Archive for the ‘Skype WiFi Phones’ Category

IPEVO SO-20 wifi phone headset jack

March 30, 2009

I’ve been asked several times about which headset can work with SO-20. Here is the headset jack spec for the IPEVO SO-20 Skype Wifi phone.

so-20-headset_pin1

According to the IPEVO people, Nokia Stereo headset HS-47 (Link at here) is compatible with the SO-20.

Let me know if this works or not.

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IPEVO Skype Wifi Phone SO-20 Review

March 16, 2009

Here is my review for the latest and the greatest Skype WiFi phone: IPEVO SO-20.

Here is the script.

Hello. This is Howard Chang from AmperorDirect. Today, I want to present the latest Skype Wifi phone from IPEVO.

Some Good Words about IPEVO

Before I start reviewing the phone, let me say something good about IPEVO. While big name players, such as GE and Philips, are retreating from the Skype accessory market, IPEVO is the only one I know who still actively rolls out new products to fill the void. They should be recognized by their good will and the effort to serve the industry. Now, if they can come up with a new Dect PC-Less Cordless phone or a PC-Less USB-to-RJ11 Skype phone adapter, it would be even better.

Yes, the Package Comes with the Charging Cradle

OK, let’s look at the phone. This is the retail package. At the first glimpse, I was confused by the picture on the cover. Shouldn’t the phone come with a charging cradle as IPEVO advertised? Yes, it surely does. On the back of the package, it mentions “charge cradle included”. If I were the package designer, I would put the charging cradle picture on the cover, too, because it is a very good selling point. But, I can fully understand they want to focus on presenting the phone.

What’s Included in the Box

In the box, we have the manual, the phone, the battery, the charging cradle and the AC adapter. Compared to the accessory list of our previous favorite: SMC wifi phone, it has an extra charging cradle included, but doesn’t come with the headset. If the IPEVO SO-20 has the similar functions, features and performance, a price point in the $140 range is reasonable. Let me assemble the phone and you can take a better look at the phone.

Good Design

OK, here it is: the IPEVO Skype wifi phone sitting on the charging cradle. I like the look of the design. It is a little smaller than its competitor, but carries the same size colored 1.8” LCD display. I can hold it comfortably in my hand – not too big, not too small. The key pads are designed with the curved edge to provide an elegant look. When you click on the buttons, the feedback force level is just right. The volume controls are at the side of the phone. And, the 2.5mm headset jack is on the other side. The only thing which can be improved are the four navigation buttons. They are a little bit too small. It is easy for me to hit the other buttons while doing the left or right navigation. I like the joystick design in the SMC phone better. However, I also understand that if the button design is done right, the design is simpler and might provide longer life.

General Functions of a Skype Wifi Phone

Let me run through the basic functions of the Skype wifi phone just in case this is the first time you have looked at one. The phone has a Skype program built-in, and can let you conduct Skype calls without using a PC. What you need to do is to make the phone connect to your wifi network, sign in your Skype account and you can walk around in the wifi range and talk. The phone supports WEP and WAP security settings. However, it does not have a browser built-in, to handle the web-base log-in process. Therefore, it is more suitable to use in your home, your office or at a public place which provides open wifi network. You cannot use the phone in a paid hot-spot or some hotels which force users to use web-base sign-in process.

Let me put the phone back in the cradle to charge the battery. I’ll come back to finish the review when the charging process is completed.

Sound Quality Depends on the Network Connection Quality

Ok, the charge is done. It is recommended in the user manual to perform a 3 to 5 hrs full battery charge before the first time using the phone. When you turn on the phone, you need to connect the phone to the wifi network and sign in your Skype account. I’ve already done those boring steps to save us some time. Just be aware if you have more than 500 contacts in your contact list, the phone will take a very long time to finish the contact downloading process. The sound quality is acceptable. It can at least match the cell phone conversation quality. Like all the Skype wifi phones on the market, the conversation quality is largely dependent on the quality of your wifi network, and the connection between your wifi router to your calling destination. I have experienced crystal clear sound quality when using this phone to call our China factory. They just love the call quality and want me to keep using this phone to do our daily conversations. I have also experienced so-so call quality when contacting people in US. My suggestion is when you encounter a bad call, just hang-up and repeat the call. Skype might route you through a better connection and solve your problem. Or, you can check out the following webpage and ask the call receiver to perform a technical check on the connection quality. You might find some good data reflecting your call quality there.

Battery Life?

One thing which I need to perform further investigation is on the battery life. When comparing the spec, the IPEVO wifi phone carries a 3.7V 900mAh Li-ion battery, while the SMC wifi phone carries a 3.7V 1200mAh Li-ion battery. Supposedly, the IPEVO SO-20 should have a shorter talk and stand-by period. However, on paper, it offers a similar usage time. Maybe its miniature design has helped to save some power consumption. Maybe, two companies have their tests done in different test conditions. I’ll need to perform my own test to find out the results. I will also post the results on my blog later. No matter what the result is, I think IPEVO is taking the right step by including a charging cradle in the box. With this cradle sitting on a desk, people can better organize the cables and are more likely to put the phone back for charging. In the end, you might not notice the difference of the battery life because it is always in full charge mode.

