Shared Knowledge

"Information Unlimited's Model SNP40 Phone Snooper - User Review"

12 January 2010


Summary: Never got it to work with MagicJack and poorly constructed. Do not recommend.



Bought Information Unlimited's fully assembled Model SNP40 Phone Snooper (Snooper) from their Internet website as part of an effort to upgrade my home security system. My idea was to connect this device to the phone line port of a Magic Jack and via voice over Internet protocol (VOIP), call into my home and listen to house sounds, specifically my security system alarm.

From the get go, I assumed I was venturing into unknown territory when my query to Information Unlimited indicated they did not know if the SNP40 would work with VOIP or not as they did not know what VOIP was. Still, I thought it worth an effort and bought one.

My thoughts on the SNP40:

- The unit certainly arrived quickly from Information Unlimited and was packed well.

- Struck immediately that microphone volume control on front of small metal box only had a piece of rubber hose stuck on the end of the potentiometer? Not a knob?

- Instructions indicated that I had to open case of unit and attach a 9VDC battery. No power adapter? Can understand that for some intended uses, like calling into an empty vacation house or apartment, might want to be totally on battery as power could be lost during a storm or turned off in the off season, but not even a jack on the back for a 9VDC power adapter?

- Removed 4 screws holding top to base and immediately struck how crudely the electronics were assembled. For starters the circuit board was just a piece of hobby breadboard with components stuck through holes in the board and then connections made by hand soldering and bare wire! Not sure what I expected of assembled unit but certainly not the home-made appearance of this circuit board.

- Circuit board was held in place inside the small metal box by what appeared to be hot glue and a not very good glue job at that. I would never think about trying to sell something that looked like the circuit board and hot glue mounting. Perhaps had I not been required to open the case to install a 9VDC battery I might never have seen the poor workmanship, but I did have to open case. Understand may not be a large market for this particular product but still requires better craftsmanship than I discovered.

So ok, I not too impressed with workmanship but I was determined to get it to work with the Magic Jack VOIP telephone line, but when I plugged it into a fully functioning Magic Jack (had already tested calling out and receiving calls on a normal old telephone) the Snooper did exactly nothing. It did not pick up the line as the Internet description said it would. Ok, plugged unit into my landline and when I called it, it did pick up the line and had this terrible, noisy, but operational microphone and I could hear what was going on in my house. Not great but acceptable for my purposes.

Ok, must be a problem with Magic Jack software or hardware. Instructions that came with Snooper says that if Snooper did not work, may have reversed telephone wires. So I check and the polarity of the 2 telephone wires coming out of the Magic Jack going to the Snooper is fine and the voltage defined by the Snooper as requireed is also correct ! What? When I connected a regular telephone to Magic Jack, if I called the VOIP line, the attached phone would ring and ring until Magic Jack went to its voice mail, but when I connected the Snooper, Magic Jack apparent did not see the Snooper or saw it as some variation of a headset and displayed the question, "what to accept incoming call?".  Internet search: find a way to make Magic Jack auto answer any incoming phone call and at first, think I have problem solved as on first attempt to call in, I actually get Snooper to pick up line and I can hear, via the crappy, microphone, sort of what is going on inside home. But after hanging up, when I call Magic Jack again, although Magic Jack says that is active or did accept the incoming phone call, the Snooper never lifts the line and connects the microphone, EXCEPT if I use the Snooper's volume control's on-off switch and turn the Snooper off and then back on again. ??

Tried all sorts of variations of Magic Jack settings but just could not get Snooper to pick up the line consistently. Acted like it would not reset itself after each call and accept the next call. So in the end, I had to send unit back to Information Unlimited. 25% restocking fee but I knew that when I bought unit. Still...

So if Snooper did not solve my listen-in-on-home-security-system self imposed requirement, how did I solve the problem? Actually, like a lot of things, overlooked the obvious and simplest. Bought a USB microphone, connected it to the same computer hosting my Magic Jack VOIP device and told Magic Jack to work with a headset and auto answer. Now when I call my Magic Jack "phone line", the USB microphone is activated and I can listen in on my home as long as I wish.

Summary? I am sure there are times with a Snooper will work fine but I can not recommend it because of its poor workmanship and my inability to get it to work with VOIP.



Ron - Shared Knowledge Home