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December 18, 2005

Vonage releases VoIP Wi-Fi phone


Stephen Lawson at InfoWorld:

Vonage Holdings Corp.’s VoIP customers will be able to get calls in areas covered by Wi-Fi hotspots after the release Tuesday (Dec. 13 – ed.) of a combination VOIP/Wi-Fi phone. (The Wi-Fi version is 802.11b – ed.)

Subsidiary Vonage Marketing and partner UTStarcom Inc. released the F1000 portable phone handset, which is configured with Vonage’s VOIP service. The F1000, available on Vonage.com, will sell for $79.99 after a $50 instant rebate, Vonage said.

The new phone will allow Vonage customers to detach from broadband wirelines and wander in Wi-Fi hotspots, said Louis Holder, executive vice president of product development for Vonage Holdings Corp.

Vonage expects that the phones will get the most use with home or work Wi-Fi networks, as well as open Wi-Fi hotspots in places such as college campuses, Holder said. If customers wish, they can assign their home telephone number to the Wi-Fi phone and have the number follow them wherever they take the phone.

Full F1000 info is on the Vonage web site including:

You’ll get a Phone Book with up to 200 entries, Speed Dial codes, an easy-to-access Call Log, as well as multiple Ring Tones to choose from. You can also set Anonymous Call Block to reject any callers without Caller ID, or blacklist specific phone numbers to prevent unwanted calls. You’ll get the same great Vonage pricing with exciting new features.

And note that the $50 rebate requires you to keep the Vonage service for at least 90 days. More annoying, even if you are already a current Vonage subscriber, you have to buy a new subscription with the phone.

Ed Oswald has more at BetaNews including this important caveat if you are planning on roaming away from your home or office:

Initially, the phone will only operate with public networks, meaning hotspots like those in Starbucks or some airports would not be compatible. However, Vonage said that it plans to resolve these issues as soon as possible.

It’s a little more complex than that, but 3rd party hotspots can be problematic. Vonage has exact details here, but they may be less than transparent to the less technically inclined.


Posted at 4:40 pm. Filed under Companies, Internet, VoIP, Vonage, Wi-Fi

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December 17, 2005

Google launches Gmail Mobile for mobile phone email


Google has taken it’s Web based Gmail service (still nominally in beta) and shrunk the interface so that it can be conveniently used on mobile phones with Web browsers. Details are here and the actual service is at http://m.gmail.com. If you don’t want to punch that in on your phone’s browser, they have an application where you enter your phone number and they’ll send you a text message with the URL.

The beauty of this is that since Gmail is a web application, there are no charges beyond whatever your phone plan charges for Internet access and there is no problem, common with other mobile email systems, of your mail account getting out of synch, since you are just accessing the regular Gmail using a different, smaller interface. Other features include viewing attachments and “reply by phone” to email whose senders are in your Gmail address book.

Check out the FAQ for which phones have been tested and more details. The service is currently English only and I have seen press reports that say it is limited to US mobile phones only, although why they would bother with that limitation isn’t clear and I coudn’t find it in the documentation.

You do have to wonder why no other provider of Web email has done this as well. Yes, it costs money to develop and test the interface for many different small screens and many phones don’t yet provide web browsers or Internet connectivity, but the latter is only a matter of time. Windows Mobile phones have a somewhat similar setup for MSN Hotmail, but the whole point of a Web based interface is that it should be OS independent.


Posted at 11:20 am. Filed under Brands, Companies, Google, Internet, Mobile Phones, Windows Mobile

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Sony PSP a stolid success in North America


The Sony PlayStation Portable may be the Rodney Dangerfield of handheld entertainment since it “gets no respect” compared to the iPod, but it still seems to be a solid, if stolid, hit. Lisa Baertlein at Reuters:

Sony Corp. is on track to double the number of PlayStation Portable video game players sold in North America to around 6 million at the end of its first holiday season this year.

The sharp screen on the paperback-sized video game device has won over movie fans, fortifying a solid debut though not a runaway success along the lines of Apple Computer Inc.’s iPods.

Analysts predict that the PSP’s long-term prospects are good, but where the iPod is praised for its stunning ease of use, some PSP players have told Reuters that games are slow to load on the device and that its left thumb-operated mini joystick can be awkward to master.

“Clearly there is not the intoxication or hysteria that there is with the iPod,” said Janco Partners analyst Mike Hickey, who is among those betting on the PSP’s success.

The PSP was launched in N. America in March 2005 and 6 million in the first year isn’t shabby at all. I think the impression that it is merely a handheld gaming device, when in fact it is a general purpose audio and video player as well, detracts from its visibility as an iPod competitor. The retail price of approx. $250 may also be a problem according to the analysts mentioned in the article although, again, that’s in comparison with handheld game machines like the approx. $130 Nintendo DS. There are also complaints that getting your audio and video content on the system could be much easier, but Sony is happy for you to buy movies on the proprietary Universal Media Disc which is becoming more common.

Some reviews:

ZDNet/CNET says audio and video usability could be better.

CNET has minireviews of several games

PC Magazine loves the 4.3″ TFT LCD screen as does most everybody. Dislikes the proprietary Sony media formats and the lack of audio/video features.

See also The Gadgeteer and DesignTechnica.


Posted at 9:27 am. Filed under Apple, Brands, Companies, iPod, Portable Gaming, PSP, PSP, Sony

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