Making cheap internet phone calls without your computer
More and more people are using Skype to save money by making telephone calls using the internet rather than conventional phone lines. £2.50 per month buys unlimited calls to 01 and 02 numbers in the UK. Ordinarily, the Skype program is used on a Mac or PC, with a microphone or headset to make the calls through the computer.
However, regular Skype users might prefer to use something more like a conventional telephone to make calls. There are a number of wireless handsets that work with Skype, but these are all pretty expensive – Belkin’s own Wireless Skype Handset costs almost £100, for instance.
As a more affordable option, Belkin has just released the Desktop Internet Phone For Skype. This looks and works just like an ordinary home or office telephone, with a conventional handset and a large numeric keypad for entering phone numbers.
However, it also has a network port that lets you plug it into a network router. This allows the phone to connect directly to the internet so that you can make Skype calls without having to use the computer.
In fact, the computer doesn’t even need to be turned on, as the phone stores the Skype software in its own memory and displays all your Skype contacts and settings on a small screen on the front of the unit.
You can scroll through your list of contacts using the buttons beneath the screen, or enter phone numbers using the numeric keypad. You can speak into the handset if you want, but we liked the phone’s ability to automatically switch into hands-free speakerphone mode should you simply dial a number without lifting up the handset.
The only minor annoyance was that when dialling numbers on the keypad you first have to enter the UK dialling code (+44) to tell Skype that you’re dialling a UK number. If you’re using Skype on the computer you can set it to use the +44 code automatically, and it’s a shame that the Desktop Internet Phone doesn’t do this as well.
Fortunately, numbers that are saved in the contacts list can store the +44 code as part of the number, so you don’t have to enter that code every time you ring one of your regular contacts. Even so, it would be nice if we could have set the phone to dial the +44 code automatically all the time for domestic calls.
We still think the Desktop Internet Phone is a little pricey – you need to use Skype quite a lot to justify the price. However the convenience of the Desktop Phone makes it worthwhile for home users and small businesses who rely on Skype to keep phone bills under control.
Good points: Makes cheap Skype calls without using the computer; Convenient hands-free speakerphone mode Bad points: Users need to manually add country dialing codes for domestic numbers Overall: The Belkin Desktop Internet Phone For Skype is a convenient accessory for home users or small businesses using Skype regularly
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