During our absence in December I did have the opportunity to evaluate and, more importantly, “experience” three relatively new ways of making voice calls:
- Skype 3.0 Gold Release with its ability to create “Click-to-Call” for any phone number in an Internet Explorer or Firefox web browser. (Complementing the latest release of the Skype Email Toolbar)
- a Nokia N80i (i = Internet edition) with its ability to work on both WiFi and GSM/GPRS/EDGE networks (including support for the 850MHz band used in North America) enhanced with the Truphone service.
- a Blackberry 8700
As one more complement to this scenario, I use the VoIPvoice Cyberphone or UConnect as my Skype USB Phone on my laptop. (I have the original RTX Dualphone on my desktop PC.) The key feature with the VoIPvoice products is their ability to handle Windows sound devices in a user friendly manner.
As a result I have found that, for over 90% of my phone calls, I am no longer dialing phone numbers:
First, the Skype experience: If you read my initial post-absence post, you will know why I had to make many phone calls to family friends across Canada last month. With the Skype Web Toolbar (optionally) embedded into my IE 7 or Firefox 2.0 by the Skype 3.0 installation, I simply used Canada411 to look up a phone number, clicked on the resulting Skype-enhanced phone number, clicked again to confirm that I was making a SkypeOut call and made my connections. If the called party was already in my Outlook Contacts I could look the party up, find the appropriate number in the Skype Email Toolbar and click to initiate the call. What really hits home, given my age, is that when we lived in western Canada in the 50’s calls back to Toronto would cost about $1.00 to $3.00 per minute, and given the value of the dollar then, one would rarely make personal long distance calls of any significant duration. Yet last month I was able to make all those calls at no cost. The only concern as to the length of the call was the called party’s availability.
(Note re the Skype Email Toolbar: this product is finally rock solid stable. As I have mentioned previously I have been a beta tester for this utility since its initial development activity almost two years ago. I had uncovered some relatively “deep”, but critical bugs (that, for instance, resulted in fixing a bug involving a third party dll) but Peter Kalmstrom’s Toolbar team at Skype worked diligently to ensure these bugs were addressed. The same can be said for the Web Toolbars where they finally were able to address a persistent bug that occurred only on certain sites, such as my bank website (where for confidentiality reasons I could not supply complete information). Kudos to the Skype Toolbar team for all their efforts and the resulting success. If you have not installed these Toolbars or previously experienced problems, I recommend you give them a try.)
During this period I received my evaluation Nokia N80i as a participant in Andy’s Nokia Blogger program. Around that time also came out the announcement that Truphone supported the N80i. So my first download was the Truphone Wizard and I was able to make calls to landlines anywhere in the world at no cost provided I had a WiFi connection. In fact, I ended up talking one evening for close to an hour with Andy while he enjoyed his post dinner culinary treasures at a Paris café. Once again, one simply needs to select the called party from the Nokia’s Contacts directory and select which phone to call. No “dialing”.
Finally the Blackberry 8700. I had reason to use it quite heavily during December. In addition to clicking to call parties in the Contacts directory; it also makes any phone number appearing in an email, Blackberry Messenger conversation, Note, Task or any other Blackberry application clickable. Once again a minimum of dialing.
Finally, when using the VoIPvoice products (Cyberphone and UConnect) not only can I access my Skype Contacts via a speech recognition routine but I am also able to use any of the Skype Toolbar features to initiate a call without dialing.
So the ability to avoid dialing phone numbers is rapidly becoming one of my key criteria in evaluating all phone products. Probably one more “nail-in-the-coffin” for Skype WiFi phones that simply do not have this capability. I simply don’t want to “dial” phone numbers.
Tags: Skype, click-to-call, Skype Email Toolbar, Blackberry 8700, Truphone, Nokia N80i
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