Throw away your long-distance telephone bills and computer headsets. Well, almost. I've looked at computer telephony services in recent years, and the just-released update from upstart JAJAH is my personal choice. It's incredibly easy to use: enter phone numbers for you and your destination, then click a button. Your phone rings. Pick it up and talk.
Simplicity is the rule for JAJAH, which reduces VoIP calling to little money and even less effort.
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So it comes down to money, at which JAJAH excels. After your first five free minutes of test driving, you must register (no charge). Then, there are no or minimal charges for either POTS (Plain Old Telephone System) or mobile calls to more than 100 destinations. Most of the countries I call cost no more than zero to 2.5 cents per minute -- far less than my phone company charges just for the privilege of calling locally. (And, yes, I can make a local call for free with JAJAH.) If you call more esoteric destinations, check JAJAH's Web site for the latest rates. If you have an impulse to call a mobile phone in, say, Iraq, expect 65 cents per minute.
Most delightfully, JAJAH has no recurring charges. If you never use the service again, you pay nothing. Period.
Is there a catch? Yeah, if you use the service for hours rather than occasional calls. There's no specific ceiling, but JAJAH may limit your use. Look into JAJAH Business Account terms.
Are there advanced features? Yes. If you have a Web site, pursue their Call Me feature, which favorably competes with alternate technologies for allowing customers to call you for free. And check out JAJAH's Outlook plugin. After calling a number, it appears on a drop-down pick list in Outlook to dial it again using JAJAH. Click, click. Firefox browser and Macintosh Address Book solutions are in the works.
Perhaps the highest praise I can give JAJAH is that among the thousand or so products I've reviewed over the years it is one of the few that has stayed on my desktop for instant use. I've used JAJAH for several calls, all of which were as clear as traditional calls -- and as a bonus, faster to "dial." My one gripe is that incorrectly entering an overseas destination's phone number unceremoniously ended without a clue rather than with an error message. Select your destination country and dial carefully.
J.W. Olsen has been a full-time IT author, columnist, editor, and freelance book project manager with more than 1000 editorial credits since 1990, and has provided computer, Web site, and editorial services to other clients since 1985. He welcomes feedback via the response form at www.jwolsen.com.