RingCentral Didn’t Ring My Chimes

RingCentral, an app from RingCentral, is available for free at Google Play, with various monthly rate structures for the accompanying service.I’ve been looking for an alternative to Google’s Google Voice product that provides onenumber for all my phones — mobiles and landline — and includes online voicemail anddiscounted calling.

Google Voice is a fine product, and I’ve had exemplary use out of it, but it has a couple offailings related to a lack of international functionality: You can’t make cheap on-mobiledevice Google Voice calls from outside the U.S., and the entire system is dependent on aU.S. cellphone network being the carrier.

RingCentral’s pitch caught my attention: “Take your business calls, voice messages, andfaxes anywhere. Manage your RingCentral phone system directly from your Androidphone.”

That, plus a “Sign Up, start your free trial” website button made me think it wasworth a shot.

Free Trial

Unfortunately, things rapidly spiraled downhill. The “Sign Up, start your free trial” button leads you to a one-user 1,000 minute option for US$39.99/month.

The no-risk 30 day trial involves paying the horrific $39.99 per month, plus tax, onsignup — which for me (I’m located in California) would come to $51.20 down.

You can later cancel if you don’t like the service.

Upon further perusal of the site, I came up with a $9.99 a month plan, prepaid for a year — thus a$119 outlay — with 100 free domestic minutes per month.

Plan Details

I suffered total sensory feature overload reading about both plans. The 1,000 minute planincluded such things as Cloud PBX and free unlimited Internet fax worth a purported$39.99/month.

The 100 minute plan offered an “Additional Free feature: Internet Fax.” The 100 minuteplan tried to get me to upgrade for inbound and outbound calling.

The Hounding Begins

In fact, after an afternoon’s burdensome researching of plans and signing up, I needed abreak, and luckily, because it was a holiday weekend eve, I went away.

However, duringthe course of the weekend, I was barraged by two voicemails and seven emails fromRingCentral about this or that — often trying to upsell me additional features like numberporting.

Feature Double-Talk

I won’t bore you with further feature tedium. Who knows what I would get? I orderedboth plans eventually — the $9.99 one costing me a sneaky $14.99 because I wantedmonthly billing, not annual. Add tax to that and $9.99 became $18.63 a month.

I planned to cancel one plan, if not both at this stage.

The holy grail — that is, VoiP calls placed and received over a 3G connection as well asWiFi — kept me going though.

The App

ring centralThe potentially complicated Android app installation onto a phone using the 1,000minute account went seamlessly, which is unusual for something like this.

I was able tosuccessfully configure the call flows using the PC.

And Now: Tests

The app made good-sounding calls flawlessly over both a 3G connection, and a WiFiconnection.

The app did not receive a placed test call from another phone when the app-installedphone was set to WiFi and the 3G radio was on — though nonfunctioning due to aninactive SIM card.

The call went straight to voicemail without ringing the phone or creating a notification.The call showed in the Recent Call Log within the app as a missed call.

The app also did not receive a call when the 3G radio was fully functional and WiFi wasswitched off. Again, the call went to voicemail. I double-checked the call flow within theaccount setup area and believed it to be correct — it should have rung the phone.

Other Stuff

Cool PC features include the ability to fax documents from Dropbox and other cloudstorage solutions, including Google Docs replacement Drive.

However, I did not find away to perform this fax documents feature using the Android phone-based app.

My Experience

Overall, I wasn’t happy with the RingCentral experience. Researching internationalcalling rates, I discovered that RingCentral charges a non-included $0.04 a minute to calla some overseas landline numbers (UK).

This rate compares unfavorably with Google’s $0.02 to the UK with no monthly fee, andVoiP provider Skype’s $0.023 to the UK, also with no subscription.

In Conclusion

I don’t doubt that with a bit more patience than I have, it would be possible to end upwith an acceptable all-in-one PC cloud-based virtual phone system that could handlemultiple employees, call flows, faxes and ultimately save money over a hard-wired phonesystem.

Primarily based on single-user cost — and the fact that the Android app that I wanted didnot ring the phone or otherwise notify me of calls and sent calls straight to voicemail –I decided to pass on RingCentral and its app as a keeper.

Patrick Nelson has been a professional writer since 1992. He was editor and publisher of the music industry trade publication Producer Report and has written for a number of technology blogs. Nelson studied design at Hornsey Art School and wrote the cult-classic novel Sprawlism. His introduction to technology was as a nomadic talent scout in the eighties, where regular scrabbling around under hotel room beds was necessary to connect modems with alligator clips to hotel telephone wiring to get a fax out. He tasted down and dirty technology, and never looked back.

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