Conclusions

OK. Here is the conclusion for today’s review.

  1. IPEVO has done a good job in designing the SO-20 Skype Wifi phone. I like its elegant look.
  2. Sound quality can be very good when the network connection quality is good.
  3. IPEVO Skype Wifi phone comes with a lower capacity battery. But with the charging cradle included, you might not notice the difference in talk and stand-by time.

Thanks for watching my review on the IPEVO SO-20 Skype wifi phone. Please send in your questions or feedbacks.
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SMC + FON = Skype WiFi Heaven (or as close as it can be, right now)

March 8, 2007

Marco here with AmperorDirect…. Howard has kindly let me hi-jack his blog for a post about the SMC Skype WiFi phone and FON network. He asked me to let you guys know that this wasn’t him posting… something about not wanting to try to live up to my ungodly good humor or devilish good looks…

This is my first blog post so, if a link or two does not work, please blame Howard for being busy getting ready to show off the Voltz Kit (google it) to the music world! If you are in the music industry, you will be glad you took couple seconds to find out about the Voltz kits.

Alright, enough plugs… Lets get started. The biggest complaint about Skype WiFi phones is the inability to login using any type of browser authentication… don’t get me started about why this is… lets just say it is not a technological hurdle…

Well, SMC has not added an internal browser to their phone — better stated, they have not yet been allowed to… but they have teamed up with the FON network for hotspot access. This is not new news, you say? Ahh huh! But it is semi-new news with a twist… (is it diggable, I ask?)

FON is currently offering free WiFi routers for anyone living ‘close’ to a cafe. Throw in the fact that the SMC has a firmware update that allows free FON access (and bug fixes), and you have a newsworthy event!

Here is what you need:

1) SMC WiFi Phone (I will follow the rules and not link this to our retail website… but two words ‘FREE SKIN!’)

2) SMC WiFi FIRMWARE UPDATE (V .17)

3) Register with FON and sign up for the free WiFi Router

That is it… the SMC WiFi Phone now has breath outside the home! Nice going SMC and FON and thanks Howard for the blog space.

Technorati Tags: Skype, FON, SMC, WiFi

The Official SMC Skype WiFi Phone Cradle – Sample Test Report

December 11, 2006

The Official SMC Skype WiFi Phone Cradle

Right after Jon and I finished the DIY SMC Skype WiFi phone cradle, the official cradle sample from SMC showed up at our front door. The cradle we received is the one without the access point built-in. Therefore, I’ll focus on the ID design and the mechanism for the cradle to charge the phone. The ability to connect the SMC Skype WiFi phone to the Internet through the access point built-in cradle will be covered when we receive the other sample.

The Look

The look of the Skype WiFi phone cradle is very elegant. The white color on the front of the cradle perfectly matches the color of the phone. The SMC earned the 2006 International Forum Design (IF) award for product design in Consumer Electronics / Telecommunications category. IF states, “…the product sticks out as a refreshingly clear, simple-looking, Zen-oriented device – in stark contrast to the mass of “over-styled” cell phones currently on the market.”

Lets just say that I would not hesitate to keep it on my desk – and I plan to!

Elevated Panel

Additionally, it is very thoughtful for the Accton engineers to elevate the bottom panel. With the elevated design feature, the SMC Skype WiFi phone sits as high as my laptop screen. Now, I can just roll my eyeball horizontally to check out where the Skype call is coming from. Good work, Accton!

Charge the phone

The Skype WiFi phone cradle sample we received does not have an AC power adapter built-in. At the back of the cradle, there is a mini USB connector where you can plug in your AC adapter, or your USB charging cable. On the phone panel, there are two metal clips. When you put your Skype WiFi phone on the cradle, the two metal clips will contact the two metal charging connectors at the bottom of the phone and start to do the recharge task. There are also two docking pins on the panel. When the Skype WiFi phone is on the cradle, the docking pins can be stick into the docking holes at the bottom of the phone. It will provide extra stability

Mini USB port at the back of the cradle:

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Ports and connectors on the cradle & the phone:

 

Conclusion

The Skype WiFi phone cradle is a good investment if you already have a Skype WiFi phone. It looks nice, and can serve the purposes of recharging the phone and organizing the desktop very well. I don’t have the chance to test the cradle with Netgear, Belkin, and Edgecore branded Skype WiFi phones. But, they all use the same blue prints as the SMC phone. The chance to have other branded phones work with this cradle is high. We are going to publish the test result of connecting the SMC Skype WiFi phone to the Internet through the access point built-in cradle later, when we receive the other cradle sample. Bookmark this page and come back to check on us later.

