Archive for July, 2008

Belkin Wi-Fi Phone for Skype

Wednesday, July 23rd, 2008

Belkin Wi-Fi Phone for Skype

I’ve had the pleasure of reviewing Belkin’s Wi-Fi Phone for Skype. Below are my thoughts on the device based upon how it serves its purpose, its overall performance, construction quality, usability, and design. Please feel free to comment, I’d love to hear your thoughts! Hope this helps :)! More pictures to come…

Purpose – Enables you to place telephone calls using a Skype account (VoIP), rather than over a conventional phone line… this presents a benefit in the fact that you can make free (or relatively inexpensive) calls through any available Wi-Fi connection, whether you’re at home, at work, or abroad!

Performance (4/5) – I’ve had the device for a day now, and I’m extremely pleased with its performance. The battery life has been great under moderate use- I’ve placed about two hours worth of calls, 10 hours standby, and the battery indicator sits at around 70% capacity. Call quality & Wi-Fi range are excellent- I’ve only had one dropped call and I’m pretty sure it wasn’t because of my connection. The phone even features a built-in speaker phone which isn’t loud-enough to fill up a room, but gets the job done like a charm. It’s a no frills device that performs to spec.

Build Quality (3/5) – The device seems to be made from high quality materials, except for the keypad which contrasts with the device in finish & feel (more about this under usability). Don’t expect an extremely fancy interface, it sports a generic GUI that you’ll find on all Skype-enabled Devices.

Usability (3/5) -Belkin’s loaded a fairly generic user interface that you’ll find on nearly all Skype VoIP phones. It is extremely self-explanatory and quite functional. The device first prompts you to connect to a Wi-Fi network, and then requests that you enter in your Skype account information… If you are new to Skype, it facilitates your setting up an account. The device also informs you about additional features such as SkypeIn, where your able to receive Skype calls through a standard phone number- essentially ridding you of the need to maintain a standard phone line in entirety!

As far as hardware, I was disappointed with the keypad. I found the keys to be a bit too small considering the fact that there is plenty of room for expansion. The screen takes up about 30% of the phone’s overall height, and the keypad, about the same, essentially leaving out enough room to have improved its input capabilities. Working around the small keys isn’t much of an issue, it just takes a bit getting used to. The device is laid out like a typical cell phone with a numeric keypad, call & end-call buttons, two selection buttons, a 4-direction + push-down joystick which facilitates your navigating the phone’s menus, and volume controls on the side of the device.

Regarding the phone’s Wi-Fi capabilities, I found that it picked up connections very well, and maintained connections with no major issues. A downside is that you’ll be unable to use the device at most Wi-Fi Hotspots as they require browser confirmation and the device is browser-less. The only Hotspots that it is configured to work with are Boingo Hotspots… Unfortunately, there aren’t too many of them around! Similar devices allow you to login to T-Mobile hotspots which are more common, but even then, you’re limited to only one provider. It would be great if the device had a simple browser built specifically for logging in to major Hotspots.

Besides the Hotspot issue, if you plan on using the phone primarily as a substitute for your home phone, business phone, or while abroad, there’s no question that it will save you a ton of money. Skype currently has an unlimited US+Canada calling plan for $2.95 a month! For $7 more, you get unlimited calling for 34 countries… According to me, this device & a SkypeOut plan are a perfect option for families and businesses that make frequent international calls. Another great Skype feature is the ability to receive calls on a regular phone number. This may not seem like an advantage since receiving calls on a standard home line are free of charge, but if you plan on traveling abroad, it’s a different ballgame. With a SkypeIn plan (where you’re assigned a standard phone number), you can take the device anywhere in the world, and as long as you have access to a Wi-Fi network, you can receive calls on the device via a home-based phone number! In addition, you can make all the calls you want at a standard low rate, as the device is void of any roaming charges- the internet is a big friendly network, unlike AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon, and the likes…

Design (4/5) – The device boasts a pretty small form-factor, and looks like a Sony Ericsson candy stick cell phone. It’s extremely small & light, making it the perfect travel aide. The device features a matte black finish with sliver lining. The screen is pretty small, but is large enough for the phone’s purpose. The front of the device features a color LCD screen & a speaker beneath clear reflective plastic, and a small keypad in a darker & more glossy finish. On the bottom of the device you’ll find charger & headset inputs. Aside from the size and finish of the keypad, the device’s design is better than most in its class. I find the device’s cell-phone like appearance more appealing than that of its competitors’.

What You’ll Get:
WiFi Phone
USB Cord for PC Connectivity
USB based Battery Charger – may even charge your Blackberry!
Quick Start Guide
User Manual CD
Bonus: 30 SkypeOut minutes and 1 month of voicemail

What You Need:
Internet Connection (preferably broadband)
Wi-Fi Base Station

Price range: $124 -$205
at online stores… Link to Purchase

Overall Rating: (3.5/5) – Very Good

Final Comments: The device may seem a bit pricey considering the fact that an 8 gig iPhone is now $199, but considering overall bill savings, as well as the fact that it will work on any open/accessible Wi-Fi network, I think it’s well worth the dive! It’s especially useful if you plan on traveling overseas and would like to maintain a local phone number, and a cheap & easy way of connecting with people at home… Just make sure to check on Wi-Fi availability prior to your travels, or the device will be rendered useless ;).