Skype might have been downloaded by some 51million people, but until recently you've had to sit in front of your PC with a dorky looking headset on to talk to your mates. It might make it cheaper, but who wants to look and feel like they work in a call centre.
The solutions are starting to roll in with the latest being the DU@Lphone. Very much like the Firebox VoIP phone. The DU@Lphone allows users to use their Skype account via a standard telephone. The difference here however is that unlike the offering from Firebox, this model is cordless and has a regular phone built in too boot.
The killer strength here is the duality of the unit. The handset can still act as your normal phone connected to your normal landline, but with the press of a button turns into a fully loaded Skype handset that you can dial out from and receive calls into. You can even set the DU@Lphone to have different ringtones for the two so you know in advance who is likely to be calling you.
To use the Skype element of the phone, the phone connects to a spare USB socket. Currently the software only works with the windows operating system but is easy to use, in fact after the initial installation you'll be mostly using Skype's interface.
The phone itself offers plenty of features and although a bit on the ugly side, does the job at hand. Users who've signed up to Caller Id can benefit from the three line LCD display. The phone offers the last 30 dialled numbers in its log and the selecting whether to call via VoIP or regular landline calls is down to a press of a button.
Our tests were mixed. The quality seemed to be affected by a whole host of things, from strength of connection, to the phone the other user at the other end was using.
From our experience - ie making the call - we couldn’t tell any difference to that of a normal landline call.
People on the other end of the phone were clear and crisp. However when we asked how good our voice quality was we got everything from appalling to pretty good.
With this in mind you will have to weight up how important perfect voice reception is over cost. Calling Skype to Skype is free anywhere in the world and even if you opt for Skype Out, the calls are incredibly cheap. One phone call we made from the UK to France at 9am (ie peak time) cost us just 12cents (Euros) compared to BT’s cost of 73cents (Euros) and that was after you had opted into its international calling package.
For us you could probably live with it, but then we weren’t the ones at the other end of the phone.