Click Here to see the Skype WiFi phone review

Click Here to see the DIY Skype WiFi phone cradle

 

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DIY SMC Skype WiFi Phone Cradle

December 8, 2006

One of the items on our SMC Skype WiFi phone wish list is the desktop cradle.

In the original retail box, SMC is considerate enough to include an AC adapter that I can use at home and a USB charging cable to get the juice from the laptop when I am on the road. Finding something to recharge the SMC Skype WiFi phone is never an issue. However, my desk at home and work has been taken over by those wonderful (or darn?) Skype accessories waiting for test and review. I really need some help to organize it. Besides, having the phone I actually use in daily-basis “stand up” on my desk is always a plus. With the phone in the cradle, I can easily figure out where the call is coming from.

While waiting for the recently announced cradle from SMC, Jon, our in-house senior technician, helps me to design and build up a Do It Yourself (DIY) cradle. Please see the picture. It serves the purpose very well. Jon has even constructed a JIG for all the bending work. Now, he can make one DIY SMC WiFi phone cradle from scratch in 15 minutes. The DIY cradle is very artsy!

I’m going to list all the materials and the steps needed for this DIY SMC Skype WiFi phone cradle in the second half of this post. You can do one for yourself. It should be able to work for all four different brand Skype WiFi phone: Netgear, Belkin, SMC, and Edgecore. If you need one, please send a request to me. At this point, there are four different colors for you to choose from: metal, black, yellow, and blue.

By the way, we are taking our DYI cradle directly to Skype for Skype Certification. Hope the certification process is quick and easy! 😉

Commercial Plug Time

Besides the boring technician job, Jon plays guitar in a Rock & Roll band: Dustin Hayze. You can occasionally see them playing in Houston’s live music restaurant. They now have two EPs published. Please check out their MySpace page: http://myspace.com/dustinhayze. Jon is the one with the bunny outfit.

 

 

Tools, Materials, and Construction Steps

Tools list:

3” Clamp-on Vise Wilton form Home Depot, $21.00

8” Slip-Joint Pliers Craftsman from Sears, $8.00

8” Wire Cutters from Sears, $9.99

Misc: Card Board, Cloth Towel, Sharpie Marker, Measuring Tape, and Hammer

JIG pictures:

 

Materials list:

9 ga. Galvanized Wire 50’ coil from ACE hardware, $5.99

1 qt. Denatured alcohol from ACE hardware, $5.99

Black Plasti-Dip Spray coating from DX engineering, $6.99

 

Construction procedures (See the detailed dimension in the blue prints at the end of this post):

1. Cut a 24” 9 ga. Galvanized wire

2. Mark the 11” position on the 24” wire. Use the mark as the center point to bend the wire by the (3/4”, 3/4”, 1”) triangular JIG. (Bend #1) You will have a long side and a short side.

 

3. On the Clamp-on Vise, use hammer to build the 90 degree bend. (Bend #2)

 

4. Use the back-supporting triangular JIG (1.5”, 1.5”, 1”) to bend the long side. (Bend #3)

 

5. Mark the bending position on the long side in step 2, using the bottom JIG. Bend the wire on the Clamp-on Vise. (Bend #5)

 

6. Repeat step 5 for Bend #6, #7, and #8.

 

7. Mark the bending position on the short side in step 2, using the top JIG. Bend the wire on the Clamp-on Vise. (Bend #4)

 

8. Repeat step 7 for Bend #9, #10, #11, and #12.

 

9. Use the Denatured alcohol to wash off the oil on the cradle.

 

10. Put the Plasti-Dip Spray coating on the cradle.

 

11. Let it dry. After that, you will have your DIY Skype WiFi phone cradle ready to use!

With a littile modification, you can make the cradle for other phones (Cell phones, Keyspan cordless phone VP-24A, other USB phones without cradles…).

Keyspan USB cordless phone VP-24A with the DIY cradle

Click Here to see the SMC Skype WiFi phone review

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How to Use the SMC Skype WiFi Phone with a Hotel Broadband Internet Access

November 8, 2006

Purpose

We know that the SMC Skype WiFi Phone, WSKP100, does not provide a built-in web browser for users to get past the authentication process that most hotels require in order to access their broadband internet service. We wanted to find a small-size router which can be plugged into the Ethernet port on the hotel wall, to handle the authentication process, and to broadcast a wireless signal that travelers can still use the SMC Skype WiFi phone with when they are away from home.

Therefore, we found:

Pocket Size D-Link DWL-G730AP Wireless G Router

We found that the D-Link DWL-G730AP wireless G router works well for our test purpose. Let us first examine whether the D-Link DWL-G739AP is suitable to take on the road. In the picture you can see that the D-Link DWL-G730AP is truly a pocket-sized router (it is similar in size as my business card). In the retail box, D-Link provides a carrying bag in which users can put the router, the network and USB cables, and the AC adapter – all in one handy, paperback book-sized package. D-Link provides a USB power cable so that users can power the router through the computer itself in case there is not a handy power outlet in the hotel room. With the small-size design, the organinal carrying bad included, and the alternative power method provided, we think the D-Link DWL-G730AP wireless G router is a good product to take on the road.

