ATAs, Vonage and magicJack offer residential VoIP phone service to consumers with high speed Internet access. Comparing Vonage vs. magicJack reveals that the most significant differences are cost, accessibility, advanced feature availability, and quality of service (including customer service).
Vonage Vs. magicJack
- Service Basics: Vonage vs. magicJack
- Cost Overview
- Vonage vs. magicJack: The VoIP Adapter
- Minimum Requirements for Vonage or magicJack Phone Service
- Quality of Service
Service Basics: Vonage vs. magicJack
The basic premise of Vonage vs. magicJack is technically similar — both residential VoIP phone companies use VoIP adapters to support Internet phone service. In fact, the VoIP adapter plays a significant role in outlining the difference between Vonage Internet phone and magicJack Internet phone:
- Vonage markets phone service with a variety of different calling plans, and includes the adapter for free.
- magicJack sells the adapter and includes unlimited domestic long distance calling for free (the first year), with prepaid international long distance options.
- Vonage supports other compatible ATAs.
- magicJack is a proprietary device, and its free calling service can only be used with the magicJack ATA.
- The magicJack VoIP adapter features an onboard computer that requires software installation on the consumer's computer.
It's important to note that magicJack now offers two different types of magicJack — magicJack and magicJack PLUS — which makes a slight difference when comparing Vonage vs. magicJack:
- Vonage and magicJack Plus support the use of the VoIP adapter without needing the computer to be on.
- Original flavor magicJack requires the magicJack ATA to be plugged directly into the computer. To make or receive calls (but not voicemail), the computer must be on.
Other similarities between the two companies:
- Both require high-speed Internet connections
- Neither requires minimum term commitments
- Both offer a 30-day money-back guarantee
- The adapters are portable — subscribers can use them anywhere they have access to high speed Internet service (such as a hotel)
In a VoIP service comparison between Vonage vs. magicJack, Vonage is the Internet phone service that most closely resembles a traditional phone carrier: Vonage Internet phone service offers monthly calling plans, including an international plan. magicJack Internet phone service is based on the initial sale of the VoIP adapter coupled with an annual subscription fee.
To compare VoIP service based on the cost of service alone would be a little lopsided, given the ridiculously inexpensive cost of magicJack Internet phone service: Without a doubt, magicJack is the clear winner between Vonage vs. magicJack — the annual cost of the magicJack device is less expensive than a month of service on some of Vonage's monthly plans.
However, cost is not the only factor, and there are areas — such as features and customer service — where Vonage is the best VoIP service provider. Vonage simply offers more accessibility, features, and better service in terms of both call quality and customer relationship management.
Shipping, handling, and applicable taxes or fees are not reflected in the prices listed below.
Vonage Calling Plan Details
Vonage offers its subscribers 8 VoIP phone service calling plans. Vonage service plans include business and international calling plans.
- Domestic Plans
- US & Canada Unlimited, $14.99/month
- US & Canada 750, $19.99/month
- US & Canada 300, $11.99/month
- Vonage Pro, $34.99/month
- International Plans
- Vonage World, $14.99/month
- World Plus 1000, $54.99/month
- Business Plans
- Small Business Basic 1500, $39.99/month
- Small Business Basic Premium Unlimited, $49.99/month
Calls made to Canada and Puerto Rico are free on unlimited plans, or within the minute allotments on other plans (subject to low per minute fees after the calling plan maximum has been reached). International call conditions vary depending on the plan — check with Vonage for details.
Prepaid DiscountsVonage also offers a 10% discount to subscribers who pay for a year's service upfront (select plans only).
- Business Premium Unlimited Annual Prepay, $399.99
- World Annual Prepay, $269.99.
- Pro Annual Prepay, $335.99
magicJack Calling Plan Details
- magicJack device, $39.95
- First year of VoIP phone service free
- magicJack device, $69.95
- First year of VoIP phone service free
magicJack and magicJack PLUS renewal rates:
- 1-year term is $29.95/year
- 5-year terms are $19.95/year
Both magicJack and magicJack PLUS customers benefit from free local and long distance calls throughout the US and to:
- Puerto Rico
- US Virgin Islands
Calls made using the magicJack from another country to the US or Canada are free. Additionally:
- Prepaid international minutes are required for International calls
- magicJack Internet phone service includes low per-minute calls to approximately 150 countries
- Customers have to buy a new adapter if they misplace or damage their magicJack or magicJack PLUS
Vonage vs. magicJack: The VoIP Adapter
The price structure is the primary difference between residential Internet phone companies Vonage and magicJack, but there are some technical differences between the ATAs as well. In terms of service accessibility, Vonage is the easier of the two phone companies because it offers a lower threshold for call quality (upload speed) and is OS-independent.
Connection SpeedThe magicJack requires a faster Internet connection speed than the basic Vonage Box adapter (or any compatible adapter).
