on August 20, 2011
I was looking forward to a fun weekend project learning about VOIP and SIP, tweaking settings until it worked perfectly. But no luck, I plugged it in and it worked. The hardest part of the whole process was finding the box with the phone in the basement. This was the worst weekend project ever :(
on May 3, 2012
A little background on my situation, I'm in the US Navy and have been relocated to Yokosuka, Japan for 3 years. My wife and kids will be periodically returning to the US to visit family while, for me, multiple deployments will take me to Singapore, South Korea, China, Taiwan, Australia, etc. Due to the multiple locations we'll both be, I set up two Obi110 boxes and left one with my wife, currently in the US, and brought the other with me to Japan. As Obi-to-Obi calls are ALWAYS free, regardless of which country you're in, I felt this was a great option (e.g. I can be in ANY country in the WORLD; my wife can be ANYWHERE in the WORLD; we can still call each other for FREE.) I ported my old cell number to my box and my wife ported her cell number to her box which allows both of us to seamlessly receive and make calls without anyone knowing that we're halfway across the world (careful, this can backfire as callers may innocently attempt to call you in the middle of the night)!! Additionally, I can still contact my extended family WITHIN THE US from anywhere in the world, FOR FREE!!!
Call quality: for the past month, 100% of my calls have found their way to me regardless of whether I was in the US or Japan with NO delay, NO static, and NO dropped calls. Additionally, 100% of the calls that I attempted found their way through with the very same accolades.
110 vs 100: Quite simply put, get the 110 ONLY if you plan to use the system in cooperation with a standard land line (military call it either POTS or PSTN). The advantage??? Primarily, 911 calls are infinitely more reliable from a POTS line versus an Obi-only line as the emergency services can locate you much-much easier. A secondary reason, from the US, my wife (who is in my "Circle of Trust") can "call" my box and be transferred out via the Obi110 land line which enables her to make local calls in Japan at the local telephone call rate. Please note: based on the local telephone company you have in Japan (or any country for that matter) this may or may not be cheaper than making a call via the Google Voice service (which for Japan is currently 2 cents/minute).
Configuation requirements and system limitations: You must configure your Service Provider account on the Obi device; I recommend using Google Voice but there are MANY good ones. Now, PORTING your number with Google is strictly an OPTION that I highly recommend you take advantage of; it allows you to seamlessly receive calls on your via your Obi device, monitor your voice mail and receive text transcriptions and e-mails of the same, receive/send text messages, set up calling rules (hours in which calls will or will not forward); all while still forwarding calls to your cell phone; even in another country. One limitation to which I've provided a work-around for is that you can only call INTO THE UNITED STATES for free; the trick of using two Obi devices only extends the ability to make local land line calls out of a second Obi's land connection. This does not mean that I can call (for example) Argentina for free unless I have a second box co-located there. The final limitation that I've identified, this one's specific to the Obi110, is if you're staying in a hotel with a "data port" (e.g. the phone itself has quick keys for housekeeping, front desk, valet, and voice mail) you can still connect the Obi110 and make local calls at the hotel's calling rate, but you CANNOT receive calls via that same line as the Obi cannot recognize those data functions that the phone utilizes. This is a very small limitation that I've bypassed with a LOT of work... it's not worth the effort for the limited time most military service members stay in hotels.
Finally, for my Navy brothers and sisters, the Obi CANNOT and SHOULD NOT EVER be hooked into a ship's system. DON'T DO IT!!! YOU WILL compromise the ship's network, YOU WILL get caught, and it should not even work; AGAIN don't do it!!! Feel free, however, to download the ObiApp (software provided on the ObiTalk website) on your personal laptop and find your way to any of the millions of Starbucks' wireless connection in ANY country and you'll be able to call home, FOR FREE, via your laptop; if you can get a hard line connection (from your hotel), you can use a standard POTS (PSTN) phone to make/receive calls.
*** UPDATE: 04 July 2012 ***
Call Forwarding to a Japanese Cell Phone WORKS: Using the "Star Codes" on a phone directly connected to the Obi100/110, you can absolutely forward calls made from the US to Japan simply by entering either *62 (Call Forward when no Answer) + the FULL Japanese cell phone of 011-81-80-####-#### or by entering *72 (Call Forward ALL) + the FULL Japanese cell phone number again.