Using the D-Link DWL-G730AP with the SMC Skype WiFi Phone

1. Pre-configure the DWL-G730AP in Router Mode (using the wizard is a great start in getting this taken care of) to obtain an IP address automatically from the DHCP server, and set the LAN portion to assign IP addresses in a range that is not part of the normal 192.168.0.x range. Choose something a little different so you don’t interfere with other mini-networks nearby, such as 192.168.yy.x (where yy is a number between 2-244). This is still in the realm of a private/home network, but is not the same as everyone’s standard network. You WILL need to set up encryption and a WEP key of some sort, but you can get away with all “0”s for the key to make it simple. And set up the network ID to something you’ll remember and can identify on the laptop & phone easily. That’s it. Once you’ve followed the easy instructions that Dlink provides, you’re ready for your trip.

2. After connecting the DWL-G730AP to the Ethernet port on the wall, the hotel router should provide the DWL-G730AP an IP address for their network (call it address A).

3. Then turn on the laptop. Make the laptop connect to the network that the DWL-G730AP is broadcasting wirelessly. The laptop will receive an IP address for that wireless network (192.168.yy.x – call it address B). Then run the web browser.

4. When the hotel router sees the web browser opened for the first time for address A, it will send out a challenge request to the browser. The user can now go through the authentication process on the laptop (or response – check with the hotel staff for details on how to respond to the network challenge).

5. After the authentication process is done, the hotel router will grant access to the device on address A to the public Internet network. The hotel network usually only looks for one response to the IP address it gives out during the length of time that address A is valid. The user can now turn off the laptop if they want to. Because the DWL-G730AP is still on and connected to the hotel router, it will keep the hotel IP address and the associated permissions.

6. Now, the user can turn on the SMC phone, connect it to the DWL-G730AP network (don’t forget your encryption code), and from there, the world.

Test Results

Todd Belding, our in-house tech support, tested this proces at the Omni Hotel (at 13210 Katy Freeway, Houston TX 77079) yesterday (11/7/2006) while at a Microsoft Ready 2 Rock Roadshow featuring the benefits of the upcoming Windows Vista and Intel Dual-Core processors. He has put the D-Link DWL-G730AP in both opened and WEP modes where they work fine. He used the SMC Skype WiFi phone to make a Skype call after going through the above procedures. With pre-configuring the router before attending the conference, he was able to plug into the network and power in seconds and be out of the way of traffic, then leisurely use his computer to connect at a safe distance and activate the connection. The process took only took 3 minutes from the time he connected to the network until the call was made (but his laptop was on already so there is some cheating there).

An important tip he wants you to keep in mind: remember to setup the connection between the D-Link DWL-G730AP and the SMC Skype WiFi phone before going on the trip, and make sure the SMC Skype WiFi phone remembers the SSID and the encryption key setting connecting it to the D-Link DWL-G730AP network. It will make the whole setup much easier and faster. Since the setup gets an IP address from the host network automatically, you can try this at home and make sure you can make a Skype call through the new network, then you can look like a pro when you connect it on the road and not have to worry about technical details when you’re rushed.

Link to the SMC Skype WiFi Phone WSKP100 Review


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What are the differences? – Between Beta and Final-released Version of SMC Skype WiFi Phones

September 22, 2006

I came across this message on a famous Taiwan cell phone discussion forum, saying some SMC Skype WiFi phone Beta-testing units were put on and sold at the Yahoo-Taiwan auction site. In order to help readers like you to make sure your SMC WiFi phone is the final release, AmperorDirect managed to get a hold of a Beta-testing unit. You can see our comparison results in below:

1. The major difference is the capability for the phone to update its software when it is connected to a WiFi network. The final released SMC Skype WiFi phone can update the software to the latest available version (Go Menu > Settings > Advanced > Software Updates). As to today, 2006/09/22, your final released SMC WiFi phone should have the V1.0.0.10 software (dated at 2006/09/13). If you find your phone cannot do software update, chances are you have the Beta-testing unit. This can be a potential issue.

(Left: Final released version. Right: Beta version.)

2. When you receive your final-released SMC Wifi phone, you should be able to see the Skype certified label at the back of the phone. The phone received the Skype certification on 2006/9/14. The Beta-testing units which were produced before that date, should not have the label on it.

(Left: Final released version. Right: Beta version.)

3. The final released SMC WiFi phones we received come as a truly multi-language version (The two available languages are English and Chinese). The beta version we got is an English only phone.

(English & Traditional Chinese Language supported on the final released verion)

4. The final released SMC WiFi phones we have come with a 3.7V 1200mAh Li-ion rechargeable battery. The Beta version we received comes with a 3.7V 1100mAh Li-ion rechargeable battery. Although, this might not be a good way to tell if the phone is a Beta version or not. The battery capacity difference (8%) is small. Both batteries might all be on the BOM.

