We’ve had some kind of phone beyond our cell phones since, well, forever. At the time, it was a good way to keep from burning through precious and limited cell minutes. Now we’re at a point where cell minutes are something we don’t bother counting. When evenings are free, weekends are free, and calls to other cell phones are free, we’re maybe using 20 minutes a month outside of that. A busy month might be 150 minutes if we’re out of town. The only reason we’ve kept a landline is for E911 service.
See, Shauna has a bad habit of not remembering to charge her phone. This wasn’t a big deal when we had dumbphones that would easily go for a week between charges. Once we got smartphones, though, we were having trouble keeping a full day’s charge. Even these latest ones with tweaking can only manage about 3-4 days with light use. In an emergency, being out of battery or waiting for enough charge to make a call isn’t an option. So, yes, we’ve been paying a $30/mo premium for the luxury of not having to remember to charge cell phones.
Then a few months ago, I read about a little box from ObiTalk that you could use with Google Voice and your home phone. While Google Voice doesn’t have E911 service, adding it onto this was a scant $0.80 per month. Since Google Voice calls are free to the US and Canada (and dirt-cheap to anywhere else, if we had to call there), this seemed like the perfect option.
There’s a few different models to pick from depending on your setup, but I got the Obi202 since we need to support both of our Google Voice numbers and E911. I also picked up a two-line phone so that we could pick which number we’d be calling out with. The most difficult part was figuring out how to order E911 service (which I got from Anveo). Setting up all three accounts was a piece of cake, and nobody on either ends seems to really notice the difference between it and our Comcast line. If you don’t go with a multi-line phone, you can setup distinctive ring for each incoming number so that you know who’s being called.
If you’re cell-only, would it make sense to get something like this? Maybe. If you do a lot of calling at home, this could cut into your usage substantially and allow you to switch to a cheaper cell plan. If you have kids in the house that make calls, this is a cheap way to get them a phone line of their own. There’s an optional Bluetooth adapter to allow it to pair with your cell phone and use your cell minutes (like the free nights and weekends) from a normal home phone. You can even get setup with a friend who will let you make calls from your Obi device using their Obi device (so, basically, you can share minutes). There’s enough possible configurations that you’d probably find some cool way to use it.
Even with the start-up costs, we’re going to end up breaking even in just 8 months. I’d consider that a pretty worthy investment.