- Vonage can support calls at an upload speed of 30 kbps
- For best call quality, Vonage recommends 90 kbps
- magicJack recommends a minimum of 128 kbps for optimal call quality
Vonage VoIP service does not require a specific computer OS or a USB port. The Vonage ATA has no software. The Vonage VoIP adapter plugs into the router and bypasses the computer, enabling all calls to be made/received even when the computer is not on.
In contrast, the magicJack has an onboard computer with registration and softphone software that needs to be installed. Even the more advanced magicJack PLUS requires a computer with a USB port in order to install the software and register the magicJack service before using it.
Because there is software involved, the magicJack can only work with select Windows or Mac operating systems:
- Windows XP
- Windows Vista
- Windows 7
- Intel-based Mac
The original magicJack needs to be plugged into the computer, with the computer turned on, for the magicJack phone service to support making or receiving VoIP phone calls.
New and Improved: The magicJack PLUS VoIP Adapter
The original magicJack ($39.95) presented users with many problems, as you can tell from the Internet phone service reviews. Aside from the fact that the magicJack had to be plugged into the computer, which had to be on to make or receive calls, the magicJack offered choppy vocal quality.
The new magicJack PLUS ($69.95) was designed to solve some of the more obvious logistical problems. The magicJack PLUS now only has to be plugged into the computer once (to register the service). The magicJack PLUS features an Ethernet port for router or broadband modem connectivity.
The magicJack PLUS also offers other advantages, such as an onboard computer (an ARM CPU). The new magicJack PLUS also offers HD voice and Echo Control.
The Vonage ATA
Vonage's ATA is included free with a monthly service plan. The basic model of the Vonage VoIP adapter is called the Vonage Box. However, Vonage Internet phone service also supports compatible ATAs, including models by Linksys, Motorola, D-Link, and more. Check online for specifics.
The Vonage Box:
- Never has to be plugged into the computer
- Accommodates 2 lines (2 phones, or 1 fax and 1 phone)
- Doubles as a router
- Is operating system independent
- Has no software to install
Minimum Requirements for Vonage or magicJack Phone Service
In a VoIP service comparison between Vonage vs. magicJack, minimum requirements are an area where Vonage offers the best VoIP service between the two phone companies. Of course, high speed Internet (a cable modem, or DSL, for instance) is a basic requirement for both VoIP service providers. Beyond that, because there is no need for a USB port or software installation, Vonage is simply less demanding.
- Fast Internet connection
- Can support VoIP calls with 30 kbps
- 90 kbps upload speed for best call quality
- Touch-tone phone (cordless phones are supported)
- Compatible phone adapter (Vonage Box is included with online order)
magicJack and magicJack PLUS:
- Fast Internet connection
- 128 kbps minimum upload speed
- Compatible computer operating system with USB port
- Phone (corded or cordless)
- Router (for magicJack PLUS only)
For magicJack and magicJack PLUS, software is installed via the computer's USB port — with magicJack PLUS this is a one-time requirement for registration and service initiation. The original magicJack, however, needs access to the USB port at all times when making or receiving calls.
Where Vonage can use any compatible adapter, magicJack Internet phone service is only accessible using the proprietary magicJack or magicJack PLUS.
magicJack VoIP phone service may win the cost battle in the war of residential Internet phone service providers Vonage vs. magicJack, but it comes up short in most other departments. While magicJack offers a competitive range of basic telephony features, Vonage includes more advanced call control features as basic includes in all of its monthly calling plans.
Vonage plans may cost more per month than the annual service fee for magicJack (after the first year), but those pricing plans support feature-rich, high quality service. Of the two residential Internet phone service providers, Vonage has the best VoIP service with a broad range of features from free number porting to SimulRing. Vonage's multiple call plans also offer greater flexibility for those who need business services or make more frequent international calls.
magicJack may fall a little short of Vonage when it comes to standard features, but it still offers more service options than a traditional phone company. Here are some of the advanced call features that Vonage and magicJack both make available to consumers:
- Caller ID
- Call waiting
- Number porting (fee for magicJack)
- Free in-network calls
- Portability — take your adapter anywhere to make free/inexpensive calls
- Call forwarding
magicJack is a low-cost VoIP service provider, but that does not mean it's without its perks. A straight features-based comparison of Vonage vs. magicJack is not possible, due to the multiplicity of phone plans Vonage makes available. However, magicJack does offer a number of features that Vonage doesn't — or that only the more expensive Vonage plans include.
- Vonage phone service offers free unlimited or capped minute (low per minute rates after cap) long-distance calling to anywhere in the US, Canada and Puerto Rico on its monthly calling plans.
- magicJack Internet phone service offers unlimited calls to the US, Canada, Puerto Rico, and the US Virgin Islands.
