Update: Belkin Wi-Fi Phone

I just realised that the story of my Belkin Wi-Fi Phone for Skype lacks any form of closure. But before we get there, let’s start with a quick recap in case you didn’t read the original review or its follow-up.

Last year, after realising that we had spent over ?30 in a quarter on line rental but less than 50p on phone calls, we decided to get rid of our land-line and rely only on broadband and VoIP technology. After some thought we went for Skype and a physical handset that connected to our wireless access point. This seemed like a great solution as leaving a computer switched on 24/7 just so we could recieve calls on our SkypeIn number didn’t appeal.

The appeal quickly wore off when it materialised that the Belkin handset just didn’t work very well. Other parties complained of an annoying echo while we complained that it drifted on- and off-line, meaning that people had to be lucky and call us when it was online. It also exhibited stability problems, often crashing during a call or even while in standby. Belkin were actually pretty efficient about taking the handset back and replacing it with a less broken one.

    We were initially quite happy with the new phone. It actually worked free of the power cable and people were able to call us on our SkypeIn number on a couple of occasions.

    Unfortunately, the more we used it the more we noticed its flaws. For a wireless device, one of its biggest problems is the fact that you pretty much have to leave it plugged in all the time if you want to reach the end of your call without the battery dying. It was fine to unplug it when the call came in but the battery life in stand-by mode meant that even leaving it unplugged in the office for half a day would have been asking for trouble if someone rang.

    Then there were the random hangs. Sometimes, as noted in my follow-up post, the time just stuck, the machine unresponsive. Actually, I tell a lie. If you pushed a button the back-light would come on, giving the impression that it was still alive, but it wouldn’t actually do anything, like make or receive a call.

    Of greater concern were those hangs half way through a call. Typically it would happen after ringing a phone banking service and being kept on hold for an inordinate amount of time. It’s amazing that the phone is still intact after letting us down so badly. Actually, after a several such hangs during what was supposed to be a single transaction it’s amazing that all furniture, glasses and windows are still in one piece.

    Now that I mention phone banking, there was another point where the phone would let you down. At the beginning of each call I was expected to enter my card number and PIN. Fine, but their systems never seemed to recognise the Belkin. Now maybe this is a localisation issue (we have to call both UK and US banks) and not something I can squarely place with the phone, but it was nevertheless a frustration.

    In the end we dare not use the phone to make important calls, fearing that it would cut out at some critical juncture. Equally, we weren’t keen on using it to call family as they, understandably, were irritated when we had to call back three times just to complete a conversation. In the end it was a nice ideal that just didn’t work in practice for what we wanted it for, so a couple of months ago I put it on eBay.

    Now we have our SkypeIn number forwarding to our mobiles, meaning that, like international roaming, we have a pay to receive calls. With the number of landline calls we get this is not a huge problem, but it’s sad that it currently seems to be the only viable method of using Skype without having a computer switched on 24/7.