(Left: Final released version. Right: Beta version.)

If you get your SMC WiFi phone from AmperorDirect, you don’t need to worry about getting the Beta version. Our phones come directly from SMC. If you buy your phone on eBay, please ask the vendor to check if they are selling a Beta version.

BTW, see the Safety certs label inside the battery compartment.

Click to see the SMC Skype WiFi Phone Review

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SMC Skype WiFi Phone – It’s here, and it’s gone

September 22, 2006

The long-waited SMC Skype WiFi phone has arrived here at AmperorDirect.com, on 9/21. There was a one day delay according to our original plan. However, it is understandable that SMC wanted to double check on their first shipment to make sure the phones shipped with the latest firmware. Anyway, the Skype WiFi phones are here!


(There are several layers of phones in the box. We received more than 2 phones!)

The question is, how long will the first shipment stay in our office? The answer is: less than 24 Hours. We are glad to be able to supply those who cannot wait to own this latest and cool gadget. We have shipped the SMC Skype WiFi phones to Italy, Australia, German, Japan, and Canada. The feeling of being able to help people all around the world is GOOD.

I want to use this chance to thank our shipping coordinator, Sheila, who refused to let me take her picture. She works so hard to ship things out FAST! Usually, all the orders can be processed and out in 24Hrs, within good / strong package. That’s why we can build up our reputation as a fast shipper. See our feedbacks at eBay.

BTW, don’t worry about inventory… We received our second batch of phones, today. You still have a reliable source of the SMC Skype WiFi phones.

Click to see the SMC Skype WiFi phones review

Click to see the History of the SMC Skype WiFi phones


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SMC Skype WiFi Phones will be here VERY SOON!

September 19, 2006

Good News. My boss has finally signed the purchase order. The SMC Skype WiFi phone is on the way to our Houston office. We have asked SMC to overnight several Skype WiFi phones. The estimated arrival time for these small quantity phones is this Wednesday, 9/20 (the remaining higher Qty will be shipped by Fedex ground and is estimated to arrive early next week). Keep an eye on AmperorDirect website if you want one of this cool new gadget.

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A Look Back On a Year Journey from Prototype to Product Release – Skype WiFi Phones

September 18, 2006
  • 8/1/2005: The first information leaked to the public about the Skype WiFi Phone is at here. Jaanus, the marketing guru at Skype, shared the on-going project to build a Skype PCless WiFi phone on Skype.com. There was no pictures, just some simple descriptions. The secret project did aroused a lot of interests in the Skype community.

  • 8/1/2005: Bill Campbell @ SkypeJournal blogged about the Skype WiFi Phone prototype. His prediction about the price was under $150. Good prediction, Bill, not on the price, but on the “have a bit of a wait” part. It turned out that “a bit of a wait” = “a whole year of waiting.”
  • 11/7/2005: Attcon debuted the first PC-less standalone Skype WiFi phone (model name: VM1185-T) at the “Skype Day in Japan” event: Hmm… the baby was born two days after the marriage. Skype and Accton must have done some secret dating for quite some time. See the News in Chinese.
  • 1/4/2006: Networking product maker Netgear and Skype unveiled the first WiFi phone designed to work on Skype’s internationally popular voice over IP service, at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES 2006 @ Las Vegas): “We will be able to (multiply by 10) the number of Skype users around the world,” said Netgear CEO Patrick Lo. See the news at CNet.
  • 5/1/2006: Netgear announced Skype WiFi phone pricing and pre-order availability: The MSRP is $249.99. The pre-order can be placed through Skype store and other e-commerce partners. See the Netgear press release.
  • 7/20/2006: Skype unveiled the four vendors, SMC, Edge-Core, Netgear, and Belkin, for the world’s first Skype WiFi phone. See the press release at here.
  • 7/20/2006: SMC Networks is the first to deliver certified and tested WiFi Phones for Skype. SMC offers full quantity shipments to its partners across Asia with an initial English Language version. See the press release at here.
  • A more simple milestones list:

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Still Not the Time to Move Beyond Skype WiFi Phone

September 14, 2006

Hi Jim,

Here is the response to your recent post, “Wireless is not Cordless…”, on the SkypeJournal. It will be great if you can allow, or should I say, make it easier for readers like me to leave comments to your posts, on SkypeJournal.

I think we agree on most issues except maybe the most important: Skype and hardware developers should NOT stop development and improvement of the first generation Skype WiFi solution phones.

Assuming that Skype and their 3rd party developers are currently working on full web authentications and longer battery life, why would they need, as you state, “… focus their efforts on getting Skype incorporated into those other wireless platforms?”

As mentioned earlier, even with its current blemishes, the first generation WiFi phone solves a major hurdle – not having to have a computer on to make Skype calls. Further, the SMC WiFi phone we tested was beyond easy to use – which will help the non-computer savvy market. All that was needed to get the WiFi phone to work was turn it on, let it find the network, enter network key, and login. As you know, since you tested this or similar unit, it is that simple. The above features offer consumers a tremendous value. Why would anyone advocate throwing these advances away?

