VoiP/prepaid phone options for emergency-ish home phone

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So my wife and I have modified our work schedules so that one of us can see our two grade schooler children on the bus and one of us can get home in time to see them off. In the event the parent coming home gets locked up in traffic or something, our kids have a key to get in the house but we want a way to contact them so we have peace of mind they made it in the house ok but we haven't had a home phone line for a decade. So I'm looking for the lowest cost 'home' phone service that
1.) Can receive incoming calls
2.) Can send outgoing calls (texts would be nice too but not necessary...)
3.) Might never be used
My wife and I are on a verizon family plan w/2x smartphones and we have multiple old smart/dumb phones that could be put back in service although I think that would cost us at least $20/month. I've read up on VOIPO and believe I can get a voip service for about $6/ month from them for 2 yrs.

Anyone here have any advice or had a similar need? Any info would be appreciated. TIA!

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Guess it's a local thing then. Cause that's the way it works here.

zapjb (Oct. 14, 2016 @ 3:13p) |

Obihai gives you an always on, always ready, more reliable, better sounding phone.  Pick up the handset and go or answer.... (more)

megatard (Oct. 14, 2016 @ 3:37p) |

I should have stated my power lines are buried not above ground.

zapjb (Oct. 14, 2016 @ 8:57p) |

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FreedomPop has a minimal use free service for connection to smart phone by WiFi only. One concern for your stated need. If the FreedomPop WiFi phone is not used for a few months, they shut it off without warning. Therefore, if you go that route, run monthly drills with the kids thereby insuring it gets used on each phone each month.  This can be done on a bring your own device plan.

In home WiFi required to make this work for you.  Set it with some type of security level such as WPA-PSK

An Obihai device (search hot deals for $40 deals) will connect your old landline phone to a free Google voice phone number.

megatard said:   An Obihai device (search hot deals for $40 deals) will connect your old landline phone to a free Google voice phone number.
  
+1 for Obi device with Google Voice phone number. Calls within US is free ( as of now )

3rd obi.

Didn't GV plan to stop supporting obi? I know it still works, but is it pretty much a gamble?

Pageplus service on one of the old cell phones, $10 every 90 days.

scripta said:   Didn't GV plan to stop supporting obi? I know it still works, but is it pretty much a gamble?
  
That was true for a while. I don't know the exactly details but Obihai and Google have some kind of arrangement that is secure enough that Obihai is heavily advertising Google Voice compatibility and is now putting a Google Voice sticker/logo on the side of the Obihai device itself.

Since you're on Verizon, you can get gizmogadgets. They cost $150 each, but then it's only $5/month/watch. Your kids will have an easy way to contact you (and vise versa) for a relatively low monthly cost no matter where they are.

Another suggestion:

Depends on the smartphones you have, but there are plenty of apps that allow voice/text via wifi.

To name a few - google hangouts, iMessage, voyage, what'sapp, etc....

scripta said:   Didn't GV plan to stop supporting obi? I know it still works, but is it pretty much a gamble?That plan was almost implemented, but then reversed. It could happen again, but they give many months of notice.

doveroftke said:   Pageplus service on one of the old cell phones, $10 every 90 days.
  We use this method (and combined it with a Renny that was on sale so that the phone can be heard through most of the house).

An advantage to this option is that if you ever need a kid to take a cellphone temporarily somewhere, you already have a working phone to use.

OBiHai is the cheapest and likely most reliable, since the service is thru Google voice.
We have been using Vonage for almost 8-10 years and then since last 2 years switched to ObiHai.

It gives free incoming and outgoing to US and Canada.
For international also they are very cheap and call quality is very nice.
Google has tons of servers, hence it is very clear and reliable.

Obiahi device just is an option to connect to GoogleVoice. Even the basic Obihai gives you a phone line out and you can also connect fax to it and it works great.
I have daisy chained land line with answer machine and a fax machine too.
 

Thanks every one. I had hear about the GV/obihai thing a while ago and was planning on using that but then I read google was putting the kibosh on it. Not sure if I want to take a chance on the equipment at this point.
The pageplus cellular sounds like a good option, wasn't aware of that. Dumb question: On PP website it says the $10 plan is 'this is only a 3g plan, you cannot activate a 4G device with this plan' does that mean a 4G smartphone won't work with this service or just that it will only run in 3g mode?

I'm honestly surprised no one has mentioned ooma yet; while we use it for a home phone and have for quite a few years, the basic tier is just taxes ($3ish for most cities) and the hardware is dead simple.. We just unplugged our test jack outside our house where the phone came in, then plugged the ooma into the jack on the wall - all outlets in our house take normal phones now, provided by the ooma. No voice sip setups, no worries if GV is going to quit tomorrow, and it works probably more reliably then our old landlines did.

+1 for ooma.

