into your apartment to begin with.

“But Tmo has wifi calling!”

Yeah but only on tmo branded phones, which means my wife can use it but I can’t use it on my Nexus. Plus if you think Android battery life sucks without wireless, you should try wifi calling, not only kills battery life, it turns the phone into a 300 degree rock next to your face.

“Oh I know, I’ll get something like a Skype phone but for Google Voice”

Doesn’t exist. This kind of sucks, I would so pay for a cheap GV phone with all my gmail contacts on it, etc. However, this exists:

It’s 43 bucks. Ethernet goes into my switch, and any normal POTS phone goes into the other plug. I log into their website, add my gmail credentials, and then when people call me my normal phone rings. Since normal POTS phones are cheap I picked up a dual handset one for about $30, so I have a phone in my office and phone in my bedroom.

I plugged it in and had dial tone and was making a call in about 3 minutes. The box is clever too, when I have a gtalk voice mail the normal “voicemail” icon on the normal phone blinks. It has caller ID, etc. When I want to make a call I just ring it via my gtalk plugin in Chrome and the phone rings and I pick it up. I suppose I could use all the buttons in the front (they call it a dialpad) to dial a number which matches another person’s phone, but that’s crazy talk.

Pros:

  • No phone bill.
  • I don’t eat cell minutes. When doing calls during the day, I’m calling via Google Voice. In fact, most of my calls are in the day, will this save me enough money to go down a minutes plan on my cell? I’ll find out.
  • They have an Android app if I wanted to do wifi calling.
  • The have always-free Obi to Obi calling via a unique number, sort of like how BBM is.
  • If I wanted to go full SIP, etc., I can just add it to their service part in the web UI. I can add multiple accounts, so I’ve added my wife’s GV number as well, all with the same unit.
  • Normal phones are pretty awesome. I got a VTECH set which does call transferring, has really great range, DECT, long battery life, and I can expand to multiple handsets.

Cons:

  • Google Voice dialing is only free for the rest of 2011. If GV’s international rates are any indication, this will be cheap if they do decide not to extend free calling. It’ll likely be cheaper than whatever stupid rate your cable company wants to charge you for the exact same thing. And here’s what’s nice about this device, if GV gets expensive I’ll just use whatever other SIP provider is out there.
  • No 911. There are services that you can pay to have e911 service for a cheap monthly rate, but I haven’t investigated. I’ve also not had a land line in so long that I won’t miss this, though it’s important to some people.
  • 3rd party service has your gmail credentials. (EDIT: I suppose you could create a new gmail account, set up GV, and then forward your normal GV # to that if you’re concerned about that).

They also have the Obi 110, which has an additional POTS plug for you to connect to your existing phone service so that you can also use a normal land line for things like 911, but VOIP for long distance, etc.

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