In regards to my parents and the ‘embedded phones’ you saw at VON, I am excited that more choices are on their way. As we understand it, ‘embedded phone’ manufacturers are hoping for a holiday release but more likely first quarter in 2007 – about 3-4 months behind WiFi.

We here at AmperorDirect are eagerly waiting to test the Philips (among others) PC-less dual phone. We think it will also be a product that consumers will demand. Having said that, we also hope that the Philips VoIP481 is better in overall quality than the Philips VoIP321. We had a chance to test the Philips VoIP321 (see here) and well, to say the least, we were unimpressed. At any rate, we will look out for your review and maybe even spend a bit of time reviewing it ourselves… 😉

There will be an abundant amount of articles and content written about the upcoming WiFi vs. Embedded choices faced by consumers – but that choice will probably have to wait till early 2007. If consumers want to turn off the computer and still use Skype, their only choice now is the Skype Certified WiFi phones.

Sincerely,

Howard Chang @ AmperorDirect.com

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Time to Move Beyond Skype WiFi Phones? – a Letter to Jim Courtney @ SkypeJournal

September 13, 2006

Dear Jim Courtney,

My name is Howard Chang, and I have always enjoyed reading your posts on the Skype Journal, especially the product reviews. Your articles have inspired me to start my own Skype accessory review blog at https://amperordirect.wordpress.com.

For full disclosure, I work for AmperorDirect.com – an online retailer of Skype related products and accessories. Further, we are in the process of determining our level of commitment to Skype WiFi products.

This letter is a reply to your conclusions made in yesterday’s “Fall VON 2006 Special – Time to Move Beyond Skype WiFi Phones” article. Specifically, I would disagree with the statement, “I have to recommend that Skype drop the concept of a dedicated Skype WiFi phone and focus their efforts on getting Skype incorporated into those other wireless platforms.

As an engineer and long-time Skype user, I can understand how you would come to such a conclusion. I, myself, would hope to have a non-PC, WiFi device that allows me to make Skype calls almost anywhere — such as at home, work, or on the road. Based on our testing, I was a little disappointed to see that this generation of Skype WiFi phones has limited WiFi hotspot use because of their lack of support for web-based authentication. In addition, increasing the battery life and a ring tone volume would be two of my preferences as well.

However, even with my engineering concerns, as an end user I cannot wait to own this Skype WiFi phone! Why? My parents live overseas. We have talked over Skype many times before and have enjoyed the high voice quality Skype offers us. Once upon a time my parents had a hungry and demanding kid (me!) running around. In order for them to provide for me and my education, my parents learned to save whatever they could. Even after I left their house they still look for ways to keep expenses down and they consider an always-on computer as being a big waste of electricity and money. Therefore, I’m lucky if I can catch them on-line so I can call them through Skype.

My parents are semi-experienced when it comes to computers, and with some minor additional help, they can set up and keep a broadband/wireless network working in their home. Just imagine how easy it would be if I could call them – with zero cost to either of us – if we both have a Skype WiFi phone installed. It’s like the MasterCard commercial: Broadband connection – $30 dollars, Skype WiFi phone – $180, Calling your parents anytime you want (and forever) for free – Priceless.

In my opinion, there are lots of people like me out there who have parents, relatives, business and personal partners, or friends living a long distance away and want to stay in touch. A PC-less WiFi Skype phone will help people communicate without the need of a computer – which, again in my opinion, offers tremendous value. To us, Skype WiFi phones are more than just an engineering prototype or toy, but currently the only Skype Certified device on the market that can provide Skype communication without the need of a computer.

I can still remember the words of my college Engineering professor: “An engineer is not a scientist. An engineer’s job is to turn the available technology on the market into some applications, with a reasonable cost, to benefit people’s everyday life.” In following this thought, Accton (SMC / Belkin / Netgear / Edgecore) has done a good job in converting the available chipsets from TI and Broadcom into the first Skype-based PC-less phone. This product solves the problem of always needing a computer on to send/receive Skype calls. Instead of dismissing their accomplishments and technology ‘break-through’, I think that they deserve encouragement for doing so well in launching this almost bug-free first generation product.

I hope that Skype and the third-party hardware manufacturers can continue developing the Skype PC-less phone. For the next generation of Skype PC-less stand-alone phones, I would put forth the following wish list:

  • It can be a dedicated Skype WiFi solution. If it is, I would like to see a built-in web browser that can allow for completing the web authentication process in most WiFi hotspots.
  • It can use the DECT or 2.4GHz cordless solution. But, it would be better to be a dual-mode phone to cover both land-line and Skype calls.
  • Have a good desktop cradle that can recharge the phone and have a built-in speaker. The speaker could play the ring-tone when there is an in-coming call, and it could have an adjustable volume.
  • Longer battery life.

