You just got a new North American toll free phone number.
It has an unlimited North American long distance plan.
When someone calls, it hunts for you in a manner that you define. First it rings your iPhone, then your Blackberry, then your anachronistic landline, then your computer.
If it can’t find you, you can tell it to look for someone else, like your assistant or partner.
If it can’t find anyone in the end, it takes a voicemail message and emails it to you.
It offers all those annoying “PBX” services that the big companies use: press 1 for this, press 2 for that, etc, so you can integrate it into a multi-user environment and look all big business (assuming you aren’t to begin with).
In other words, it does everything you’ve ever heard that a telephone service can do, and then some.
And it costs you $15 a month.
A dream? Well, yeah, but not yours. It’s actually the dream of quality, easy-to-use voice-over-the-internet finally realized.
And here’s how to put it together yourself, super-cheap and super-fast.
Sign up for a Toktumi account online at www.toktumi.com. You’ll get the first month free to try it out.
When you go through the process of picking a number, make sure you pick a toll-free one.
In our wired world, region is irrelevant and, more times than not, works against you.
Besides, it’s toll-free. Anyone can call you from anywhere in North America for nothing at no extra charge to you. Why wouldn’t you want that?
Next, pick yourself up a current-generation iPod touch. You probably already have one, actually; everyone seems to.
But in case you don’t, I recommend you buy a refurbished unit online in Apple’s store. An 8 GB unit will cost you $190 there (compared to $230 for a brand-new one).
You can use that cost difference to also pick up a set of Apple’s $30 iPhone headphones. You’ll need them because they have a microphone, which will enable you to use your iPod touch like a telephone.
Once you’ve hooked that iPod touch up to your Mac or PC, open iTunes and go into the iTunes store.
Search for an app called Line2. This is Toktumi’s app that will turn your iPod touch into a telephone.
It’ll set you back a whopping $1.
Sync the app to your iPod, sign into your new Toktumi account, and there you go, a dirt-cheap phone line, ready to go.
Of course, you’ll need an internet connection for Toktumi to work, but I’m sure you have wifi at home or work.
If you don’t (wtf?), go hang out somewhere that provides free wifi like Umbellula (my personal favourite), Earls, Canadian Tire, or Baked.
Worst case, hop on your technically-challenged neighbour’s unsecured network. There’s at least one on every street in Whitehorse.
Of course, if you want to save some dough, skip the whole iPod touch routine. Download Toktumi’s softphone from their website and then you can receive and make calls on your Mac or PC.
Personally, I use Toktumi’s Line2 on my iPhone, so I don’t even need Wifi.
I can make and receive calls over Bell’s 3G mobile data network. This doesn’t use any minutes of my mobile plan, and it barely uses any data.
And considering I was giving Bell $12 every month for a mere 100 minutes of just Canadian long distance, Toktumi’s unlimited North American calling alone is worth the monthly price of the account.
Toktumi also offers Line2 for Blackberry, for those of you into masochistic telephony.
Living in the North, the only drawback to Toktumi is making local calls.
For whatever reason, Northwestel’s 867 area code is notoriously difficult to call into, particularly when you use voice-over-internet services like Toktumi, Skype, and Truphone.
Fortunately, people calling my toll-free Toktumi number from 867 don’t seem to have any problem.
What about the quality of Toktumi’s service?
Outstanding. I can’t tell the difference between a regular call on my iPhone and a Toktumi call, even when I’m using Bell’s 3G data network.
And it’s certainly better quality than Skype. (But what isn’t?)
Toktumi’s online configuration tools for managing how your calls are received, routed, and responded to – that whole PBX aspect of the service – are exemplary. They are pleasantly well designed, easy to understand, and presented in layperson terms.
But you don’t even have to interact with them, really. Toktumi comes ready to go right after sign up.
Toktumi is a relatively new company that has very suddenly set a very high bar for quality and value in the ever-more-commoditized telephone service market.
There really isn’t another telephone company that offers such a tremendously great suite of services at such a ridiculously low price.
More than representing the dream of internet telephony come true, though, Toktumi’s success makes one thing clear: the days of the traditional, regional phone company are not just numbered, but done.
Done like dinner.
Originally published in the Yukon News on Friday, April 23, 2010.