NOTE: by doing this, you WILL incur a fee FROM GOOGLE VOICE, not ObiHai. Now, this fee is relatively small when compared to making an international cell phone call from Japan to the US (which is 78 Yen/minute... that's about $1/minute); using the technique I just listed, you can have calls forwarded from the US for only 11 cents/minute.
RECOMMENDATION: At 11 cents/minute, I'm still way too cheap to stay on forever, so I recommend cutting the call short and then re-establish the call from your Obi110 or Obi100 for FREE (see above if you forgot)!!!! Also, if you have an Ipad/Iphone/Android, there's an app for the Obi that uses a software version of your Obi100/110. The box still needs to be connected to the internet. With the app you're good to call from anywhere you can find a wi-fi (I successfully did this remotely from Singapore and Thailand twice... worked great!!). Nice thing is the call recipient will never know they called them from outside the US!! Cool!!
on July 30, 2011
Like some reviewing here, I signed up for a Google voice number over a year ago but really never used it. Due to some financial difficulties, I was looking at ways to save some money. We don't have cable or anything big, but we did have an $80-90 phone bill every month. I started looking at different VoIP solutions. With some, we were looking at $200-300 upfront costs plus a recurring monthly fee. Than I remembered that I had a GV number. I Googled for ways to use this and up pops this Obi110 device. It was exactly what I wanted. Make GV calls using any standard phone plugged into it. Upfront cost of less the $50, no monthly fees, this would pay for itself in one phone bill! The wife was not sure, but after making a test long distance call using the gmail website for close to an hour and a half, she was convinced that the call quality was worth it. Ordered from Amazon, got the Obi a few days later. It took about 45 minutes to set this up, by this time I had gotten a second GV number to use for my business. I used the Obitalk portal to do the configuration, the first thing it had me do was a firmware upgrade, took about a minute or two. Set up the first GV on SP1, but it did not work, totally my fault as I typed in the wrong password(took me 10 minutes to figure that out!) Got the second GV number set up a little quicker. Most of the other time spent on this was configuring some advanced options like distinct ring, calling from the Xlite/Obiapp using SP2(thanks to the Obi forum users for that), etc. I will be shutting off the regular phone soon, once I get the new number to everyone. All in all a very great device, use the forums if you need to do anything beyond the basics.
on February 2, 2012
I bought the Obi box without actually using it (I trust fellow Amazon shoppers enough) and sent it back to my family in Vietnam. My brother-in-law set it up in no time, and I was able to help him configure the Obi with Google Voice so that my mom can call me anytime for free, and I can call her on my Google Voice number anytime too. The sound quality is excellent (considering it's 10,000 miles away across the ocean, and the spotty connection.) It's amazing! I only wished that this box had been invented a few years ago, when I was in a long-distant relationship -- I'd have save more money and eaten less ramens for sure.
So here's the quick setup guide for you:
The other side with the Obi box:
1. Connect the box to the internet
2. Sign up for an account on [...]
3. Add the device and punch in a code in this format **5 xxxx to register the device with the ObiTalk account. You have 120 seconds to do this step.
4. Once the device is registered, you then configure the Voice Services to add your Google account. I added my Google Voice account under Service Provider 1 Just type in your username/password (The site is using SSL so your password should be safe, unless ObiTalk get hacked ...)
5. Once you have done that, wait a bit and refresh the page. It'll say something like
"Service Provider 1 Google Voice(tm) Account Connected"
6. Now the other end can make a call to any US number for free (yay!)
7. To make the call the other way around (e.g. calling your Google Voice to ring the phone on the other side) you have to log in to your Google Voice, and turn on "Forwards call to Google chat". To do so, click the "Gear" icon, then go to Settings. You should see the checkbox in under the first tab "Phones"
8. Now make a call to your Google Voice number. The other end would ring. I also turned off the Voice greetings so that the phone rings more naturally, intead of the awkward "Say your name blah blah blah".
The whole setup took me about 20 minutes to setup, and it was half-way across the world as well. I'm impressed.
Happy free calling. Thanks Obi.
PS: You can also add Speed Dial numbers to the account so that the other end can just hit 3 # (or any digit then pound/hash). Just assign a new Speed Dial slot with the number. I didn't know much about Voip stuff but technically you can also configure the Obi service to call another SIP phone.
