Applications that have had the greatest impact on my life all share a single trait: they have gradually become an everyday part of my computing routine.
I moved to Powerpoint from Living Videotext’s More Outliner. I started using it occasionally, grew to dislike it immeasurably, and then changed my mind. Today, PowerPoint is an intrinsic part of how I use a personal computer, and its performance is part of how I judge an underlying hardware platform. I moved to Microsoft Word the same way. I used other programs and gradually moved to Word.
This helps to explain why I’m a Skype loyalist. I started using it to save money and because I didn’t want to tie up my house landline. Today, I can’t imagine not using Skype for domestic or international business and personal phone calls. And Skype has just kept getting better as more people switch to computer-based VOIP for whatever reason.
I’ve reached the point with Skype that I judge a computer or peripheral partly by it’s Skype experience. This applies to notebooks, web cams, headsets and more recently WiFi Skype phones. And that brings me to a new piece of hardware—Belkin’s WiFi phone for Skype. I like this peripheral so much, I honestly wish I had access to it before I retired.
This diminutive WiFi phone automatically connects to the Skype network as soon as it detects an open 802.11 network, downloading your phone numbers to make Skype network and off network calls whether or not you’re in front of, or even in the general vicinity of your primary computer. I’ve used the Belkin WiFi phone for Skype about three months and it’s so reliable that I’ve come to use it almost as much my Verizon cell phone.
I like this phone’s usefulness, it’s rock solid reliability and the fact that it’s battery lets me go two days or more between charges. My one and only complaint with this, and phones from other companies built to the same reference specification, has to do with the phone’s charger cable receptacle. It took me three tries before I learned to mate the phone with its charger cable successfully. But, once it’s hooked up, it stays connected and charges rapidly. I do recommend that you make sure you have adequate lighting the first couple of times you connect the phone to its charger cable.
The keys are easy on your fingers and you navigate through your phone number lists using a track stick. It uses keys to place and end calls, just like most cell phones. And just like many cell phones, you power the phone on and off by holding down the red “end” key.
I really like the audio quality of my Belkin WiFi Skype phone. It’s on a par with and often better than the audio of my Verizon cell phone. Volume is easily adjusted by its user, a feature I think is critical to its usability.
This purpose built peripheral is something I use nearly everyday. When I’m working outside around my house it rests comfortably in my shirt pocket. When I leave for a trip, it’s one of two pieces of equipment I make sure is loaded in my back pack, along with it’s charger.
It’s value to me was reinforced late in October when I was forced to evacuate my house in Escondido, CA, because of the approaching Witch Creek Fire, which burned six houses on my block but didn’t touch my home. At the evacuation center legions of people sat in their cars talking on their cell phones. Predictably, the outgoing traffic nearly subsumed the cell networks and many mobile phone users ran out of battery power or simply were unable to make calls.
But not me. I was parked next to the school/evacuation center’s computer room where I stayed connected to Skype and kept in touch with my relatives up in Los Angeles County.
Priced around $180.00 and available at numerous online and brick and mortar retailers, portable WiFi phones designed specifically for Skype or other networks make what already is a very good experience even better.
Belkin’s WiFi phone for Skype makes an excellent stocking stuffer, and is an incredibly useful peripheral for Skype’s VOIP network. The fact that I was able to rely on it at a time when local cell networks were at peak demand because 250,000 of my fellow San Diego County residents were streaming to evacuation centers reinforces my belief that this WiFi phone is nearly as important as my cell phone.
In addition to Belkin, Phillips and Logitech market phones built to a similar reference specification
--Jim Forbes, 11/08/2007