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Have you noticed recently how everything, and everyone seems to be going wireless? Wi-Fi becoming available for just about any comprehensible purpose (gaming, file-sharing, business and home)? Even those irritatingly flashing gambling machines, that seem to be to cemented to a wall in the centre of every pub or bar that you visit, have now got built in Wi-Fi ! No, Really! And now there is talk of several county councils doleing out money to pay for access points in town centres ofr public use.
The world seems to go crazy when a relatively new technology is introduced and becomes more cost-accessible to them. Hence the mass-hype of Skype.
What is Skype?
Skype is a VOIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol) Service that allows users to interact by voice, text and chat via PC, or in this case the Belkin Skype Phone.
You will need a Wireless (WLAN) broadband connection in order to fully access the service. Skype is free to download and install, and once you have done so you can create an account. Primarily the service works on a Pay AS You Go service whereby you top up your account via debit/credit card and you're set to start using the service. The benefit of Pay AS You Go with this type of service means you're balance is always displayed on your Skype Account whenever you are signed in, and that you can also top-up at any time via card for instant addition to your balance.
In addition to the downloaded software, you will also need a microphone connected to your computer (there are wireless one's available, and most laptops have one built in). Bear in mind, this is only if you want to connect and make Skype calls via your PC, and cuts out the need for a phone or headset.
Skype phones have been developed as another mobile method of communication. Providing you have a Skype account, you can take your Skype phone anywhere that has a Wi-Fi connection capability and use it as you would a mobile. When you set up your Skype account at home on the computer, it features a contact list where you enter your contacts as you would on a normal mobile phone. When connecting to the service from another WiFi hotspot, via your phone, your contact details are saved to your account and are instantly accessible.
The benefits of Skype have been proven by the number of households and businesses worldwide who have cottoned on to this new service. Relatively new, it earmarks the way for a future of wireless communication, especially for business users, and could also be seen as a way of cost-cutting on telephone calls within organisations. Skype can be used to contact any normal telephone device worldwide, and also gives users the ability to find businesses at a push of a button. Couple that with the general chat facilities and social advantages and it emerges as a leader in it's field.
Call costs are staggeringly inexpensive, with UK Landlines costing as little as 1.1p per minute, and Skype-to-Skype User Calls being free. It costs £10 a year for voicemail facilities and roughly £20 a year to receive all incoming communications. On Pay As You Go, you only pay for what you use and if you obtain you own Skype telephone number (Skypeln) Voicemail is free. The only, and one disadvantage I can see with Skype is that you cannot make emergency calls at all. Obviously this does slightly disadvantage you if you want it to be the only phone in the house, but as long as youhave a mobile phone, charged all of the time, it shouldn't deem so much of a problem.
**************************************************************************** THE PRODUCT: Belkin F1PP000GN Skype WIFI Phone.
The Belkin Skype Wi-Fi phone looks pretty much like a normal cordless or mobile phone, and is distinctly similar in features to the Sony Ericcson K800i. The keypad is a standard numeric keypad, additionally with call and hang up buttons just underneath the screen. Centrally the phone features a joystick for quick navigation through your Skype Contacts. The phone itself is a black, reinforced style plastic (as is the K800i) with a rubberised back for easier grip., and removable battery cover. At the base of the phone there is a USB charging point (the phone can also be mains charged and comes with the necessary adaptors). Additionally there is also a 3.5mm headset socket should you wish to attach a headset device. this is ideal for portability, and again is featured on most mobile phone handsets as a standard.
The Belkin Skype WIFI Phone is Skype Certified, meaning it has been deemed effective for the use of their service. Designed with portability in mind, the Belkin can be used anywhere there is a open Wireless (LAN) point. (You may be able to get a listing of the public ones for your local area if you use Google). This effectively means you can connect to Skype via your phone from other offices, pubs, cafe's and other public places, providing they have an open-access Wi-Fi port.
When you switch on the phone, Skype is already pre-installed. Pressing the connect button directly underneath the prompt on the screen will enable the phone to instantly start searching for the strongest and closest wireless internet connection point, and will connect to it automatically. You will then be prompted for your username and password, which will be the same one you use to access your Skype account from your PC. And it's as simple as that, you can start making voice calls to local, mobile, international and Skype contacts at the press of a button.
For your confidentiality and privacy protection, the WiFi phone supports something called Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA) and (WPA2). This will give some piece of mind to new users who may be worried that using the internet for phone calls could be a privacy limitation.
Whilst being attractive, simple to use and extremely user friendly, there are a couple of issues I have with the phone, and seem to have been detected by toher users of the product. Firstly, the Belkin does not feature text messaging facilities, whereas there are phones on the market that do. Skype offers a text messaging service as standard and it woukd be nice if this was included, however the Belkin is one of the slightly earlier models before companies started jam-packing features onto Wi-Fi phones.
Secondly, the phone does sometimes tend to drop it's connection although this has not occurred during calls . We currently use a Belkin router and there are some that are no compatible with the Belkin phone so it would be worth doing some research as to whether your own device would be able to "pair-up" with the phone.
The third and final niggle I have, and is something you would expect from a wireless phone is that it does not have a docking port for charging or standby. Instead the phone charges like a mobile, on any available service, by mains or USB.
The Belkin F1PP000GN Skype WIFI Phone is a smart piece of kit and wholy ideal for first time users of Skype who like the idea of a handheld device they can take anywhere, the same as a mobile. Coupled with the fact that the services are relatively cheap and overall the idea is a brilliant one. It is a shame that there aren't the additional inclusions such as text and chat messaging as mentioned before, but Belkin's overall design and delivery for this model is quite simplistic, which I suppose adds to it's user-friendly appeal.
Skype as a service definitely comes highly recommended. The capabilities mean that communication is never a bore, and the chat function means you can even get to know users from other countries if it takes your fancy. As technology goes, this is definitely a worthwhile investment for the near future of communication.
This sounds quite nifty for around the home, but I wouldn't want to rely on it elsewhere just yet. I bet it won't be long before there is a combined phone which has your normal Sim but also can use Wi-Fi. Anway, there are a couple things I would like answered and if you add them to the review and leave me a message I will return. Firstly what is the battery life like and how well made is it, as Belkin appliances always feel rather plasticy.