PSS: Now I have to tell mom not to call me all the time.
on December 2, 2013
PIGS do fly! After many folks were told they had to find a new service provider for this Obi device because Google was banning many devices, including the Obi series, it looks like Google and Obi have just come to an agreement, as Google Voice is now officially supported.
Official announcement can be found at blog.obihai.com/2014/09/google-voice-and-obihai-update.html (search for 'Google Voice and Obihai Update' on Google if the link doesn't work).
I've been using this device since 2011, uninterrupted (yes, the device kept working after the May 15 2014 deadline, but it was a big gamble), so I can provide some feedback.
Basically, the device just works, and sound quality is pretty good. This device has saved me a fortune since my analog line was $35/month.
Back in 2011, configuration was easy (but thinking/hoping it might be easier now that the device is officially supported), and has only locked up once (probably because of a Google/Internet glitch anyways).
While it has been a few months since I have done this, this device also allows me to use my fax machine (Canon MX870 AIO printer), and works with my alarm panel.
I recommend you plug your cable/DSL modem and this device into a UPS, so you still have phone service during power outages.
There isn't much else to say about this device, but if you have questions, ask away, and I'll try to answer them.
ORIGINAL REVIEW BELOW
UPDATE (sometime in 2013):PLEASE mark this review (or any review mentioning the deadline) as helpful. The top review still doesn't mention anything about the May 2014 deadline, it's important people stop buying this device if they plan on using this with Google Voice!
Awesome device, but the fun money-saving journey has come to an end.
Google is going to ban the device from its Google Voice network, so this device becomes USELESS after May 15 2014 if your sole intention is to replace your landline (POTS) with a Google Voice #.
In case the link doesn't get approved, search for 'important message about your google device'.
on July 30, 2015
I bought the OBi110 primarily for one function: to add call screening to my home landline, and prevent robocalling telemarketers and scammers from ringing my phone. As it turned out, configuring the OBi110 to perform that function, and only that function, was non-trivial. After numerous Google searches I finally got it working, and I'm pleased with the results, but it's not as straightforward as I had hoped it would be. I certainly wouldn't recommend a computer / networking novice trying it him or herself.
The real strength (and the main application) of this device is to set up your own VOIP service using Google Voice (or another provider). That particular function is relatively straightforward to set up once you create an account on www.obitalk.com. I haven't done that yet, but will probably get around to it once Google Fiber gets to my neighborhood and I can ditch Comcast (which randomly drops my Internet connection about a dozen times a day). In the meantime, I'll at least enjoy blissful silence from unwanted callers.
So I give it four stars for performance, subtracting one star because of the difficult configuration process for anything except VOIP setup.
UPDATE: If you want to use the OBi110 as a call screening device for your home landline, here are some tips to save time and frustration:
(1) Set up your OBi110 using the instructions in the "Quick Start" guide. For call screening, the OBi110 must be connected between your phone line and your phone(s). In my case, I use a phone / answering machine base station with wireless extension phones throughout the house, so everything goes through the OBi110. You can still use additional "dumb" wired extension phones in your home, but their ringers should be turned off.
(2) You can either configure the OBi110 using its web interface through your local network, or by setting up an account at www.obitalk.com, linking your OBi110 with that account, and using the Obitalk "Obi Expert Configuration" panel. IMPORTANT: the Obitalk configuration will override any changes you make using the local web interface. If you do create an Obitalk account, use it instead of the local web interface. Note that the Obitalk and local web GUIs are almost identical.
(3) You'll need to record two custom announcements. This must be done using a phone connected to the OBi110. For announcement #1, dial ***0, then 1001#. When prompted, press any key to begin, say something like "You've reached xxx-xxxx. Please press 1 to continue", then press # to finish, and follow the prompts to save your recording.
For announcement #2, go to Youtube and search for "Disconnected Phone Message" (about a minute in length). On your phone, dial ***0, then 1002#. Hold your phone up to your computer speakers, play the Youtube video, record the audio, and save it on your OBi110.
