Last fall, I began a series of articles about my journey to “phone independence.” Basically, I found a way to make and receive free phone calls (yes, free) using an actual telephone and a free Google Voice account.
This is possible through a gadget called the Obi 100 or Obi 110. This graphic pretty much says it all:
If you are fuzzy on the details, please see Part 1 and Part 2 (listed above). I don’t plan to rehash everything here.
Unfortunately, I’ve now hit a setback, and I wanted to be honest about it, since I agreed to document every step of my journey. This spring I was planning to port my landline phone number to Google Voice and take the next step.
But then Obihai, the company that makes the whole phone-calls-through-Google-Voice thing possible, announced that Google plans as of May 15, 2014 to phase out of the technology (XMPP-based calling) that allows customers to make free Google Voice phone calls using an actual telephone attached to an Obi device.
What a bummer! Good thing I hadn’t moved my landline phone number to Google Voice yet.
What does this mean? As of May 15, customers who are using Google Voice for free incoming and outgoing phone calls via an actual telephone attached to an Obi device will no longer be able to send or receive calls.
Then Obihai announced that customers will still be able to use the Obi device with a few Internet Telephony Service Providers (ITSP) and pay as little as $40 per year for phone service. While this isn’t free, it still would be a big savings.
I checked out the leading service, Vestalink, which would provide phone service—get this—for only $25 per year. But unfortunately, Vestalink doesn’t yet service 9-1-1 calls for my area code, so I’m unable to use it.
I’m currently checking out an ITSP called Anveo and hope to have a report soon on whether this will be my solution. One possibility is to wait, because Google may discontinue Google Voice and merge it into Google Hangouts, making another phone connection possible.
Unfortunately, if I select a calling plan beyond Google, calls will no longer be free, but I will still save lots of cash on my phone bill by going this route. I’ll be in touch, hopefully with exciting news. Stay tuned.
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