Here are three phones that work with Skype
In a recent column I discussed how digital phones have revolutionized the office. In this column I'd like to focus on Skype, a "VoIP" (Voice over Internet Protocol) phone service that allows you to make inexpensive and even free long distance calls via the Internet.
Skype is starting to gain acceptance in the business community but for now most users only use it for their personal communications.
Why is that?
Voice quality with Skype isn't always on par with an old fashioned phone line or even a cell connection. There can also be latency (delay), dropped words and sometimes an echo.
Another downside is that in order to use their "Skypeout" option (calling someone on a commercial network), you have to dial an international code. Thus to call Honolulu you'll need to dial "0111" then "808" and the number.
That said, my experience with Skype has been generally very good, as has the experience of other Hawaii people --particularly those who live overseas.
Recently I had a chance to test two dedicated Skype phones from Linksys and one from Belkin.
On a recent mainland trip I brought along my trusty cell phone along with a Linksys CIT 200 (priced at around $100). I was in an area where roaming rates were the norm so it was an opportunity to test the Linksys phone.
By using a Wi-Fi network at my hotel (and my laptop to plug in the phone's base station) I was able to call home and avoid those expensive roaming rates. The quality of the voice was excellent and I saved money on roaming costs without sacrificing too much in the way of quality.
Back home, the next unit I tested was a brand new Linksys CIT 400 model (priced at around $150) which combines both land line and Skype capabilities. It was easy to set up--just plug and play. This model comes in handy if you use Skype on a daily basis. I like its portability around the house (it's 5 1/2" long) so I can stick it in my pocket and easily take a call in the backyard. What I didn't like was that sometimes caller ID simply didn't work.
With the Belkin Skype Wi Fi Phone (around $150), I made calls from Honolulu Wi Fi hot spots to Honolulu numbers and the mainland, and even a Skype-to-Skype call to a former isle resident now in Singapore.
The quality was excellent - sometimes better than the other two phones. It's light and easily transportable.
If you're going to travel and you know you'll be near some hot spots, the Belkin phone is worth considering. The only thing I didn't like about it was no speaker.