Make Skype calls without your computer switched on
Skype has become the most popular way of making phone calls over the internet, but unlike rival VoIP (Voice over IP) services which work via a router, Skype has been hindered by the need for a computer to be on.
Where other services have phones that can plug directly into the router to make and receive calls, manufacturers have now followed suit for Skype, making wireless handsets that look very much like cheap mobile phones.
The Netgear SPH101 Skype Wifi phone is one such first generation handset, costing a whopping £170. When you consider that Skype-to-Skype calls are free and SkypeOut calls to landlines or mobiles generally cost from a few pence a minute, depending where in the world you are calling, that’s a big expense for the privilege of making or receiving calls when your PC is switched off.
You might then think the big advantage with this – and other Skype wifi handsets – is that you can take it out with you, using hotspots located in airports, hotels and coffee shops, but you’d be wrong. The SPH101 does not support any wireless network that requires internet browser-based sign on, meaning it won’t work in commercial hotspots.
Its other limitations are that it does not support Skype’s instant-messaging function, cannot initiate conference calls and as it has no camera, obviously doesn’t support video calls. You could probably accept these limitations if the cost of the phone were far lower.
Call clarity between two wifi handsets was excellent, although when we then called the same location with the other person using a headset connected to a PC, the quality noticeably dropped. It has a claimed battery life of 30 hours on standby, although ours died from a full charge after only six.
Long term, we can see a future for wireless Skype handsets, but the cost, combined with its usage limitations means we can’t currently recommend this handset. Once prices drop considerably though, it will be an option for regular Skype users that want freedom from their computer.
Philips VoIP321 internet telephony
Overall: A good cordless home telephone but still needs the PC switched on to make Skype calls
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Good points Use Skype without computer switched on Wireless handset Generally good call quality Bad points Expensive Won’t work with hotspots No conference calling Overall The Netgear SPH101 Skype Wifi phone does free you from your PC but has too many limitations and is too expensive to appeal to most people, despite its good call quality
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