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2011 VoIP Device of the Year: Obihai OBi110 for Google Voice

It’s only January, but we already have a winner for 2011 VoIP Device of the Year. Once in a very long while, a device comes along that’s not only revolutionary but also incredibly useful while being downright simple to use. Did we mention inexpensive? So it is with the Obihai OBi110 which fills a niche that’s been screaming for a simple solution.

Google turned the telephony world upside down last year by offering U.S. residents a free local phone number and free calling in the U.S. and Canada. But you had to use a PC to make the calls, or you had to become at least a junior rocket scientist with either Asterisk® or FreeSwitch to make Google Voice calls using a regular telephone. Well, as they say, that’s so yesterday. Meet the unassuming Obihai OBi110. It’s a little box about the size of a pack of cigarettes if you remember those. But, under the covers, this is no ordinary ATA device. Plug it into your DSL or cable modem, attach a standard telephone or your favorite cordless phone, and in less than a minute you’ll be making and receiving calls with your Google Voice credentials.

If you’ve followed our previous articles on Google Voice, you already know that you’ll need a dedicated Google account to get things working properly because the OBi110 uses the Google Talk protocol just as Gmail does. So sign up for a new Gmail account, then log into google.com/voice with your new Gmail credentials. Choose a number in your favorite area code and use an existing phone number to activate the account. Once registered, click on Settings, Voice Settings. Check the Google Chat option to activate Google Talk. Then click on the Calls tab, turn off Call Screening, and click Save Settings. That’s all there is to setting up your new Google Voice account for use.

Now plug in your OBi110, connect it to your network so that it can obtain an IP address from a DHCP server, and plug in a Plain Old Telephone. Pick up the phone and dial * * * 1 to obtain the IP address of your OBi110. Now, with your web browser open, click on this link. Fill in the blanks using the IP address of the OBi110 on your LAN and your Gmail name and password. Click the Configure button, and you’re done. After the device restarts, download the latest firmware for your OBi to your desktop, and then install it from the web interface to your OBi by choosing System Management -> Device Update.

Before you can actually make outbound calls with the OBi110, you may need to make one call from your browser by clicking the Call Phone option under Chat in the Gmail account you just created. When the dialer appears, enter a 10-digit phone number and press the Enter key. This lets you acknowledge that Google Voice does not support 911 emergency calling. Be sure to log out of this Gmail account once you complete the test call. You can’t be logged in and also use the OBi110. That’s why we set up a dedicated Google account for this device. Guess what? You’re done.

You can buy the Obihai OBi110 from Amazon for $50 including free shipping. It’s the best $50 you’ll ever spend!

2/6 Update: Since this article was released, over 85,000 folks that frequent SlickDeals.net have been pointed here so there’s a momentary shortage of OBi devices. 🙂 They should be back in stock at Amazon at the original $50 price by early next week so don’t buy from the resellers that doubled the price. Start searching for OBihai and OBi110 on Amazon about Monday, February 7. In the meantime, there are over 25 pages of comments on SlickDeals.net to keep you entertained. Here’s a golden nugget from AllThumbs to get those of you that snagged a unit started using the numerous OBi features in addition to Google Voice:

Simply connect a regular telephone cable between the LINE port of the OBi110 and the PHONE jack of an Ooma, MagicJack, Vonage adapter, Comcast phone adapter, etc. and the inbound calls from your other service will ring on the desktop phones or cordless phones connected to the OBi’s PHONE port. For outbound calls, you can pick up a phone connected to the OBi PHONE port and dial **8 plus a 10-digit number to send the call out through your other service while dialing a regular 10-digit number will send the call out through Google Voice. You can also enable a Circle of Friends by CallerID that can dial into the OBi from anywhere using the OBi Google Voice number, enter a PIN, and dial out through any of the other OBi-enabled service providers.

If you configure the other OBi SIP connection (no wire required other than the network connection) to an extension on an Asterisk/PBX in a Flash machine or a SIP provider such as Vitelity, voip.ms, les.net, DIDforsale, or SIPgate, then you can make outbound calls for a penny or two a minute in the U.S. by dialing **2 plus a 10-digit number. None of these features or service providers take more than a couple minutes to set up, and all have web-based configuration utilities. When you’re finished with the set up, you’ll have a phone system with triple redundancy as long as your network connection stays up. And, if that worries you and you want network redundancy as well, plug your Ma Bell phone line into the LINE port instead of an Ooma or MagicJack.

For the Whiz Kids. We’ve barely scratched the surface of what you can do with the OBi110. It’s easy to configure it for use with other SIP services or your own Asterisk server. Start by reading Marcelo Rodriguez’s Setup Guide on Voxilla and then read the excellent series of articles on the Michigan Telephone Blog. Enjoy!

