Gadget Review: OBi Talk

(This article was first published on BlogCritics here.)

OBi 100 VOiP adaptor connected to a "traditional" telephone handset via ethernet.

OBi 100 VOiP adaptor connected to a “traditional” telephone handset via ethernet.

An OBi device configured with the help of the OBiTALK web portal gives me the convenience of VoIP combined with the sturdiness of a home telephone that is built to handle phone calls (and not all that other smartphone stuff that is expensive and only needed when I’m away from my desk).

the Obi 100

the Obi 100

I’ve been using an OBi100 for a few months and it has been reliable and convenient. The device is unlocked and can be used with a variety of VoIP services (much as you would use an unlocked cell phone with any SIM card) making it agnostic in terms of the service provider. Mine is paired with my Google Voice number and works flawlessly. Other services, such as Ooma and magicJack, have proprietary analog telephone adapter devices, so the OBi won’t work with them.

The OBi when paired with Google Voice runs with no monthly or recurring fees of any kind, just the initial equipment cost, which is approximately $40. There are no recurring or hidden charges like those levied by other similar services. I like owning my own equipment without extra fees.

For those of you who, like me, enjoy geeking out, here are some features:

1. You can port your home phone number to the service running on the OBi device.

2. Calls can be bridged from one service to another, e.g., a call from your mobile phone in India to the location where you have your OBi device in India, then a connection via Google Voice to the USA, and voila! A free call.

3. The OBi at home can be programmed to call me back on my mobile phone automatically when I’m traveling. This comes in handy because incoming calls to my international mobile are free.

4. I can call anywhere in the world using WiFi (or a 3/4G network) connection from the OBiON Android or iPhone app and the call is free because it technically is coming from the OBi device at home.

The Obi 202 VOiP Adaptor

The Obi 202 VOiP Adaptor

5. The business version of the OBi, the OBi202, allows up to four VoIP services that are available across two independent phone ports. The OBi202 can also be used with the OBiPLUS small business communication solution. OBiPLUS includes many business calling features such as call holding, call monitoring, call park and call pick up from other phones, etc., The OBi202 also has a USB port that can be used with the OBiWiFi Wireless Adapter to give you the flexibility to connect with WiFi access points.

6. If you use more than one service such as multiple Google Voice numbers or a service like those from Anveo or Callcentric, the OBi can be programmed to allow you to select whichever service you want to use for a particular call.

7. For an additional $12 per year, the OBi can be programmed to use 911 services. Most VoIP services support emergency service calls to 911. But if you use a VoIP service that does not support emergency services calling (Google Voice doesn’t) and you want to have the ability to call 911, you can easily sign up with VoIP provider Anveo, directly from the OBiTALK web portal.

Sherman Scholten, VP of Marketing at Obihai Technology, says, “Obihai has established itself as a thought and technology leader with innovative products making Internet ‘dial tone’ an easy-to-use and powerful money-saving technology for individual consumers and service providers alike. Together with its customers, Obihai is changing the way traditional voice services are delivered in to homes and small businesses.”

For more information or to purchase an OBi device go to Amazon, where it is rated as one of the top office electronics products, or NewEgg.

Screen Shot 2013-07-13 at 11.26.36 AMAbout Obihai: Obihai Technology, founded in 2010 by Jan Fandrianto, is a California company based in Silicon Valley. Fandrianto invented the original VoIP phone adaptor in the l990s and since then, he has brought over 10 million VoIP endpoints to residential and small business users.