Friday, December 21, 2007

Impressive Netgear WiFi Phone for Skype

I plow through a lot of travel gear that is fine for what it does, but not groundbreaking. This Netgear WiFi Phone is a different story. It has the potential to revolutionize communication for travelers and get rid of much of the frustration and expense of making phone calls home from abroad.

This little gizmo is the size of a cell phone and it works wherever you have an unsecured WiFi connection (or a secured one where you know how to log in). You set it up once by syncing it up with your Skype account, then after that your contacts load automatically every time you turn it on. The interface looks pretty much like it does on your computer, so there's almost no learning curve. You just plop down in a coffee shop and start calling Costa Rica or Bali for a few cents a minute with SkypeOut, or free if the other person is on Skype at the same time.

The implications of this are huge for a long-term traveler or international business road warrior. Instead of paying your damn cell phone company two bucks a minute or fiddling around with different SIM cards on different continents, you can make hours of calls from any open hotspot for the price of a latte or two. At around $150, this baby isn't cheap, but it wouldn't take long to pay for itself, especially if you are going on a long-term trip and can ditch the cell phone contract altogether.

This WiFi phone also frees you up from the computer, which is also a big deal. It turns on and finds a network in less than 30 seconds, compared to the boot-up time you have to endure with a laptop. You make phone calls just like you would from a normal phone, so you don't look like a nerd with a phone cord sticking out of your computer. It just looks like you're talking on a cell phone.

Netgear WiFi PhoneOne bonus use I discovered with this is that you could also use this Netgear phone as a makeshift WiFi sniffer. If there's no open signal, the phone won't connect to Skype. So you know before turning on a laptop to check e-mail that the spot you're in is either a paid hotspot or the signal is weak.

The only gripe I have is the cradle. Fine if you're just using this at home to cut down on your phone bill, but not very travel-friendly. Hopefully there's some kind of adapter out there that would allow you to charge this with just a cord. Otherwise, highly recommended!

Get the Netgear WiFi Phone at the Skype Store.
Read more about it at the Netgear site.

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