Ooma Gumma, One Number to Rule them All

With apologies to Pink Floyd!

What is Ooma?

Ooma is yet another VOiP telephone service but one with a twist, Astersik running on the subscriber equipment and Google Voice integration. It was Google Voice integration that hooked me.

Ordering

I purchased my subscriber equipment directly from Ooma.com. The web store was a bit colicky when I purchased, probably as a result of unfortunate use of the back button on my part during the order entry. The site told me that the credit transaction failed so I tried again. Same symptoms. I placed an order with Amazon.

After running errands, I was surprised to find 3 order acknowledgments in my E-mail so I canceled the Amazon order and called Ooma operations support. They couldn’t head off the orders but told me to decline the duplicate. The next day during lunch, I receive a phone call from Palo Alto, CA, unusual. I answer it and find myself speaking to an Ooma programmer who questioned me about what I did and what I intended and cleaned up the mess saving me the trouble of an RMA and trip to UPS to post the returned duplicate.

Ooma has a daily sanity check the orders job that looks for duplicates and other common errors before shipping the accumulated orders. The QA process caught my goof and several like it so development tracked every order down to verify it and do what the customer intended! Having had a nameless pet sales company send a package to Portsmouth, Rhode Island, Afghanistan, this was a welcome surprise that puts Ooma ahead of the web sales pack.

Unboxing and Installation

My subscriber equipment arrived properly packed for UPS in Apple pretty packaging. I ordered both an Ooma Telo subscriber interface and an HD-2 handset. The setup instructions for both were clear and initial setup went smoothly. The combination has several advantages.

  • The HD-2 handset uses DECT 6 wireless protocol in a band away from WIFI, baby monitors, microwave ovens, and other sources of trouble.
  • The traffic between base and handset is session encrypted.
  • The handset uses a codec designed for low data rates and high immunity to dropped packets. This encoding carries end to end when talking to an Ooma HD-2 or similar handset that supports this codec. Otherwise, the call is transcoded to coding that both parties can support.
  • The HD-2 handset can import your contacts in VCF format.
  • The product includes life of the product US calling. You pay the taxes and 911 service fee.
  • Home phone service with basic Ooma features costs $4 per month vs $35 for my Vonage bill.

The Ooma handset works well with a few minor quirks, possibly knowledge gaps on my part rather than product issues.

  • I’ve yet to learn how to change the handset and speaker volume during a call. The menu set to do this is preempted by the call menu set.
  • The navigation buttons are a bit small but serviceable.

Ooma Premier and Google Voice

Ooma Premier is an $10 per month option that unlocks a number of features, some of which are unique to Ooma. The one that attracted me was Google Voice. Without Premier, Ooma Telo can be one of your Google Voice forwarding phones. With Ooma Premier, two things important to me become available.

  • Outbound calls show my GV virtual phone number
  • Google voice and Ooma voice mail are merged.

Ooma Premier adds another much appreciated feature, community and personal blacklists. These work so well that one Florida subscriber received exactly two political telemarketing calls during the 2012 presidential campaign. Politicos are exempted from the do not call list. Should somebody leak through, it is a simple matter to go to my.ooma.com and add them to your personal blacklist, much as I do with unwanted callers to my Google Voice number.

When an inbound call occurs on my GV number, my mobile and the Telo HD-2 ring. Since the Telo telephone output is connected to the house wiring, the old cordless to be retired also rings. Telo does distinctive ringing so GV rings ring-ring and calls to my home number ring-ring-ring. I can tell them apart. By using my GV number, I can take inbound calls on my home phone as with any GV forwarding. When I make an outbound call via Ooma, my Google Voice number appears for my callers, something Vonage could not do.

Porting of my Vonage number to Ooma took about a week with no pestering from Vonage. I guess they have figured out that they have been one-upped. Consumer Reports ranks Ooma at the top of the heap for US domestic telephone service based on service quality, value, and unique features.

Before Ooma with Google Voice integration I had been making all of my home calls on my mobile. With the HD-2 handset and GV, it is as easy to do this calling by land and the call quality is much better for the recipient. They sound fine to me courtesy of that tall tower and beefy base station transmitter but my mobile is scratchy or worse at the other end courtesy of a small antenna and a few milliwatts of power. So my friends, family, and vet are much happier.

Voice Mail

Ooma Telo keeps voice mail locally. You can play it at the base station, with HD-2, or from my.ooma.com, or call your Telo number and play it remotely. Voice mail transcription is optional, an option I forgo using Google Voice transcription instead. Google does well enough that messages, though somewhat silly at times, are usable. I still have to check my mobile’s native voice mail separately but the message is to call my unstated GV number and leave a message there. If you don’t know it, we don’t have a relationship. Tough.

Outage Forwarding

Ooma will forward calls to an outage number. I have my outage forwarding set to my mobile’s native number. I expect this feature will see limited use but Thursday’s storm put the power out for 1.5 hours.