Wednesday, 3 September 2008

SMC Skype WiFi phone

At home we have a problem. We're on the side of a narrow canyon without decent line of sight to a cell phone tower. This means that phones ring but the signal quality is too bad to talk unless one goes and stands at the top of the block in the back yard.

At the same time I've also become a convert to Skype for overseas calls - not because it's a lot cheaper than Telstra - three cents a minute for Skype out versus five cents for Telstra - but because the call quality is better when calling overseas. And of course I use Skype to call home when I'm away.

But there's a problem with Skype - it's cumbersome to use. It means donning a headset and being tethered to one computer while making the call, and arranging overseas Skype to Skype calls across timezones requires careful prior co-ordination by email. This means that using Skype is not spontaeneous - it's ok for the occasional conference call and regular overseas call, but you lose the versatility of a phone call. And while you can get cordless handsets for your computer, it means leaving the computer powered up and connected to Skype.

So I cracked and bought a Wi-Fi phone from CE Compass. I ended up with the SMC version,  the same phone is available from Belkin and from Edge but ignore the branding - they're all the same phone.

So what are they like?

Slightly clunky, a bit like a 1999 cell phone with rubbery keys and a slightly crude user interface. That said it was fairly straight forward to setup, basically your skype account details and your wireless access point security details - a nice point is that it goes looking for open access points and can be made to search at any time - useful if you want to work from a coffee shop with free open internet access, train station or airport lounge. You can also add multiple home netwrks for it to try, should you need one at home and one at work, say. You can get that nineties feeling back again and you can use it like the late and unlamented Rabbit phone  that only worked at local access points which led to groups of rabbit users clustered round locations with an access point sign.

Other than that it just works. Rings when people call you and sits as a device on the network.

Boot up and initial connection is a little slow, but call quality is reasonable and saves having to be tethered to a computer. Basically it works all round the house and out into the yard - wherever there's a signal including the garage. Battery life could be better as well but as it's an alternative, not a substitute that's no big deal.

1 comment:

Improvedliving said...

well this is really good wifi phone.