How to Shop for a Skype Phone

Skype phones will be one of the hottest categories of consumer electronics products in 2007.

Ebay, which owns Skype, plans to spend big on national marketing and branding in the US this year to make a Skype a household word in American homes and offices.

Viking Electronics

Skype is the world’s fastest-growing Internet communication offering, allowing unlimited free voice and video communication between Skype users. There are an estimated 135 million Skype users today. That number is growing at a rapid rate as consumers realize the dramatic cost-savings and convenience of making domestic and international Skype phone calls. Skype is available in 27 languages and is used in almost every country around the world. Expect over 200 million users by year’s end

Skype generates revenue through its annual subscription costs ($30.00/year), and “premium offerings” such as fees for allowing users to make and receive calls to and from landline and mobile phones. They also provide services such as voicemail, call forwarding, and a variety of ring tones and avatars. Skype also has growing profitable sales and marketing relationships with a network of hardware and software providers.

Skype phones are all about convenience, ease of use and mobility away from the computer.

There are roughly four categories of Skype phones to choose from.

1.

Corded and cordless convenience. No longer do you have to be tied down to a PC or a laptop with a tethered USB cable, headset, or microphone to make a Skype call. Inexpensive corded phones and the new cordless remote Skype phones, like the 3J Communications W1D, makes using Skype easy and convenient. It’s like making calls on any other remote phone you use in the home or office.
2.

Dual-mode DECT phones. Consumers want the convenience of making both regular landline and new VoIP phone calls. These phones provide the best of worlds — with both landline and Skype calling capability — combining superior voice and sound quality, convenience, and mobility. You can even conference in landline and Skype callers at the same time. DECT is the new FCC 1.9 GhZ frequency standard for sound quality for remote phones and all the major manufacturers are moving to incorporate DECT into all their new dual-mode phones.
3.

Embedded Skype phones. To make a Skype call you have to have a computer on all the time. With Skype embedded phones, there is small computer built into the phone’s remote base station itself, providing “always on” operability.
4.

Wi-Fi VoIP phones. This is the future of long-distance calling, both in the US and around the world. Skype will certify only a handful of manufacturers making these new phones. It is estimated that by late 2007 and 2008, making VoIP long-distance calls will be as normal as picking up a landline or cell phone, but the phone bills to the user will be dramatically less expensive.

Let’s start with the corded and “cordless Skype phones”. Up till now, when you wanted to use Skype, you had to wear a geeky headset and microphone combo that was permanently tethered to your desktop computer or laptop by a USB cable. It’s not very convenient and not much fun.

With a new Skype phone handsets, simply plug it into the USB port of your PC or laptop will allow you to make and receive Skype calls, just as you would be on a regular telephone.

Existing Skype users can sign into their account, conveniently downloading all their contacts to the cordless phone. Users also have the ability to search for Skype contacts directly on the phone, and add them to an integrated contact list for both Skype contacts and traditional phone numbers.

And now you can get cordless handset convenience when you use Skype. You no longer have to sit in front of your computer when you want to make a Skype call. The cordless Skype phones come with a handset and its charger, and a USB base station that plugs into your computer. You can get 25′ remote distance with the non-DECT models, or 164′ with the newer DECT models.

With the included Skype program running on your PC, the handset can read and display your contact list on its built-in illuminated display. Just choose who you want to talk to from the menu, press a button, and get ready to talk. The handset supports SkypeOut dialing as well as your Skype contact list. It rings when you have a Skype or SkypeIn call coming in, and shows the callers ID on the screen.

“Dual-mode phones” have Skype and standard telephone service in one unit. You can connect directly to your broadband and landline connection – and even conference calls from both sources on one remote handset.

The first series of products to be launched in this class are the Philips VOIP841 cordless phone and NETGEAR’s cordless phone for Skype.

These dual-mode cordless phones offer increased mobility throughout the home or office, giving consumers the freedom and flexibility of not being tethered to their computer. Also, consumers with multiple cordless phone handsets in their home have the ability to hold separate conversations simultaneously – one on Skype, the second on the traditional line – each from a different handset.

Both the Philips and NETGEAR cordless phones have Skype running on them out of the box, and they can act as a replacement for an ordinary cordless phone, because they can make and receive traditional telephone calls through the landline line connection.

It’s important to note that Skype itself is not a replacement for an ordinary phone and it cannot be used for emergency 411 calls.

A DECT base station has plug-ins for both the broadband connection and the traditional phone line accompanies the cordless phones for Skype. The system handles both Skype and ordinary calls in one phone, presented through an easy-to-use, user interface. Both the Philips and NETGEAR cordless phones boast a full color graphic display, simplified calling features with an integrated contact list, and an enhanced speakerphone with great voice clarity.

Look for Skype phones that are Skype Certified. The Skype certification is designed to reassure users that products will be easy to use, and will work well with Skype software. Skype Certified hardware products undergo rigorous testing for more than a month to ensure that they meet Skype’s high usability and technical quality standards.

Premium Skype features, such as SkypeOut for inexpensive international calls to traditional landlines and mobile phones; SkypeIn to receive calls from landline or mobile phones on Skype; and Skype Voicemail are easily accessible through these phones.

The cordless “embedded Skype phones” provide you the flexibility to enjoy free Skype to Skype calls and inexpensive calls to landline, cell and mobile phones anywhere, at any time without a running computer.

Embedded Skype phones have a small computer in the remote handset’s base that is always “on”, so that your computer or laptop doesn’t have to be.

Skype Wi-Fi phones feature the Skype interface, so it’s ready to use with any wireless network. To make a call, simply use the intuitive, on-screen color menu to locate your contacts. Use it anywhere in the world through secured or open access to a Wi-Fi network. You can make and receive calls at home, at your office, in cafes or through municipal access.

Wi-Fi Phones allow users to make or receive Skype phone calls as long as users are in the coverage of a wireless local area network (LAN). They offer the mobility of Wi-Fi with the cost savings of Skype.

Wi-Fi Phones come with Skype pre-installed and ready to use with SkypeIn and SkypeOut support. You can make cost-effective Skype calls to landline and mobile phones worldwide and receive incoming calls from landline and mobile phones on your Skype account. In addition, they provide voicemail support: With the purchase of Skype voicemail, the Skype Wi-Fi phones will record a short voice message from the caller when you’re away. 802.11b/g wireless compatibility allows you to use your Skype account with complete mobility. They feature an easy-to-use user PC-like Skype User Interface making for easy configuration and use. These have exceptional voice quality in a shared wireless voice and data network.

Any home, office, cafe, or municipal wireless access point that does not require browser-based authentication will do.

The Wi-Fi phone will work anywhere in the world a user has a secured or open access to a Wi-Fi network – in any home, office, public hotspot, or municipal wireless access point that does not require browser-based authentication.

Remember, the Skype Wi-Fi phones do not usually contain a web browser and therefore cannot access hotspots, which require web-based login or authentication.

Skype is going to be big for retailers and consumers in the US in 2007. With a little homework and some careful shopping, you’ll be able to make wise and valuable buying decisions that will make your Skype experience great for your long distance phone bills, and a good investment as well.

Al Abrams is a national sales and creative marketing consultant to retailers and manufacturers of consumer electronics and computers, Skype phones and other VoIP products and services. You can contact him at al@abrams-creative.com, Skype ID: Al.Abrams, phone: 818-343-6365.