Originally published: Thursday, February 3, 2011

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  1. If i take this device International will it work? meaning ill be able to receive phone calls when someone dials my gv #, how about receiving?

    [WM: Once it’s set up, you can stick the device in your suitcase and take it anywhere you like. When you plug it in to a network that hands out IP addresses, you’ll get your calls even sitting in your hotel room in the Swiss Alps.]

  2. Great little product. Gives Google Voice to the masses. Anyone with a an analogue phone and this ATA type adapter can use a voip service on the cheap. Has almost everything the experts would need to integrate with Asterisk as well. This raises the bar on this type of product.

  3. We had over 50,000 visitors from SlickDeals.net last night so the Obi appears to be temporarily sold out nationwide. We’ll post a comment when someone gets the units back in stock. Shouldn’t be very long. Amazon had more in the middle of the night, but they’re all gone now as well.

  4. OBI might have to crank up the manufacturing plant.

    Do you think OBI has got the blessing of Google?? (or do you think Google will try and muck things up at some point??)

    [WM: Now that the Jabber protocol is well-documented, we think you’re safe from further tweaks. The problem before was that the Asterisk "solutions" really weren’t using Jabber at all.]

  5. Currently available on amazon.com for 89.00.
    Is it worth it? Or should wait?

    [WM: Wait ’til next week. Amazon will have them at the old price.]

  6. So this does or does not need a line to place and receive calls, just google voice ?

    [WM: Just Google Voice if that’s the only provider you wish to use.]

  7. Available on Amazon this morning, just ordered one. 50 bucks + free shipping.

    [WM: Yep. They lasted about 30 minutes. Follow us on Twitter for updates when they’re back in stock.]

  8. Today’s Golden Nugget from the OBiForum:

    "If you are using GV, you can only make one call at a time. You can configure both SP1 and SP2 with the same Gmail acct, and now you can make 2 calls (press "flash" to put the 1st call on hold, and flash again to conference). Hence 3-way calling with OBi/GV is possible to do."

  9. Another great tip from the OBiForum:

    If you configure both SP1 and SP2 for Google Voice, the latest firmware lets calls go out on either available port without dialing the **n prefix. The trick is to set Physical Interfaces, PHONE Port, PrimaryLine to Trunk Group 1 instead of SP1 Service.

  10. Do you have any control over what’s shown on outbound caller ID?

    [WM: Only if your provider supports it, e.g. Vitelity or voip.ms.]

  11. We think we’ve found the perfect setup for our new OBi. The device itself is registered with Google Voice which lets you make and receive calls from your home or office. Now add Google Voice to your favorite iPhone or Nexus phone and register it with the same Google Voice account. Be sure to register your cellphone as a destination in your Google Voice account. Now, whenever you make a call from your desk or your cellphone, the call will go out with your Google Voice number as the CallerID. And, when folks call you back, both your cellphone and your desktop phone connected to the OBi will ring which lets you answer the calls wherever you happen to be.

  12. For those people who are trying to get one of these for the express purpose of using the Android app with their ObiHai device to get Google voice calls to and from their cell phone: Google Voice has an app in the Marketplace that does this directly from your phone and Google Voice. No third-party hardware required!

    So, stop buying the Obihai boxes before I can buy one!

  13. I just checked Amazon, again. They are taking pre-orders but have bumped up the price to $84.94 I guess they couldn’t really resist given the infinite demand and zero supply.

    [WM: That’s not really Amazon. It’s just a greedy reseller. There should be more units available from Obihai at the $49 price either tonight or tomorrow night.]

  14. Check out this warning on Obihai’s site;

    "Note: While we restock, the OBi110 may show "out of stock" status and/or Obihai will not appear as a seller.
    Do not buy (and over-pay) from unauthorized sellers. Obihai will not provide support to or honor the warranty of devices purchased from scalpers."

  15. @Ward I have a question. Can I use Obihai 110 for home phone through GV and at the same time can I use it for my android phone in replacement of Pbxes? If yes any instructions available for the setup? Please help. Thanks in Advance

  16. It works well! I cancelled Vonage and use this for my home telephone. Thank you.

    My fear now is being dependent on Obihai’s servers. They are a new company and I’m surprised there is no charge to join the Obitalk network. But as long as it lasts throughout 2011 it was worth it.

  17. I installed Obi110 to interface with Google Voice. I can make outbound calls but when the Google number is called it want to use one of the forwarding numbers setup. It will not ring the phone attached to Obi.

    Any suggestions are appreciated.

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