07 March 2007

A dedicated Skype phone

After a few fits and starts, Phillips will finally be making their VOIP841 available to buy in Europe and presumeably the rest of the world. Their tagline is that it is the "world's first PC-Free Skype-certified phone", meaning that unlike most other dedicated Skype handsets out there, the computer does not have to be on to make or receive calls.

If this doesn't sound revolutionary, it really isn't. Ever since Skype became available as a Pocket PC application, people have been creating their own special VOIP phones. The ingredients are simple: all you need is a WiFi enabled Pocket PC capable of running Skype and a WiFi connection (of course).

My setup uses my multifunctional and ubiquitous iPAQ h4350. It has built-in WiFi which means that even when the computer is off, it can quite happily connect to my wireless access point. The biggest problem was in trying to find the version of Skype most suited to it. The download page is rather unintuitively arranged according to brand, and something as prehistoric as the h4350 is clearly not listed in the HP section.

In the past there used to be two versions of Skype, one optimized for low CPU devices and one for high CPU ones. I'm not sure that distinction still applies, so for the sake of consistency I went with the Dopod 700 download since it at least runs Windows Mobile 2003. Once it is installed, you just need to log in and you you are ready to go.

I leave my Pocket PC logged-in all the time. It sits next to my regular phone and rings when someone tries to call me, and because is PC independent. It really is like a dedicated Skype phone. What is using it actually like? Well, as with all Skype calls, your mileage does vary according to the quality of your connection. That said, with echo reduction on, the sound quality is perfect for speech.

In terms of hardware, the h4350 is not really set up to be a phone. The microphone, for one, is at the top, while the speaker is located below. I use it as you would a speaker phone, but if you want a little more privacy then it would be a good idea to invest in a headset. It also takes a while to get over the thin-but-wide feel of the PDA.

WiFi enabled Pocket PCs can be had for much less than the Phillips VOIP841, and you get a load of extra functionality too!

1 comment:

Mabel said...

Thanks for writing this.