- Vonage offers 3-way calling.
- magicJack offers conference calling with multiple participants (call-in number and access code required).
- magicJack offers free 411 directory assistance calls. Free 411 directory assistance calls are available on some (not all) of Vonage's calling plans.
Vonage's Advanced Call Controls
Vonage makes many more features available as standard to its calling plan subscribers.
- Voicemail transcriptions sent via email/text
- Do not disturb
- Anonymous call block
- Call transfer
- Call hunt
- Caller ID block
- Enhanced call forwarding
- Call waiting with caller ID
Extension service is a popular VoIP feature that both Vonage and magicJack provide. Vonage offers the best VoIP service between Vonage vs. magicJack when comparing their mobile VoIP extension functions, with more flexibility and anytime/anywhere access.
- Free registration of one landline or cell phone as an extension (no faxes or 800 numbers, and a few other exceptions)
- A second extension for $4.99/month.
- Apps for the iPhone and Android. (no access number or PIN)
In comparison, magicJack Internet phone service offers an app for iOS devices only, and callers need both an access number and a PIN.
Quality of Service
To compare VoIP service between the two residential VoIP phone companies, customer service has to be factored in to get the clearest picture. Based on customer reviews, it seems that Vonage offers the best VoIP service based on both customer support and call clarity and consistency.
Customer service seems to be the primary area where magicJack has ceded the battle to Vonage. The magicJack device offers VoIP phone service at such a low price that providing the level of customer service that Vonage does is not economically feasible. This is why so many of the bad Internet phone service reviews for magicJack and magicJack PLUS note that 'you get what you pay for.'
A VoIP service comparison between Vonage vs. magicJack can be eye-opening. For one thing, the complaints for Vonage have slowed down, while magicJack customers — even for the newer magicJack PLUS — continue to register blistering dissatisfaction.
The complaints for magicJack aren't confined to the choppy call quality that so many VoIP service users have complained about in the past. magicJack Internet phone service reviews tend to focus on the rudeness of customer service, and their inability or unwillingness to solve problems.
magicJack also seems to make it difficult to reach customer service, while Vonage has been proactive in providing its customers with multiple access points. For instance, Vonage is quite active on its @Vonage_Voice Twitter account.
magicJack, on the other hand, seems to turn a deaf ear to its customers. They have such poor service — and are only accessible through chat and a Knowledge Base — that there are multiple unofficial magicJack sites set up to handle common issues and provide guidance, such as the Unofficial magicJack Forum.
Call QualityThe reliability of VoIP signals has improved over the years since VoIP was first introduced, especially since traditional telcos and cable companies have become VoIP providers. Quality of Service (QoS), redundancy, infrastructural improvements, and other efforts at standardization have also impacted the VoIP industry, providing customers with better and more reliably consistent service. VoIP service providers can also provide more cost-effective service, including standard features (such as call waiting) that a traditional telephone carrier would consider an add-on.
However, call clarity and consistent signals can still occasionally be an issue for some VoIP service providers, and other factors such as (shared) residential Internet connection speeds can affect performance. A VoIP comparison of Vonage vs. magicJack puts Vonage ahead in the call quality category.
Vonage Call Quality
With Vonage vs. magicJack, Vonage offers a lower threshold for broadband upload speed, which means that it offers a higher-quality phone call with less demand on the network. Vonage recommends an upload speed of 90 kbps for the best vocal quality, but can support less optimized calls at a lower rate of 30 kbps. To determine the compatibility of your ISP's broadband connection with Vonage phone service, Vonage offers an Internet speed test.
Vonage also provides guidance to help diagnose and eliminate audio problems, and helpful how-to advice for adjusting call bandwidth with their Bandwidth Saver.
magicJack Call Quality
magicJack call quality is known to be one of the bigger disadvantages to magicJack Internet phone service, but the choppiness of the call is largely dependent on the version of the magicJack adapter — magicJack or magicJack PLUS.
The original magicJack was notoriously spotty — plagued by static, echoes, dropped signals, and ultimately dropped calls. Users were frustrated, but had also paid less than $50 for a magicJack and a free year of unlimited long distance.
The magicJack PLUS was designed to eliminate many of the problems of the basic magicJack device. The magicJack PLUS — released in 2011 — included HD Voice and Echo Control to provide a more stable signal and eliminate the issues of jitter and delay. However, there are still occasional complaints about call quality, so it may not be working as well as hoped. The new magicJack PLUS also features RAM and an onboard ARM CPU, which eliminated the need to be continuously plugged into the computer.
magicJack (both versions) requires a higher minimum upload speed of ISPs than Vonage. magicJack recommends a minimum of 128 kbps, which is close to 40 kbps faster than the best call quality threshold advised by Vonage. magicJack does not offer an online speed test, but there are plenty of independent tests available on the Internet. You can try ours here.
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