(4) Using your Obitalk account (or the local web interface if you didn't create an account), select "Voice Services", then "Auto Attendant". Change the default values according to the images attached to this review (note the red exclamation points next to the changed fields). %USER1% and %USER2% are the two announcements you recorded, while %USER3% is blank, which is intentional. Setting the DigitMap field to '([1-9]|[1-9][0-9]|0)' prevents the caller from maliciously or accidentally using the OBi110 to callback to another number. Removing the NumberOnNoInput value causes the OBi110 to hang up if the caller does nothing.
(5) Click "submit" at the bottom of the page. If using the Obitalk web page, the Obi110 will reboot automatically. If using the local web interface, you'll need to click the "reboot" icon.
(6) Now return to the OBi110 configuration menu, select "Physical Interfaces", then "LINE Port". Set InboundCallRoute to 'aa'. (See the attached image.) Again, click "submit" and reboot the OBi110.
Now test your setup. Use another phone to call your home number. If everything is configured correctly, your OBi110 should answer after about 2 rings. Pressing "1" will ring through to your home phone / answering machine, while pressing any other number (or doing nothing at all) will result in the "disconnected phone" message being played. Robocallers or prerecorded messages from politicians or scammers will not get through. You may still have to deal with an occasional human being who makes an unsolicited call to your phone, but hopefully they will honor a "remove me from your calling list" request. Good luck!
on October 9, 2011
I've had my OBi110 for a week now. I've configured it to work with my Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN) connection and I've compared that with three different Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) services that I've variously configured on the device. My goal is to find a reasonably priced SIP service to replace the PSTN service.
The OBi110 is a real asset in making the conversion.
1) The OBi110 transparently bridges two SIP services and one PSTN line to one analog phone line (wired or wireless analog phones). This is huge. I've seen some reviews where folks have questioned the inclusion of the ability to bridge SIP to PSTN. That feature has been really valuable to me as I've evaluated different SIP services against my existing PSTN line. So far I've compared my Qwest (aka Centurylink) PSTN line against Sipgate, Callcentric, and voip.ms SIP services. All compare favorable in voice quality, and they offer huge price advantages.
2) At this time using an Analog Telephone Adapter (ATA) like the OBi110 is a much less expensive approach to switching to Voice Over Internet Protocol (VOIP) for your phone service than buying a dedicated SIP phone system. The OBi110 has a street price of about fifty bucks and uses your existing local analog phone system. In comparison a dedicated SIP phone system will set you back at least several hundred bucks for a 3- or 4-station system.
3) The "wife factor". Whatever system you choose, those using it (besides you) just want to pick up the phone and have it work as they expect it will. The OBi110 is sufficiently configurable to do this. The wife is so far very happy with the device and the (transparent to her) SIP service behind it. The OBi110 is capable of "Digit Maps" that convert expected calling sequences, whether 7- or 10- or 11-digit or whatever, to the 11-digit format necessary for SIP. I live in an area with a complex area code overlay (Phoenix, AZ) where this is important, and it works very well.
4) The OBi110 works with almost all SIP services. It's not a locked device like Vonage or MagicJack which only work with one dedicated service. That means you can choose one or two of many competitive services and change between services at will.
5) The OBiTalk web portal does remote administration of your OBi110 with minimal effort. It's great for initial settings. Then, tweak details by the 'expert' pages, or do it through the local lan portal to the device.
1) This is not the device for the plug-and-play set. In most cases you will need to acquire a bit of knowledge to use it effectively. If you want plug-and-play, go elsewhere like Vonage or Magicjack.
So far I love this thing. Best fifty bucks I ever spent.
on November 15, 2013
Edited Review: I had posted that this product would stop working in May of 2014 and true enough, it did. Now I hear it's officially supported again. I don't have personal experience yet. My OBI is sitting in a drawer in the US and I'm up in Canada for the next couple of months but if it works as well as it did in past (and no reason to assume it won't) this is very good news. I'm bumping my stars back to 5/5. Congrats Obi! Well done.
Old (outdated) Review:
Anyway, if you buy this product and nothing changes, it may stop working in May 2014. There are work-arounds but none are free and a lot of them involve buying a SIP account with another provider.
on August 25, 2011
My wife and I use Google Voice exclusively. In fact, I have no idea what our actual cell phone numbers are off hand. However, cell service is very poor in our house. I initially bought a cell phone booster with a high gain directional outdoor antenna. Didn't help much (if at all) inside the house.
