Lisa Johnston On Oct 15 2012 - 12:00am

Ooma Updates Its Hardware And Its Service


PALO ALTO, CALIF. — VoIP provider Ooma announced it has upgraded its cordless handset and is launching a remote phone jack for use with its Telo system. The products are part of a wider strategy by the company to improve its call technology and service.

The HD2 handset, also designed for use with the Telo system, has a $59.99 suggested retail. Unlike other VoIP systems, Ooma’s service does not require a computer for use, and consumers are given the choice of two calling packages. The Basic service includes call waiting, voice mail and E911 for just the cost of local taxes, which typically amounts to around $4, Jim Gustke, Ooma marketing VP, told TWICE.

The Premier service, which is $9.99 a month, adds on more than 25 other features, such as call forwarding, the ability to add a second line, telemarketer blacklisting and call screening — listening to a message as the caller is leaving it.

This last feature is one the company is particularly proud of as it represents the new way in which Ooma is using the Cloud for its service. “The info is transmitted from the Cloud to the Telo, and then over DECT to the handset to be displayed,” Gustke said. “It’s really unique way of using DECT technology.”

Up to four handsets can be used with each Telo system. Although he declined to give a specific number, Gustke said Ooma has “hundreds of thousands of subscribers” and less than a 5 percent churn rate.

“We’ve been growing steadily. Our biggest challenge is we don’t have millions of dollars to spend on marketing. Thirty percent of our customer base comes from word of mouth,” he noted. “We’re very happy where we are. At this point in our life cycle, we’re pouring of all the money we make back into marketing so that we can acquire more customers faster.”

The HD2, which will replace Ooma’s original Telo handset, features a 2-inch color screen that can display the image of the caller. (The previous handset just had a black and white screen with caller data.) Images and contact information can be imported from third-party sites, such as Facebook, Google, Yahoo, Outlook, LinkedIn and others.

Call clarity, signal quality and range have also been improved, said Dennis Peng, product management VP, and the handset transmits 8kHz of voice data whereas the last handset captured just 3kHz. Rather than using a proprietary battery pack like the older handset, the HD2 uses standard AA rechargeable batteries.

Although it will not be available at launch, Peng said consumers will eventually be able to load music onto the Telo and play different ringtones based on different callers. This feature is expected to be available sometime next year.

The second new product from Ooma, the Linx, allows consumers to wireless connect up to four telephony devices (such as fax machines) to the Telo system. Subscribers to the company’s Premier service can also use it to access their second phone line if they don’t have the HD2 handset. Peng said it will automatically pair with the Telo upon connection.

Suggested retail for the Linx is $49.99.

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