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For wipe call
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Av8rix Posted:
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Vonage Customer Review: One month with Vonage, and...
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Good Old Cordless Phones Get Chummy With Cell Phones


Vonage In Print News

Good Old Cordless Phones Get Chummy With Cell Phones

July 29, 2005

By Ed Baig

Before the cell phone became truly ubiquitous, most people's idea of a wireless phone conversation was using their cordless phone. It really was the liberating product of its day. You could wander from the house with a handset that was — gosh! — hundreds of feet removed from a base unit plugged into a wall jack.

Over the years, numerous innovations have improved the old cordless phone. Interference has been reduced. And ranges have been extended. Still, people seem to care a lot more about breakthroughs in that other, sexier mobile handset, the cell phone.

Yet the good old cordless phone remains very much in our midst. I've been examining a couple of different ways that cordless phones complement newer, more appealing technologies. One of those technologies is VoIP, or Voice over Internet Protocol. That's jargon for phone calls that are routed through cyberspace. I've tested a joint offering from Voip pioneer Vonage and cordless phone maker VTech.

But let me begin with a product unrelated to the Internet: the RCA 23200RE3 Cell Docking System. It combines the benefits of cordless and cellular phones.

The $150 product consists of two main parts. First, there's a conventional 2.4 gigahertz cordless handset (plus a charger base that you connect, as usual, to a phone jack). Then there's a separate cradle that's meant to dock a compatible cell phone. You connect the cell to this dock via one of four supplied adapter cables. The dock is compatible with nearly 60 cellular models from Nokia, Motorola and Sony Ericsson. RCA plans to add more phone models in coming months; additional adapters will cost less than $15. The cradle unit can be upgraded via a USB connection.

As with any cordless phone, you can use the handset to make and receive calls over your regular home line. But with the cell phone docked, you can also use the cordless handset to make and receive cell calls.

When dialing out with the cordless handset, you press either a "home" or "cell" button to designate how you want the call to be made. So, in effect, you have two phone lines: wired and wireless. You can choose different ring tones to indicate whether an incoming call is arriving on the cell or the land line. A light on the handset also lets you know a call's origins.

Dual system advantages

There are certainly advantages to a product like this. You may be comfortable giving out your cell number — but not your home number — to a business client. Now you can take such calls at home. Or maybe you just want to take advantage of a cheap cell rate plan, including free nights and weekends.

Granted, you can always carry your cell phone with you around the house. But if your reception is anything like mine, you know what a challenge it can be to get reliable coverage indoors. With the RCA system, you can dock the cell next to a window or somewhere else where you're likely to get decent reception and walk around with the cordless handset. You can buy additional handsets for $70; the system works with up to three.

Another benefit: The dock charges your cell phone battery, even when you're talking on the cordless handset. I found the docking system worked fine using a Motorola/Cingular cell phone RCA supplied for testing. With the cordless handset, calls were much clearer over the land line compared with the wireless phone.

A screen on the front of the dock that provides messages such as "ready" or "out of range" is a little dim. My only other nit is equally minor: I wasn't wild about the look of the black-and-silver RCA cordless phone or its docking station.

Whereas the RCA cordless handset is meant to mesh with your cell phone, the cordless phones that are included in the $150 Broadband Telephone System Model IP 8100-2 package from Vonage and VTech serve a very different purpose: to exploit Internet telephony. The phones work only with Vonage's Voip service.

The rewards of Voip

Voip provides several rewards. Low calling rates, for one. Vonage's Premium Unlimited Plan with unlimited calls to the USA and Canada costs $25 a month. Beyond traditional phone features such as call forwarding, caller ID and so forth, there are other reasons. You can track calls that have been made and received on the Web and listen to voice mail online.

You can also choose your own "local" area code. You can even opt (for a fee) to get an international number. Thus, if you live in New York, you can choose, say, a Chicago number or one in London. If you have relatives there, calls to this number would be charged at local rates. Be aware: Voip requires a broadband DSL or cable Internet connection. And if your Internet connection dies, as with a power outage, so does your phone service.

Typically with Vonage and other Voip services, you can use any ordinary touch-tone phone to get going. Why, then, opt for the Broadband Telephone System package? Well, the starter kit comes with everything needed: two 5.8 gigahertz cordless phones, plus a box that connects via supplied cables to a modem or router.

Once that connection is made and you've activated your account online, the phones should work. You need not connect a separate base to a wall jack or PC.

Having the extra phone comes in handy. It's easy for more than one person to join the conversation. You can add up to four handsets in all; extra phones cost $50.

Though the colors of the VTech phones are similar to those of the RCA cordless handset, I preferred the aesthetics of the VTech phones. I did have quibbles with the layout of keys. When I made calls, my instinct was to hit an ill-placed "C/D" button instead of the "on" button just below.

But beyond that gripe, I've become a big fan of VoIP. And the Vonage-VTech package provides a simple entry point.

Coming this fall: Vonage is teaming with UTStarcom on a combination Wi-Fi Voip phone that might appeal to hard-core travelers. It can be used at Wi-Fi hot spots. Whether it becomes a meaningful alternative to a cell phone remains to be seen. I have doubts.

Meanwhile, back home, your cordless phone is more than up to the task, whether you use it in combination with a cell phone, or over the Internet.

The Bottom Line

RCA Cell Docking System 23200RE3
$150, 3 1/2 stars (out of four)
www.rca.com
Pros - Lets you make and receive cell calls over a cordless phone and share that handset with a landline.
Cons - Compatible with only limited number of cell models. Cradle has large "footprint" and so-so looks.

VTech/Vonage Broadband Telephone System Model IP 8100-2
$150 (less $50 rebate after 60 days of service), plus cost of Vonage service (monthly plan with unlimited calls to USA and Canada costs $25), 3 1/2 stars (out of four)
www.vonage.com
Pros - Package makes it simple to get started with Internet telephony and take advantage of excellent phone rates and features such as area code selection. Includes two cordless speakerphones.
Cons - Phone layout is confusing



 
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†AK and HI residents pay $29.95 shipping. ††Limited time offer. Valid for residents of the United States (&DC), 18 years or older, who open new accounts. Offer good while supplies last and only on new account activations. One kit per account/household. Offer cannot be combined with any other discounts, promotions or plans and is not applicable to past purchases. Good while supplies last. Allow up to 2 weeks for shipping. Other restrictions may apply.

1Unlimited calling and other services for all residential plans are based on normal residential, personal, non-commercial use. A combination of factors is used to determine abnormal use, including but not limited to: the number of unique numbers called, calls forwarded, minutes used and other factors. Subject to our Reasonable Use Policy and Terms of Service.

2Shipping and activation fees waived with 1-year agreement. An Early Termination Fee (with periodic pro-rated reductions) applies if service is terminated before the end of the first 12 months. Additional restrictions may apply. See Terms of Service for details.

HIGH SPEED INTERNET REQUIRED. †VALID FOR NEW LINES ONLY. RATES EXCLUDE INTERNET SERVICE, SURCHARGES, FEES AND TAXES. DEVICE MAY BE REFURBISHED. If you subscribe to plans with monthly minutes allotments, all call minutes placed from both from your home and registered ExtensionsTM phones will count toward your monthly minutes allotment. ExtensionsTM calls made from mobiles use airtime and may incur surcharges, depending on your mobile plan. Alarms, TTY and other systems may not be compatible. Vonage 911 service operates differently than traditional 911. See www.vonage.com/911 for details.

** Certain call types excluded.

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