Well, after an initial good start my iPhone had to go back. It was a good enough phone and most of the time was adequate. But the reliance on the PC was a real problem - if the machine went to sleep or someone else was playing a game then the phone became useless. I suspect a lot of the problems are down to the machine that was used as the host being a multi profile box so someone other than the skype user could be in control.

I did like the charging cradle and volume of the Linksys iPhone though, as well as the fact that managing quality of service (QoS) was as simple as with the standard Skype app.

So on to the next device. A Belkin Skype WiFi phone. This looks and feels like a slightly lighter version of the old Sony T610 and is totally self contained - unlike the iPhone there's no charging cradle (shame as you have to leave it tethered to the USB charger), and no USB dongle to connect back to the PC because it talks directly to your WiFi router.

The quality on this phone has been pretty good, but there are a number of issues - and I'm not sure if they're because we have a Linksys WRT54Gv6 router or if the phone itself just isn't that clever.

Initial setup is rather hard, and they really should include a wizard to help the process. For a start I use MAC filtering on my WiFi router and the only way to find the MAC address for the unit is to connect and then query the settings (Update: I did find it printed under the battery) but the process of entering my WPA2 network key and configuring it for a fixed IP address (so I could tweak QoS) is all a bit tricky on the keypad.

QoS setup was a pain. For some reason it refers to the port it's using as "Skype Port 1" - no indication of what real port it's using so setting up port forwarding or assigning QoS to a port is rather difficult. I picked the same port that Skype had been using on the PC and it seems to work - not sure if it helped though.

The big bug with this phone is that it sometimes falls of the WiFi network for no apparent reason, and then fails to reconnect properly (I've often touched a key to wake it up only to see it saying "Unable to connect to internet on XXXXX" - but clicking proceed and it re-establishes the connection just fine). It means missed calls and frustration in the house.

There are one or two other little niggles:

  • The ring tone volume. It's too darn quiet. If the TV is on then forget about hearing it if it's in the kitchen. In-call the volume is okay though.
  • I miss the cradle for charging (having to plug in stops it feeling like a "house" phone) - there are two metal bars along the bottom that look like they could be used for charging so maybe there's one in the works
  • I'd also love a handsfree/speakerphone mode for those long conference calls.
  • It would be nice if the firmware checked itself for the latest version as well as the Skype client version (a "latest version" check said it was up-to-date, but it was running old firmware)

Hopefully, thanks to the fine folks at CruchGear my next experiment in the world of Skype as a home-phone will be more positive. I just won a give-away that means I'll be trying out the SMC Skype phone (looks very similar to the Belkin unit) that comes with it's own FON router... hopefully a more reliable pairing... will know when the package arrives