VoIP Without the Computer

A new generation of Wi-Fi phones unhooks VoIP calls from a PC.
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This story appears in the November 2006 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »
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Maybe, as vendors claim, VoIP is just another internet application like web browsing or search. But who wants to drag a computer around to make calls? After 125 years of telephone handsets, we prefer something more portable than a portable.

Belkin's Wi-Fi Phone for Skype fills the bill. This wireless--as opposed to cordless--phone puts all Skype's VoIP services and call management features into a candy bar-style handset. The $190 (street) F1PP000GN-SK is one of several new wireless Skype phones that let you gab up to 300 feet away from your network access point and make free calls at Wi-Fi hot spots sans laptop.

Skype, of course, is the IM/VoIP service that lets you place unlimited free IP calls to about 120 million buddies worldwide. Add the SkypeOut service, and calls to any cell or landline number in the U.S. and Canada are also free. Rent a Skype landline number with voice mail for about $39 a year, and your Skype-less contacts can ring your Belkin phone. Until providers work out cell-like "roaming" agreements, though, buddies on other IM services can only be reached over PSTN.

Your desktop Skype configuration gets imported into a very Skype-like set of menus at setup. Calls are made by punching numbers into the keypad or scrolling your phone book with a tiny joystick/selection button. The keypad is a bit small and would make IMing tough if that Skype feature were activated. As with all phones, data is entered by cycling through each key's letters and numbers.

But that joystick and Belkin's use of color cues make alphanumeric selection, cursor positioning and overall navigation a snap. The LCD is no larger than my cell's, but it's brighter and more colorful.

Other wireless phones from Edge-Core, Netgear and SMC are also available at the Skype Store. But Belkin's Wi-Fi Phone has very long battery life and a very strong signal. Calls came through loud and clear three houses down the street sandwiched between two competing Wi-Fi networks.

I wish my cell phone worked the way this phone does.

Edition: July 2017

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