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Belkin Wi-Fi Phone for Skype
Don’t leave home without it

Francis Vale

The last time I played with a Skype phone it was with the Linksys CIT400 dual mode unit that lets you make conventional landline phone calls, or use your broadband Internet connection to make VOIP calls.  

The Linksys CIT400 is an impressive piece of kit, but because of its required base station you are confined to your home or office to make Skype calls.  No roaming down to your local Starbucks to call your Skype pal in Thailand.  Well, that sucks.  So I laid my hands on another Skype phone. And this little puppy lets you merrily roam the world’s hot spots.

This must-get product is the Belkin Wi-Fi Phone for Skype. Find an unlocked Wi-Fi network that supports auto login and away you fly. The one crumb in the global soup is that because there is no web browser on the Belkin, web-based login or authentication is not possible. Regardless, this no-browser gap still leaves a huge number of opportunities to get your hookup.

I was recently chatting with a friend of mine who distributes his products in 50 countries around the world and when I told him about the Belkin Skype phone, he plotzed. Some of his far-flung reps have been running up phone bills of more than $3,000 a month. Last I saw I him, he was zooming down to his local Fry’s to pick up a few dozen of these Belkin puppies, which can be had for around $160 each.

Of course, Skype to Skype calls are still free with the Belkin.  And for just 30 bucks a year you still get to use Skype’s plan that gives you 12 months of unlimited calls to any regular landline or cell phone within the US and Canada. Overseas calls to non-Skype phones are really cheap, too, as little as 2 cents a minute to London; although randomly calling a puzzled inhabitant of the Pacific island nation of Vanuatu will set you back about 80 cents a minute. Better you should go there on holiday and make a new friend.

The Belkin Skype Wi-Fi phone comes preloaded with the identical, full-featured Skype software as that found on the Linksys CIT400, which is to say it’s very good, indeed.  The instant you log into the now centralized Skype servers with your ID and password all of your stored contacts, settings, voicemail and such are instantly available on the Belkin phone. Cool.

The Belkin Skype Wi-Fi phone is a lightweight, handsome design that has a look and feel more in keeping with a $200+ unit. It has an easy to read display, even in bright Belize vacation sunlight. The display gives you signal status, online status, battery life remaining, and a host of indications, like missed calls and voice mail.

The Belkin’s voice quality is impressive.  In a back-to-back comparison done at the same locale between my T-Mobile Moto Razr and the Belkin, the Wi-Fi Belkin had noticeably better sound and connection quality than the cell Razr. Recharging the Belkin phone takes only an hour or two, and it’s good for plenty of hours of talk is cheap time.

Boingo is another option for a well-traveled Belkin Wi-Fi phone. Boingo says it has a global Wi-Fi network that allows people to have unlimited Internet access to more than 100,000 Wi-Fi networks across the globe, including STSN, Wayport, AT&T, Sprint, and many more. You must first download the Boingo software onto the Belkin phone via its included USB cable, which is also used for the phone’s firmware updates. Boingo lists a special deal on Belkin’s website for the Skype phone that costs $7.95 a month for unlimited Wi-Fi access to any Boingo hot spot anywhere in the world.

For regular Boingo service, say on your laptop, Boingo normally quotes $9.95 for the first three months and then $21.95 per month after that. So it would appear the Belkin-Boingo deal is a pretty good one for Wi-Fi power users, presuming you could use the same Boingo account on your laptop as well. Better check the fine print on this Belkin-Boingo deal, just to be sure.

If your home roaming area is rich in no cost, unlocked Wi-Fi hot spots, you could easily save a bundle on your monthly cell phone bill. And if you travel a lot, especially outside the U.S., the Belkin Wi-Fi phone is a no brainer.  Don’t leave home without it.

 

21st, The VXM Network, http://www.vxm.com

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