The mobile operator, 3, has kindly sent me a couple of units of their new 3SkypePhone. First impressions of this little phone is impressive. Being a seasoned BlackBerry user, this device is very light in comparison. Gone of course is the QWERTY keyboard which is already throwing me, as I sent Andy a "hide" Skype message when I meant to send "here".
First things first. It's a Skype phone, so let us see how well it works. It should be noted that the area I live in, is not covered by 3G so I am only experiencing a 2.5G network. A good test for Skype. There is a big button in the middle of the phone with SKYPE written on it, so there is no rooting around for it. Pressing it asks you to login or signup, all relatively painless.
Once logged in, Skype updates all your contacts. Only the contacts that are true Skype numbers are downloaded. I have a SkypeOut and In account, and none of my normal landline numbers were downloaded. Making SkypeOut calls to non-Skype users is impossible through Skype; 3 obviously want you to still use the traditional telephony network for those calls.
The Skype mobile app detects the online status of your contacts and calling them is a simple matter of selecting the one and hitting the SKYPE button again. You know its not a traditional call because there is no ringing; instead a message keeps playing "Please hold on while we try to connect you". I suspect they don't want you to forget its a Skype call you are making.
The call quality was good with maybe a 1 or 2 second delay between speaking and it coming out on the other handset. But other than that, you would not have known it was Skype.
One thing though, when receiving a Skype call, you do not know who is calling you. It just says "Unknown Skype User" until you answer it. That is a little off putting, especially if you have a huge list of Skype users and you really don't want to answer all calls just to see who it is! Maybe I am missing something, but the options for Skype is very limited.
Another limitation of the Skype service on the 3 phone is that it cannot accept calls to you SkypeIn number. The SkypeIn service lets you have a real world number that then routes calls to your Skype account. I have a San Francisco number to make it cheap for people to call me, but these calls are not being routed to my SkypePhone. That is a major disappointment.
I am very interested in learning more regarding the cost of this service. All the 3 literature points towards the fact that Skype-2-Skype calls are free of charge. But does this include the bandwidth you use up? That is unclear. The handsets we have are on a PayAsYouGo pay plan which means this proviso is for us:
4,000 Skype Minutes and 10,000 messages (Every time you top up, valid for 30 days)
This works out at it just under 3 solid days of talking over the period of the month. That is more than reasonable for a service that is void of all other costs.
The handset has a lot more goodies associated with it, which I will dive into them later.
But so far, I like it. Although I miss my Blackberry QWERTY keyboard like mad! I have a board meeting in London this week and will be travelling by train down there. I will take the unit with me and put it through its paces.
More details here at the official site