Jim, thanks again for your efforts in the Skype industry. You work is appreciated, however, in my opinion, your Skype WiFi phone conclusion will prove to be incorrect.

 

Sincerely,

Howard Chang @ AmperorDirect.com

 

Click to see more discussion about this topic

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SMC Skype Wi-Fi Phone – Preview part III

August 24, 2006

Wish list

Here is our wish list for the final release SMC Skype Wi-Fi phone in US (or maybe in the next generation). According to our article: Overseas Source confirms WiFi Phone Shipment for Skype, all four Skype announced Wi-Fi phone (Netgear, SMC, Belkin, and EdgeCore) are using the same Accton’s design. Therefore, this wish list can be applied to all four different brand name Skype Wi-Fi phones.

Must have:

* Built-in web browsers – In order to connect to most HotSpots available in US, offering a built-in web browser is a must.

* Display Battery life during a conversation – A battery capacity bar shown on the screen during the talk time would be very helpful in avoiding sudden power outage.

Desired features:

* Desktop recharge cradle – Since the phone needs to be recharged every day, a desktop recharge cradle would ease the hassle in finding the AC adapter each time and help reduce cable clutter. See the picture of the Edgecore’s Skype Wi-Fi phone desktop recharge cradle. We hope the phones from all four vendors can come with a cradle like this.

* Carrying pouch / accessory – This phone is designed for people on the move. We wish we can find a carrying pouch to protect and easily take this phone with us.

* Car charger / accessory – Again, this phone is for people on the move. A way to charge the phone in the car would be a big help.

* Longer battery life (48 Hrs standby time, 6~8 Hrs talk time) – We hope the phone can match the basic battery capacity standard of a cell phone.

* Portable battery / emergency charge accessory – If the Wi-Fi transmitter power consumption cannot be improved in the near future, a portable battery or emergency charge accessory is needed.

* Bluetooth enabled – If we can use a Bluetooth headset with the phone, it would be easier to move around. However, we also know that Bluetooth technology is another power hog, too.

Click to see the SMC Skype Wi-Fi phone preview – part I – General test

Click to see the SMC Skype Wi-Fi phone preview – part II – Battery life test

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SMC Skype Wi-Fi Phone – Preview Part II

August 24, 2006

Part II – Battery Life test

Click here to see the phone spec on AmperorDirect.com

Stand-by time

In order to test the stand-by time, we turned on the SMC Skype Wi-Fi phone at 10:00 in the morning and placed it about 30” away from our 802.11g D-Link Wi-Fi router in our office. The product spec says that the phone is designed with 30 Hrs of stand-by time, so we expect to catch the phone running out of battery power on the second day of testing around lunch time. However, when we got into the office at about 8:30am the next day, the battery on the phone had already been drained, showing that the stand-by time of the sample phone is less than 24 Hrs.

Talk time

We used the following testing setup to test the talk time of the SMC Skype Wi-Fi phone.

a. We called the SMC Skype Wi-Fi phone from a computer, and used Pretty May to play non-stop background music to simulate a conversation.

b. We occasionally talked on the phone to activate the microphone.

c. The SMC Skype Wi-fi phone was placed about 30” away from our 802.11g Wi-Fi router.

d. The phone was set at the default volume (3 bars).

The above setup is doing more of testing the battery performance in extreme usage than on-again/off-again calls. Streaming music by Wi-Fi definitely consumes more power than transmitting a normal conversation because the silence that happens in a normal conversation would not be happening in the music streaming. However, the test should still give us a feeling of about how the battery performance should be in the final released phone.

The phone was put in this non-stop talk mode which lasted for 3.5 Hrs before the battery ran down.

During the test, we also noticed several interesting things:

a. The LCD display can turn itself off during the conversation. This is a good power-saving feature that helps in saving some juice.

b. During the conversation, we can active two functions: hold the phone and mute the microphone. We have not found a way to show the remaining battery capacity on the screen during a conversation.

c. After 30 minutes of non-stop use, the phone became a little warm.

d. This phone does a good job of keeping the Wi-Fi connection. In the entire 3.5 hour testing period, the phone only dropped the connection once.

Conclusion for today

The battery life on the SMC Skype Wi-Fi phone sample we have did work close to the manufacturer’s specs. As we all know, to broadcast over Wi-Fi – just like a cell phone over a cell network – the transmitter consumes a lot of power. People who want to use this phone should understand that they need to perform a re-charge to the phone daily.

Click to see the SMC Skype Wi-Fi phone preview – part I – General test

Click to see the SMC Skype Wi-Fi phone preview – part III – Wish list

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SMC WiFi Skype Phone – Preview Part I

August 24, 2006

A product with a bright future… Currently, it is a good phone for travelers who know where to find a Wi-Fi HotSpot that does not require a web browser in order to connect to the network.

