Tech Toys

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Tech Toys column for week of Dec. 27

By Gillian Shaw, Postmedia News December 27, 2011

Ooma Telo, Ooma, $230.

This used to be the season that saw long distance phone bills jump as people called friends and relatives around the world. Not so much any more with the lower long distance costs, flat-rate pricing and a range of options, from Skype and Apple’s FaceTime to other services and devices. This season Canadians have another option, the Ooma Telo, a second generation VoIP device from Ooma, a company that has offered services in the United States and recently extended it to Canada. A little black item just a bit smaller than my wireless modem, the Telo plugs into an Internet connection and connects to your existing home phone to deliver free calling across Canada, with added features including caller-ID, call waiting and voice mail. You can check the rates for international calls (Hong Kong, for example is $ 0.034/minute calling from Vancouver) or pay a flat monthly rate of $11.99 for 1,000 minutes to more than 60 countries. The cost for the basic service is the price of the Telo unit plus taxes and fees for your area, which when I checked amount to $3.98 for Vancouver. A premier service that includes free calls to the U.S. is $10 a month or $120 a year. You can also link your mobile phone to the Telo with a Bluetooth adapter that Ooma sells for $30. While the service says it includes 911 calls, note that the 911 operator will only get the address listed on your registration. In an emergency you may not remember you failed to update the address – a failing that could have tragic consequences (

netTALK DUO, $80.

Another VoIP offering that has crossed the border to Canada is netTALK DUO, a U.S.-based service that is expanding here. Like the Telo, it connects directly to your router or modem so it doesn’t require a computer to work, although you can also plug it into your computer and use netTALK’s videophone application for computer calls. The cost of the device includes the first year of calling across Canada and the U.S. and after that it’s $40 a year. You can add an international plan, good for calls to 60 countries, for $120 annually. netTALK DUO also has calling features like voice mail and others and the 911 service that relies on the address you give with your registration (

Extreme cases for tablet and notebook computers, G-Form, from $70.

I must have told London Drugs buyer Theo Horsdal the sad story of the cellphone I dropped on a tile floor because the minute the industrial strength Extreme sleeves for tablets and notebooks arrived in Canada, he was quick to let me know. Unfortunately not in time to protect the laptop I dropped at the top of the stairs and retrieved, slightly worse for wear, at the bottom. Such klutziness would provide no problem for the G-Form cases that are showcased with videos showing employees using G-Form clad iPads as Frisbees and as a baseball backstop, and dropping 10-pound bowling balls on them. Sleeves are available for 10-inch tablets, 11-inch notebooks and 13.3-inch notebooks (