DShaw94 said:   Thanks every one. I had hear about the GV/obihai thing a while ago and was planning on using that but then I read google was putting the kibosh on it. Not sure if I want to take a chance on the equipment at this point.
The pageplus cellular sounds like a good option, wasn't aware of that. Dumb question: On PP website it says the $10 plan is 'this is only a 3g plan, you cannot activate a 4G device with this plan' does that mean a 4G smartphone won't work with this service or just that it will only run in 3g mode?

  you'd get a pay as you go p[lan $80 for 2000 minute/year or $10 for 100 minutes/120 days

ETA change to 120 days from 90 days

DShaw94 said:   Dumb question: On PP website it says the $10 plan is 'this is only a 3g plan, you cannot activate a 4G device with this plan' does that mean a 4G smartphone won't work with this service or just that it will only run in 3g mode?You cannot activate a 4G / LTE device on PayGo or $12 plan. The minimum plan for a 4G / LTE device is $29.95/month.
  

doveroftke said:   Pageplus service on one of the old cell phones, $10 every 90 days.
 It's actually every 120 days. 

Ooma works - but compared to Obi+GV (unless you go for the more expensive Ooma Premier for some of these limitations)

  • Ooma hardware is more expensive,
  • Ooma still incurs a $3-$4 monthly charge
  • No ability to block any phone# (tele marketers) from calling you 
  • No automated call forwarding
  • No access on your mobile phone
  • No free voicemail transcription

Ooma+GV will allow you to access your phone calls on your cellphone (using hangouts app), free voicemail transcription, ability to block spammers etc. The only issue, from what I know, is that it doesn't have caller ID capability (and GV doesn't support E911). There may be workarounds for the caller ID issue - any Ooma+GV users that can help answer?

1) The obihai/ooma are good for a free landline, provided that your home internet and power are reliable.

2a) *Any* cell phone, even unactivated, can still make outgoing calls to 911. Without activation/service, 911 operators won't be able to call back, if disconnected.
2b) An unactivated smart phone, w/ a google hangouts/google voice number can also be used for text messages and incoming/outgoing calls through google hangouts over wifi. I believe google hangouts can't dial 911, but see 2a. In an emergency, you'd need to remember to dial using the phone's dialer, rather than hangout, which might be subject to user error in a panic scenario.

3) A phone on FreedomPop or ringplus gives you a backup communications link in case your home internet is down (due to a power outage or service outage), so that can be Handy. They also provide cell data, so that gives you text messages, even if your home internet is out. The free version of ringplus only provides data on 4G. The free version of FreedomPop provides it for both 3g and 4g. ringplus is on the Sprint network (cdma phone) and FreedomPop used to be only Sprint, though they've since expanded to add gsm network support. I'm not too sure about how well FreedomPop works w/ gsm networks, but others here could probably chime in on that.

Google voice or Ringplus

ObiHai.
using it for 5 years and will buy again in a heartbeat if needed.

dma8342 said:   

2b) An unactivated smart phone, w/ a google hangouts/google voice number can also be used for text messages and incoming/outgoing calls through google hangouts over wifi.....


Wait, so I can create a new phone number with GV, log into GH on an old smartphone on my wireless network, then Boom: I have a home phone again...for free?

Why are people doing all this Obihai and Ooma stuff then? What's the catch?

If you never plan to use the phone
on a regular basis, here's an unusual option:

http://sim4globe.com/

$9.99 one time payment, good "forever" .
(keep the line alive by sending an sms
to it once a year. incoming sms is free.
voice calls ~ 30c / minute).

doveroftke said:   Pageplus service on one of the old cell phones, $10 every 90 days.
  
That's $10 every 120 days. These plans do require a non 4G Verizon phone. You can use an iPhone 4S or most Verizon flip phones. You can purchase a PPC phone but not worth it probably. PagePlus uses Verizon network. It gives you 100 minutes but the amount rolls over as long as you add $10 every four months. It does incur a 50c charge per month. 10c per minute, 5c per txt sent or received. No data.

If you need to use a 4G device, then the lowest cost plan will jump to $30 per month.

Of course, if you have wifi in the house, Whatsapp or iMessage would do the trick... How old are the kids that would need to get into the house by themselves?

I was in a similar situation. We've got a 4 year old and while he hasn't started school yet we where worried about grandparents baby sitting him and forgetting their cell phones because they rarely use them and us not having a home phone. I picked up an Obihai and set it up with a simple basic phone. I prefer this over a cell phone as you don't have to worry about keeping it charged or worry about using it occasionally to keep free service active, etc. It is also a bit simpler to deal with than an old cell phone for the grand parents. My son even knows where the phone is and how to dial 911 in case of emergency. We've also covered with him what is and isn't an emergency.

As far as the GV cutting them off thing goes I wouldn't worry about that. The whole thing was a couple years ago now and their products literally carry GV branding now. Even if the worst case does happen and GV does cut them off there are literally dozens of other VoIP providers you could sign up with free/inexpensive plans. GV is just the best known service and is free. Configuration of the Obihai isn't hard IMO. In your situation you will probably want to subscribe to a companion service because GV doesn't include 911 but that was like $10 for the year.

GV on an old cell phone would work for you being able to call/text the kids but how well it is integrated depends on the phone and software version so it might only be via the GV app on the phone not the normal phone dialer/messaging app. It also won't do 911 if something happens while they are home alone. As dma8342 mentioned any cell phone should always be able to call 911 as long as it is in range of any network even if it isn't active on any network but dialing that could be different than using GV to call you for example.

