Ooma, a Palo Alto, California based provider of VoIP devices, announced some interesting moves regarding their home phone service offer. They are adding features and functionality to a handset that mimics wireless smartphones, which they hope will add value to the home phone experience.

Ooma sells the Ooma Telo, which provides a bring-your-own-broadband VoIP service to consumers. You purchase their device, which has a suggested retail price of $199, and you receive unlimited calling in the U.S., along with a variety of basic features including caller ID and 911 access. Telo connects to the customer’s broadband connection and they can use their own handsets.

At CES, Ooma announced a number of enhancements for their service, including integration of Facebook contacts into their new Ooma HD2 Handset, which can be purchased separately for $59. The new handset, available in March 2012, also offers “…superior HD Voice call clarity…,” according to an Ooma press release. The handset offers a 2-inch color screen and can link caller ID to Facebook profile pictures, displaying them for incoming calls. The handset can also integrate with Yahoo and Google contacts.

During a Broadband Unlimited conference session, which was co-located at CES, Ooma also announced a feature that can send a text message or an email to a designated contact whenever a 911 call is placed from their handset.

Ooma tries to upsell a premium service for $120/yr that adds a variety of additional features, including enhanced voicemail, a second line, simultaneous ring, and integration with Google Voice, among others.

The moves illustrate an ongoing trend with IP based digital phone services. Leveraging underlying IP technologies allows companies like Ooma and the carriers they compete with to add significant value to a POTS service.

“Ooma will make even more smartphone-like features available to our customers later this year through firmware updates, including customizable ringtones to help identify individuals or groups when calling,” said Dennis Peng, Vice President of Product Management at Ooma.

By bringing this type of innovation to home phone service, Ooma challenges traditional incumbent providers to keep pace. While this type of innovation will not appeal to everyone, continuing to provide a stale POTS service in an increasingly digital world will not either.


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