Back in the misty dawn of VoIP, early humans chatted over PC mics and speakers chiseled in stone. Then came headsets, handsets tethered to a PC, and finally, handsets wirelessly connected to docking cradles tethered to PCs. Traditional, Plain Old Telephone Service calls were always a separate issue.
Netgear's Dual-Mode Cordless Phone with Skype (SPH200D) is another small step for mankind: one cordless handset that can take both VoIP and POTS calls while you roam around your home or office. The SPH200D base station plugs into both your Wi-Fi network router and a telephone wall jack. Calls travel wirelessly to the handset over the 1.9 GHz band (to avoid interfering with other common wireless devices). Since no software or Wi-Fi configuration is required, the system takes less time to set up than to describe in print.
The iPod-white handset automatically imports your Skype buddy list and account information. You can scroll with its center navigation pad or use its finger-friendly keypad, which accepts data entry much more easily than most phones. Key in a phone number and you're prompted to choose between your landline and SkypeOut (assuming you have SkypeOut calling credits available); the handset accepts incoming calls to both your landline and SkypeIn phone numbers. You get the usual battery of premium calling services without additional charge.
Some internet-only calls might sound a bit tinny but no less clear than on any cordless or cell phone. SPH200D's DECT technology let me wander downstairs, out the door and down the street while talking on both Skype and POTS lines with no loss of clarity or volume.
Scroll-click connections to Vonage and GoogleTalk buddies would be nice, too. But at present, VoIP providers limit those kinds of calls to their own subscriber lists. In Skype's case, that's 140 million buddies worldwide.
Someday, your descendants will ride in flying cars while using the same handset for POTS, cellular and web calls. But at $200 from major e-tailers or Skype, the SPH200D is a pretty good interim solution.