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Is Jajah really cool, or really lame? Offers free phone calls, maybe

Jajah, a Mountain View start-up, is supposedly offering free phone calls beginning today to any land or mobile phone in the United States, Canada, China, Hong Kong, Singapore and Taiwan.

We were impressed, because our regular calls to Matt's sister on weekends (she lives in the UK) have been choppy using Skype, and have tethered us to the PC. With Jajah, you can dial in your call at the PC, and then it hooks you up with your land-line, letting you talk for free and move around at the same time.

This is a really awesome service for regular people who just want to call for free, and have no hassles.

Or at least so we thought. While the Jajah folks who got in touch with us pledged "there is no catch," and said we'd be able to talk for as long as we wanted to London, we went to the site this morning to try out the service (it is supposed to be up as of 7am EST), and a message told us Jajah was "upgrading." There was also a little icon saying something about only having five free minutes between landline phones.

(Update: After several hours of being down this morning, the service is apparently up and working. Jajah has since removed the confusing five-minute sign, and made clear the five minutes refers only to a trial)

For now, we will give them the benefit of the doubt, and and assume they will get their act together sometime today. But here is how it is supposed to work.

To use the service, customers use a computer to register at Jajah.com, then type in the number they're calling and the fixed or mobile phone they're calling from. Jajah processes the information, and immediately calls the customer's phone. When a customer picks up, the phone is ringing the destination phone number. The party being called also must be registered at Jajah's site.

The plan also applies to land-line calls to and within Australia, Britain, Germany, France, Italy and most other European nations.

While companies such as AOL and Skype offer free Internet calls, Jajah's service doesn't require a high-speed Internet connection.

Jajah hopes to make money by charging for other services, such as the low-rate calls it provides to countries not on the free list, scheduled calling and small-business services.

This morning, the site wasn't letting us register. Matt's sister, who woke up in the UK earlier, was able to get to a registration page, but was confused by a question asking for a "source number."

We'll give this a day, and come back. We hope the get it together soon. Several hundred thousand people are about to wake up to read about the Jajah service in the Mercury News today. If it doesn't work for them, will they come back?

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I also use gizmoproject.com. It's fairly new, growing fast and has great call quality. Skype has been great. I've also used Broadvoice and Vonage but I only need a softphone (laptop based phone) and a mobile phone, so the Vonage service was dumped recently. Broadvoice is less expensive. Sometimes I find one connection will be patchy, and calling via an alternative system is clear, so I keep three softphones on my laptop. Depends on the weather I guess.

Mark Brooks
editor, onlinepersonalswatch.com
chief entertainment officer, ace-club.com

Mark Brooks on June 27, 2006 8:33 AM
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Isn't this what dial pad did originally and failed at?

Mitur Bin Izdurte on June 27, 2006 10:42 AM
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Looks like the response was so strong that they were overrun with calls in the morning. The site is up and looks pretty cool.

VG on June 27, 2006 11:55 AM
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You are right VG; I have updated.

Matt Marshall on June 27, 2006 1:03 PM
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Too bad it can't pay my cell minutes too.

PJ on June 27, 2006 7:13 PM
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I don't like crapping on other people's businesses but I tried using Jajah and I couldn't figure out how to register within five minutes of surfing around. I emailed their help and didn't even get a personalized message--just something generic that really didn't make me want to try again and patronize the service.

Jesse P on June 27, 2006 11:09 PM
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Good point about not crapping on start-ups, but my sister is still having a problem registering. We'll continue to work on it today.

Re dialpad, that was a straight VOIP play, so it was different (didn't use landlines). It was similar, though, in offering free calls. They made the crazy bet that they could cover the calls with advertising on the Web page as you called.

Matt Marshall on June 28, 2006 5:15 AM
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I already registered in March with no problem. Last night, after this Jajah announcement of free service, I registered my mom, who doesn't use a computer, so that I can call her for free. Both registrations were done quickly & smoothly and without a hitch.

Sam Agnelli on June 28, 2006 6:46 AM
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actually dialpad had a similar component for a while. You could enter 2 numbers and it would call both of them. I used to use it for prank calls a lot in college.

sheel on June 28, 2006 8:11 AM
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We have developed a Desktop phone buddy for Jajah, which will take the currently selected number in a windows application and dial the number using a hot key, plus redial and quick dial functionality.

Great in a business environment, like ours...

please try out and give us feedback....

Sam on July 18, 2006 4:38 AM
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We have developed a Desktop phone buddy for Jajah, which will take the currently selected number in a windows application and dial the number using a hot key, plus redial and quick dial functionality.

Great in a business environment, like ours...

please try out and give us feedback....

Sam on July 18, 2006 4:38 AM
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