I then tried some of the WiFi options for our Android phones (cSimple, SIPdroid, GooVe IP, etc). Bad echos... even with endless hours spent on tweaking the mic gain, speaker volume, and echo cancellation. NOTE: GrooVe IP did the best in this category. So I have it loaded on our phones (but not running) in case we're somewhere without cell service, but do have WiFi around.
I started to think I'd need to go ahead and get a cheap middle man home service (like MagicJack, NetTALK DUO, etc) to point Google Voice towards.
Then I stumbled on Ooma and OBi. Both offer direct connection to Google Voice without having to set up that middle man. Just what I was hoping for. However, Ooma is pretty spendy and I'm pretty cheap. So I bought the OBi.
No echo issues. No lag / delay. Crystal clear! And only once in the last week has an incoming call not rang on it (but did ring our cells). The other 30 or so calls did connect. And 1 call did have where I could hear them, but they couldn't hear me (one way audio).
I didn't have any problems connecting both my Google Voice and my wife's Google Voice accounts to it. 5 stars / A+ / two thumbs up on the ease of doing that through OBiTALK.
However, I did drop one star for one tiny thing that I hope they can make easier to do. (You can do it - which attests to how powerful this phone adapter is!, but it takes some technical savvy).
You see, you pick one line to be your default outgoing line. That is my Google Voice number. (You can use the second account if you dial **2 before the number). So when I use the home phone and call the wife's Google Voice number, no problem. It rings her cell as usual and shows my number on her Caller ID. -- However, if she is home and tries calling my Google Voice number it goes straight to my voice mail prompt... because by default it is using my Google Voice number to call out. So it thinks you are trying to call yourself and puts you at the Google Voice attendant. What she has to do is dial **2 and then my number. Then it rings my cell and shows her number as Caller ID. Makes sense.
What would be nice is if you dial your primary number, it should have a setting to automatically use your second line. (We get our voice mails on our phones as audio files anyhow... so we don't need to pick up the voice mails from home phone).
What I did was go into the ADVANCED settings and changed the "outbound call route" for the PHONE port. I added my Google Voice number to the route and told it to use sp2.
Works like a champ! The wife doesn't have to dial **2 anymore when she calls me from the home phone.
Well worth the few bucks it cost and now I pay ZERO for a home phone. Sorry MagicJack / netTALK / Ooma.
7/30/2012 - UPDATE: A year has passed and we're still rocking with our OBi110. In fact, we now use the home phones so much more than before... that we're thinking of buying the OBi202 so we can both be on home phones at the same time!
on October 4, 2011
I have Google voice number which used to work well with my Ooma Core subscription until Ooma introduced Google Voice as a Premier Telo Only feature. Calls forwarded by Google Voice to my home phone would ring but on picking up Ooma would send it to voice mail. Very annoying in deed. Since I did not need Ooma Premier I decided to stop forwarding calls from my Google voice number to my home phone. By the way I have been using ooma Hub - VoIP Phone Device with No Monthly Phone Service Bills since late 2008 and the service has been terrific.
I stumbled on the Obi110 adapter while searching for something else on amazon. I have never heard of ObiHai nor their products before. What really caught my attention was the OBi110 uncanny resemblance to Ooma Scout (to use with Ooma Hub VoIP Phone Device). After reading about the OBi110 I decided to give it a try. The first unit I received from amazon was DOA. It would not connect and kept blinking red. I returned it for exchange but amazon did not have any more in stock so I ordered a new unit directly from the manufacturer via amazon marketplace. It initially had hard time connecting but when it finally did everything worked as advertised. It even found a new firmware and updated itself. Google voice works pretty well with this device. I can now make calls with my Google voice number showing on the caller ID. Very neat.
One caveat though is that it has rebooted itself a few times compared to my Ooma hub which has only lost connection twice since 2008 owing to Ooma global Server downtime issues. The OBi110 also need power reboot each time telephone cord is disconnected for any reason. Ooma Hub stays connected so long as the router cable is in place. May be not a fair comparison since Ooma Hub is home phone replacement while OBi110 is more like a soft phone device? Anyhow, this is a great little device if you need an easy home solution for your Google Voice number.