Being someone who uses Skype constantly for both business and personal long distance and PC-to-PC phone calls, I got a Belkin Wi-Fi Phone for Skype ($159.99 at Amazon.com) as a Christmas gift from a loved one who knows just how nerdy I am when it comes to new gadgets. I love them!
Unfortunately, I can only say that I like the new wi-fi phone from Belkin. Appearance-wise, it’s terrific with a sleek black case, color screen and attractive key layout. It’s a good, comfortable size and feels about like a stylish mobile phone. It comes with a USB cable for charging and software updates, as well as a regular power cord for charging. You can use the phone while it’s connected to the charger, which is what I find myself doing a lot.
The sound quality is good and it connected right to my household wi-fi system once I punched in the security code. The controls are easy to access and use. I was quite excited to get going with it and used it for several days without incident.
Then it froze. No matter what I did, the buttons made no difference and the screen stubbornly stuck on 11:38 a.m. and no amount of prodding would break it free. I looked for some sort of reset button like you get with a Palm or other PDA-like device, but there isn’t one. I finally decided that the only way to get the baby to reset would be to take out the battery and put it back in.
Thus, my next problem. The battery cover refused to budge. It was as if it had been super-glued shut. I pulled, pushed, yanked but it held firm. I had no other choice than to resort to the proverbial waste of time – support.
Yep, total waste of time. I tracked down Belkin support, filled out the form to inform them of my problem (frozen screen, stuck battery case) and got an answer from some clueless girl telling me I should go into the menu and use the “reset” function. Duh? The SCREEN IS FROZEN, honey! How the heck am I supposed to do that!
So, back to pulling, tugging and yanking on the battery cover. I finally managed to pry one corner up and get enough leverage to get the darned thing open without breaking it. I pulled the battery out, the phone reset and I was up and running again.
My next disappointment came when I stayed at a hotel that offered free wi-fi. I had hoped to use the phone to make some calls, but, alas, the hotel requires you to open their web page in a browser before you can connect to their access. That’s all, just open their page in a browser – no inputting codes or anything. Just an open browser.
The Belkin phone has no Internet browser, a terrible oversight for a product that people will want to use at Internet cafes and the like. Not a smart move, Belkin.
Yes, the phone is supported by Boingo, which has hotspots here and there. In my area, my choices are a UPS Store or an RV park. Somehow I can’t see myself hanging around those to make phone calls. I’m out of luck at Starbucks, hotels and anywhere without completely open wi-fi access.
Another minor peave is the lack of Skype chat support. The company I do SEO for, Frames Direct, uses Skype chat a lot during the business day, so I can’t plan on using the Belkin Skype phone exclusively for business because there’s no chat support. I understand that trying to do chat on that itsy bitsy keyboard is difficult, but people send text messages all the time on cell phones, so there should be support for chat. If nothing else, I’d like to be able to set the phone up to let people know that I don’t have Skype chat, try me on AIM or whatever.
Anyway, don’t think I’m totally unhappy with the Belkin Wi-Fi-Phone for Skype. I’m not. It’s great to carry around the house with me when I’m not on the computer. It just means I have to switch back and forth between it and a Skype-enabled computer quite a bit. I guess my suggestion for those considering one is to say that it’s great if you just want a wireless Skype phone for home, have no need for Skype chat and don’t plan on trying to use it too many places outside your home network. It’s a shame, but it probably won’t work for you on the road or in your neighborhood Starbucks.
Update – Take a look at my video review of the Belkin Wi-Fi Phone.