As we move more and more to a completely mobile business culture – my corporate wife, for instance, works from home more often than she goes to the office – only one thing keeps our home business leashed to a landline phone: our single line cell phones.
Enter Line2, an iPhone and Android app from a company called Toktumi. (Get it? "Talk to me"?) Essentially, Line2 lets you add a second line to your existing cell phone number. But there's a lot more to Line2 than this overly-simplistic overview.
Along with a plethora of super-phone functions and features, Line2 provides you several levels of savings: you can rip out your landline phone and tell your local phone company to go f- itself, and save mucho dinero on local and international cell calling. Plus, that dedicated business second line (i.e. your more expensive cell phone number and service) becomes a viable business deduction.
In fact, you could dump your cell phone altogether and pay no more than $10 a month for "phone" service. How? You have to read the rest of this first.
Line2 talking points
Here are the top-line features/benefits of Line2:
- Add a second line; you even can port your land-line number (although that may take a couple of weeks, and you lose 911 dialing capability). You can choose any area code…most of the time (no 212, for instance), which makes it looks as if you have "offices" in multiple cities. With a "Pro" plan you even can add an 800 number.
- Call using WiFi (technically this is called VoIP – voice over internet protocol – which is how phone calls are handled via your cable TV home phone connection and services such as MagicJack and Vonage). Since you're using the internet rather than the wireless cell network, the calls are free (as in costing no money), and you use no additional cell minutes, which means you can cut your cell phone plan to a less expensive monthly voice minutes bucket. Plus Line2-to-Line2 calls over WiFi sound remarkably clear and life-like.
- International calling is ridiculously cheap; calls from overseas back to the U.S. using WiFi is actually free; international calls from the U.S. and local calls within foreign countries (i.e. you're in Paris and you're calling a Paris number) are 2 cents a minute (most of the time; Japan is 3¢ a minute, for instance; some calls my be as high as 25¢ a minute), even not using WiFi. (Line2 doesn't do Web surfing or other data duties such as email, though.) See Toktumi's international pricing here. In most instances, Line2 is cheaper than even that cheapest of international calling options, Skype.
- Free text messaging (no photo texting) to the U.S. and Canada
- You can create conference calls with up to 20 callers – your two-line landline phone can handle, what, a three-way conversation? You also can merge one call with another you've got hanging on call waiting.
'Press 1 to reach our sales staff…'
Behind each of these bullet-point features is several layers of sophistication; for instance, if WiFi isn't available, calls go out on the cellular data network – when you surf the Web on your smart phone, you're actually using a different set of cellular signals than when you make voice calls. When you make phone calls using the data network, your cell phone company thinks you're just surfing the Web, and data minutes are far cheaper than voice minutes. As a last resort, you can tell Line2 to use the cellular voice network using your normal minutes.
One of Line2's coolest functions is being able to automatically forward calls to other phone numbers. Like Google Voice, you get one phone number that rings ALL your varying phone numbers. If your caller dials your one unified number, any phone you have and are near – your home landline phone, your cell phone, your office phone – will ring.
If it works like Google Voice, which is free, why is this call forwarding cool? Because if you subscribe to the Line2Pro plan ($15/month; the standard plan is $10/month), you get a feature called Auto Attendant, which works like an operator to direct calls to one of your "employees." You construct an initial message that directs your caller to dial "1" to get one person, "2" to get another, etc. The app then rings the Line2 number of that individual. To the caller, it seems as if your sophisticated PBX system was just pinging an inter-office extension.
So how can I spend just $10 a month?
Even though they has no mic built in, Line2 can turn your iPod Touch or tablet PC into a cell phone. All you need is WiFi to make calls. Just load Line2 on an iPod Touch, iPad or Android tablet and use a Bluetooth or wired headset with an in-line mic so your caller can hear you to converse, conference and text. Voilá, no more cell phone. How's that for lowering your home business overhead?
In this iPod Touch/tablet PC scenario, Line2 could be a viable mobile phone option for your kids if you'd rather them not have full (and costly) cell phone options (i.e. photo sexting) away from home.
Line2's interface looks deceptively simple. But with all the options Line2 offers, it has a slightly high learning curve – it took me a couple of days to suss out all the varying configurations and options, and how to make the most out of it. Toktumi understands this and offers a free 7-day trial so you can play with it before you commit.
But the dollar savings and increased functionality – as we've seen, the app actually makes your cell more feature-laden than your landline phone – makes your education time well spent.