Click here to see the phone spec on AmperorDirect.com

Product Preview

The Wi-Fi stand-alone phone is probably the most anticipated product within the Skype community. Skypers are hoping the PC-less and Wi-Fi functions will free them from their computers and finally reach the Skype promised land: “…talk to anyone, ANYWHERE, for free.”

Through our oversea department, we were able to get our hands on a non-beta, Asia release version of the SMC Skype Wi-Fi Phone. As written in our posting at here, all four Wi-Fi phones that have been announced are using designs by Accton, therefore our peview of this phone should be fairly accurate in showing what you will see in the final US Skype Wi-Fi phone versions.

Items included in the box:

• One Skype Wi-Fi Phone (VM1185T)
• One Lithium-Ion Battery
• One White Headset
• One White Mini USB Cable
• One AC Power Charger (with Mini USB Output Tip)
• One Quick Installation Guide
• One User Guide CD

Installation – A True PC-less Experience:

With the software already being pre-installed, use of the phone is a breeze. The phone will automatically detect any available Wi-Fi networks, ask for the encryption key for the selected one – if necessary, connect to the selected network, and then prompt you for your Skype account information. After signing in, the phone will automatically grab your Skype contacts through the Wi-Fi network from Skype, then be ready for you to make a Skype call. The whole process is completed quickly, and without having to connect the phone to a computer at any time.

Control Interface:

The 1.5” x 1.25” LCD color display is at a comfortable light setting by default for indoor usage, but while still readable (at the highest light level), is not very clear while under the hot Houston sun. The display also has a privacy feature in that it is best seen and read from while looking directly at it, but if you are someone trying to read the list from the side, you would not be able to see much on the screen.

The buttons on the keypad are well designed, in that the navigation stick can be used in 4-directions when you move it around, and pressing it straight in will act as a confirm. This makes the navigation stick a very helpful tool for navigating around the different functions. The alpha-numeric buttons are built-in with enough feedback force and a loud touch tone for you to know when a button has been pressed. Except for the smaller button size than a normal phone, we had no difficulties in using them.

Abundant Features:

Surprisingly, the phone comes with loads more features than we would expect to see from a first-generation Skype Wi-Fi phone. Some examples of what it can do includes:
• Displaying the Skype contact list with online/offline status.
• Saving the network encryption keys and Skype account ID and password for future use.
• Having call blocking and call forwarding features.
• Can store Skype voicemail, receive SkypeIn and make SkypeOut calls.
• Has three built-in ring-tones, and can be in silent or vibrate mode.
• Can also change network proxy settings and set up ports for Skype.

Voice Quality:

Before using for the first time, we highly recommend that the first thing done is to do a software update on the phone. This can be performed from Menu > Settings > General > Software Updates. The old software that comes with the phone will create a 1 sec delay in voice transmissions, while the latest version (V 1.0.0.0) will greatly reduce the delay.

The communication quality is acceptable, while occasionally we can hear short periods of voice distortion or silence – especially when the call is first connected. However, this is not much different than what sometimes happens with cell calls, too. The distortion period is short enough that you sometimes notice it, but not enough for you to loose track of the conversation.

Known Issues:

Need a web browser:

First we used the phone in our office where we were able to connect to our Wi-Fi network with our normal connection settings provided by our network administrator. Then, we took the phone on the road to try out in different Wi-Fi HotSpots. This is where we found our first problem for the phone: most HotSpot providers, such as T-Mobile and AT&T, need to initiate an account ID and password check through a web browser before the network will allow full connectivity. Because of the lack of a built-in web browser, there is currently no way to connect the phone to those types of HotSpots.

Need to fine-tune the mode transfer timing:

Our next problem came in the form of automatic volume control. SMC needs to fine-tune the timing when transferring the phone from “ringing” mode into the “speaking” mode. For example, when the phone rings for an incoming call, the volume is automatically turned up very high to ensure that you can hear it from across the room, etc. After you pick up the call, the phone is supposed to lower the volume to a non-ear-bleeding level for your conversation, but doesn’t seem to manage it until after the first couple of words have been exchanged. When we called Skype echo123 testing center to try things out for the first time, the first incoming word (“Hello”) after the call was picked up was actually played at the same level as the ring-tone. The “Hello” was so loud that it hurt my ear!

Conclusion for today:

As a first-generation Wi-Fi phone, the sample we received exceeded our expectations. It is packed with loads of features, and provides acceptable sound quality. Furthermore, it deserves the PC-less title without a doubt. If the released US version can include a built-in web browser for paid Wi-Fi network connections, and can solve the volume timing issue we ran into, then it can finally free Skypers like us, from our computer.

Keep in touch. We’re going to test the battery capacity next and publish more thoughts about this phone as we continue to use it.

(Product ID: 10003/1.0.0.0/SMC. Software Version: V1.0.0.0. Software Date: 2006/06/21. Hardware version: R03)

Click to see the SMC Skype Wi-Fi phone preview – part II – Battery life test

Click to see the SMC Skype Wi-Fi phone preview – part III – Wish list

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