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16833617008&... 

http://blog.obihai.com/2011/11/calling-911-with-obi-devices.html 

RingPlus requires a Sprint device. Since you have Verizon, they do support iPhone 5s or newer. The service plans change almost daily, but you can get a free plan, which gives you a decent bucket of minutes and data with only an initial outlay of about $40.

Get Lyca Mobile Sim for ($0.01) from Amazon.
Don't sign up one of their plan. Activate using website. Add funds to the account making it Pre-paid account instead of selecting one of their plans. You will only get charged for what you use. The amount may expire if there is no activities for 90 days but if you at least use it once in 3 months or so, your money will not go away. My in-laws have this plan and $10 re-charge lasts them about 9 months.

Lyca Mobile uses T-Mobile for their service.

One other dumb question: Google voice says it is simply 'a call forwarding service, and requires registering an active phone line'. So my wife and I each have a phone (A&B) and we want to create a new phone line(C). Assuming we use phone line A to create the GV number, line C, Does that mean line A will not be able to call line C and vice versus? And if line B tries to call line A, will it just ring through to line C?

If it's truly for home use only, I'd just use an old iPhone (wifi only) and call it via FaceTime or send a iMessage. Or the Google equivalent, whatever that is, on an Android phone. If you want to be able to call 911, put the cheapest sim you can find in it.

I would recommend that you review options for SIP access such as voip.ms, callcentric.com - very low cost SIP that works with sip clients (also works w/smart phone downloadable apps) which can use obihai device for landline access to existing equipment.

RingPlus for Sprint Devices and many pre-paid services provide access for low cost per-min rates if kept active on the account by making call every 60-90 days. If you only need for emergency use, any cellphone is required to provide access to 911 (active or not) https://brokensecrets.com/2010/05/25/inactiv-phones-can-still-ca...

trumpotron said:   Google voice or Ringplus
  I would say, Google Voice AND RingPlus!

DShaw94 said:   One other dumb question: Google voice says it is simply 'a call forwarding service, and requires registering an active phone line'. So my wife and I each have a phone (A&B) and we want to create a new phone line(C). Assuming we use phone line A to create the GV number, line C, Does that mean line A will not be able to call line C and vice versus? And if line B tries to call line A, will it just ring through to line C?
  
GV is more than just a call forwarding service. My Obi is setup with a GV number tied to my google account and I've called it's number from my iPhone with no problems. As far as what rings, that is configurable in the Google Voice setup and it could be just the Obi or just your cellphone via the GV app or both or more if you've got other things hooked up to that GV account. That was one of the few things I had to play with when setting up the Obi device but I attributed that mainly to the fact that I had previously played with on my old Android phone rather than being something normally needed for the Obi setup.

IMO RingPlus, FreedomPop or other free/cheap cell service are great for what they are but are not ideal for this use. Last thing I want to worry about for an "Emergency" phone is did I remember to use it or top it off to keep it active. I just want it to work as simply and obviously as possible.  

Cell phones don't bring up address with 911. OBI with a $1.50 Callcentric E911 option plus GV is best.

DShaw94 said:   One other dumb question: Google voice says it is simply 'a call forwarding service, and requires registering an active phone line'. So my wife and I each have a phone (A&B) and we want to create a new phone line(C). Assuming we use phone line A to create the GV number, line C, Does that mean line A will not be able to call line C and vice versus? And if line B tries to call line A, will it just ring through to line C?

 

  Obi doesn't actually use the call forwarding feature. So basically 

a) 555-1234 
b) 555-1235
c) google assigned number 555-1236 would only ring the "home" phone. It could call a or b. Vice versa a and b could call c.

I will post this because no one else has.  If this phone is truly just for emergencies and occasional calling this might be one of the better options.  Here is my reasoning to call this the best "emergency phone".

  1. It runs on AA alkaline batteries.  For emergency use Alkaline are best because they hold a charge for up to 15 years.  If you try to use a normal cell phone with rechargeable batteries you will need to charge it and check on it regularly.
  2. This is the most basic phone you can imagine.  It might not be great for your primary phone because you want features but as an emergency phone it's only feature are emergency related.  That means kid won't be tempted to play games on it.
  3. just over $2 per month.
  4. Single button calling for kids.
  5. SOS button.
  6. Flashlight
  7. No screen to break and for that matter very lottle to break at all.
  8. Alarm (not the kind that wakes you up).


Spare one emergency telephone is powered by AA batteries and is great as an emergency phone. $25 Annual Plan Includes SpareOne Locate and Alert service and 120 minutes of nationwide calling. Includes basic voicemail, call waiting and 3-way calling.
 

josejohn said:   Ooma works - but compared to Obi+GV
OOMA is fine, but it is more expensive than Obi.
And no Caller ID.  Little reason to chose it over Obi.

I've used ViaTalk on my internet line for a number of years and there have been no problems. $200 for 2 years. Unlimited calling in USA. Just need a box to plug into your high speed, and route the line through your home phone jacks.

Skipping 13 Messages...
I should have stated my power lines are buried not above ground.



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