The $0 Landline

In a previous article, I extolled the virtues of Google Voice.  I told the story of how I've been phone plan free for 18 months, and how I've saved a big stack of cash as a direct result—many of my friends pay nearly $100 per month for a data plan and $200 every two years for a smartphone on a contract, so I may already be as much as $2000 ahead.  That sort of savings will buy you an Excessively Nice Racing Bicycle, pay for a couple cross-country flights, finance an international vacation, or increase my savings rate by 4.5%.

Even if you can't throw out your phone completely, you can still use Google Voice to eliminate ridiculous text messaging fees.

As I discovered over the weekend, you can also use Google Voice to get rid of that ridiculous landline!

Death to the Landline; Long Live the Landline

I have never personally had a landline, but I was shocked to discover that unlimited local and long distance service is typically on the order of $15-25 per month.  Craziness!  Blog follower and cool guy Brett Groneman tipped me off to using Google Voice and a specialized piece of hardware to avoid these ridiculous fees:
I might only add one suggestion to your Google Voice plan: Invest in an "OBi100" (Search Amazon for it) to plug in a "plain ol' telephone" that is connected to your Google Voice. You don't need a separate forwarding phone number. It just acts just like a house phone on your GV number, with the exception of all of the GV extra features, although it can't call 911 (We kept an old out-of-service cell phone charged for 911 calls, which we never used). Well worth the money, particularly if you get it on sale.
I should add that you can purchase 911 service for $1/month through Anveo, and that the device has a bunch of other features besides Google Voice compatibility.

The OBi website says that you can't use it with Google Voice if you have Google's Two-Factor Authentication enabled (and you should!), but that's not true; just create an application-specific password in the Google Security Settings and you're good to go.

Verdict: It Does What It Says On The Box

Check out my sexy new landline:

I must admit it feels weird to hold an actual receiver.  It's been a while.  I like it.

The Amazon reviews are glowingly positive, and I can see why: configuration takes only a few minutes, and basically involves plugging the thing in, logging in with your Google account, and dialing a number on the phone when it tells you to.

The OBi comes in a couple different versions:

  • OBi100 - the one for those without landline service; links a regular phone to Google Voice
  • OBi110 - the one for those with landline service; links to Google Voice and existing service
  • OBi200 - this one also includes fax machine compatibility
  • OBi202 - connects to two devices at once, with fax compatibility and QoS

The OBi's primary competitor appears to be the Ooma, which costs 4x the basic OBi100 and supports 911 and Google Voice integration for a $4 monthly fee.  Thanks, but no thanks.