Archive for January 7, 2023

Review: Ooma Telo

Posted in Products with tags on January 7, 2023 by itnerd

There’s a bit of a story behind this review. So please hang with me while I go through it as it will all make sense in the end.

I have a client who was using the netTALK Duo as their secondary phone to keep in touch with family via phone at a cheaper rate then what Canadian telcos can offer. But over the latter half of 2022, it would disconnect from the netTALK network and become unusable. That forced the client to use netTALK’s chat support feature to try and get assistance. I say try because even though this was a problem on netTALK’s end, the people that she was typing to always blamed her, her ISP, and at one point even tried to sell her new hardware to solve her issue. Fed up with such poor customer service, she asked me to come up with another option. Thus here we are with this:

This rather unassuming box contains an Ooma Telo which is Ooma’s VoIP box. When you plug this into your Internet connection and connect a phone to it, you get phone service. They claim it will be simple to setup and they can port her existing number to the device. Before we put that to the test, let’s see what’s in the box:

Opening the box, you get your usual documentation. Let’s put that to the side for a moment.

Under the documentation you get the Ooma Telo. It comes in white and in this case black.

You also get a power cable and a flat Ethernet cable.

Setting up is easy, but if I could give you one piece of advice, RTFM which is “Read The Fine Manual”. Because before you plug the Telo in and power it up, you need to activate it first via typing some information that is located on the bottom of Telo into a website that the instructions directs you to. I am going to assume that if you don’t do this, bad things will happen. Like the Telo unit gets blacklisted or something. Once you do that, you’re directed to plug in the unit and power it on. At that point you wait and in about 15 minutes you get this:

This is what a perfectly functioning Telo looks like as there’s a blue light in a flower pattern indicating that it is online and working. You’ll note that there is an orange light. That’s the voice mail light as one of the cool thing that the Telo can do is to allow you to play voice mails on the unit itself. That would make life easier for many as it’s far easier to do that versus dialling into a voice mail service. It also allows you to screen calls so that you don’t pick up the phone for some sort of scammer or telemarketer. I should also note that Ooma does offer call screening services as part of their premier plan. I’ll have more details in a second on that and the basic plan that the company offers.

On the back of the unit is a USB port for optional items like their bluetooth and WiFi adapter, a power connector, two Ethernet ports with the one on the left being a pass through connection for certain use cases, and the one on the right is the one that you connect into your home router. An RJ11 jack for your phone is on the far right. In my clients use case, I simply connected her phone and a cable to her router into the Ethernet port on the right.

Let’s talk for a moment about the service that the Telo offers. There’s two tiers of service. You can get their basic plan which since I along with my client are in Canada, gives you nationwide calling, access to their app to get calls on the go among other things. But if you update to their premier plan, you get a lot more including US and Mexico calling, better call screening, the ability to get a second number among other things including free number porting. That part is important as I will explain momentarily. In terms of costs, the basic plan is about $7 CAD a month though the company says that it is “free” but you only have to pay monthly taxes and fees as described here. The premier plan $10 CAD a month plus applicable taxes and fees. You do get two months of the premier plan when you buy a Telo unit though.

The next thing that I had to do is to start the process of porting her phone number from netTALK to Ooma. That required a trip to netTALK’s chat function to get her netTALK account number. But once I secured that, the online form that I had to fill out only took a few minutes to complete. Now I should note that there is a cost to porting your number which is $35 CAD. But it is free if you get the premier plan.

Pro Tip: If you are porting a number, it will prompt you to buy the premier plan. Keep saying no the premier plan and the system with then offer to drop the price of the plan from $10 CAD a month price to roughly $8.30 CAD a month for the first year. This is what I did to save my client a few bucks for the first year.

Now Ooma quotes thirty days to get a number ported. But it went much faster in her case. The request was put in on December 29th and was done on January 6th. This resulted in the client having two phone numbers. One was issued by Ooma when the Telo unit was activated. The second was her old number that was ported over. To simplify things, I used Ooma’s chat service to get the Ooma issued number deleted. The person that I was typing to seemed to know what she was doing and was efficient in terms of getting this actioned. So based on a sample size of one, I would say that the support that Ooma offers is pretty good. I should note that there’s phone as well as chat support. Though I will note that phone support is only available 12 hours a day on weekdays, and 8 hours a day on weekends. And their phone support hours are based on the Pacific time zone. Chat support is available 24/7.

In terms of call quality, tests that I did using her existing phone were crystal clear and I have no complaints on that front. But if you wanted to leverage some of the Telo’s feature set, you could get their phones which use DECT 6.0 to communicate with the TELO. Meaning you could park the Telo in some corner and place phones wherever you need them to be as there would be no wires. You can also have wireless adapters for things like fax machines and the like. The bottom line is that the Telo has the ability to meet your needs should your needs change. And since I installed it, it has been reliable as it has stayed online since the day that I set it up. And one thing that is cool is that Ooma offers a web based portal that allows you to configure everything. My client will never go into this, but I used it to set the number of rings before it goes to voice mail and if the phone rings to the Ooma App which is available for iOS and Android.

I only have one gripe and it’s truly a minor one. The blue light that you saw in one of the pictures above is bright. While I understand the need for this light to allow you to see if the Telo is online or not, you should be able to dial in how bright it is. That way it doesn’t light up a room at night which would be a problem if you are sleeping in said room.

In terms of pricing, the Telo is $129.99 CAD. But watch for deals as the Telo often goes on sale. There’s also a 30 day return policy in case you’re not satisfied. I’ll be monitoring how my client gets on with the Telo and posting a follow up in a couple of months. But as of right now, the Telo seems to be a winner for my client.