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Cubic Telecom has a pretty killer SIM, but also Wi-Fi: David Pogue writes up the nearly-shipping Cubic Telecom phone for today’s New York Times. The Cubic phone is ehh; it’s a basic Pirelli model. What’s killer about it is that they’ve wired it to accept up to 50 numbers, and it can authenticate to GSM calling systems around the world with which Cubic has negotiated very low local per-minute rates. Rates are 15 cents per minute from line to line within the U.S., and rates 50 to 90 percent off roaming charges elsewhere, like 49 cents instead of $4.90 per minute from Russia to the U.S.
A Wi-Fi radio is also built in, and a $42 per month plan offers unlimited inbound calls over Wi-Fi, with outbound calls for a penny a minute. (There must be additional limits, like landline to cell calling, which is typically ruinously expensive even intra-country; I checked with the firm, and this is the case.) The monthly charge seems a little high, but I’m not aware of any other phone that offers Internet telephony, a roaming handset, and GSM built in. T-Mobile’s HotSpot@Home can work over Wi-Fi when you’re out of the country, but it’s not optimized for that, and I’ve heard about mixed experiences. T-Mobile also offers the typically high rates for international calling, even when using Wi-Fi to place the outbound call.
The phone works as a mobile callback system, placing the call through their network and then calling you back. There’s a delay while calls are connected, Pogue writes, and the quality is similar to that of pure VoIP calls. If you purchase local numbers in cities around the world, people in those cities can call you at no cost, ostensibly. Although I’d like so more details on that: mobile and landline calling is rarely a straightforward billing proposition outside the U.S.
Cubic will sell you the SIM independent of the phone, too. The phone will run $140; the SIM by itself $40. There are no monthly charges.
Update: Pogue found that the calling prices he was quoted were incorrect. There’s a long thread about how the company has dealt with pricing, how they were apparently giving Pogue prices in US cents that were in euro cents, and so on.
The Chicago Sun-Times rounds up the Belkin Skype phone, the Sony Mylo, and Vonage’s VPhone: The columnist likes the Belkin Wi-Fi Phone for Skype, which can connect over a local Wi-Fi network to allow Skype-to-Skype and other Skype-based calling. He found it flexible and liked the interface. While the list price is $190, he found the item for sale for as low as $160. The Mylo also uses Skype, and offers browsing and other features, but runs $350; the writer doesn’t have an opinion about the Mylo, which other reviewers have found somewhat lacking in usability.
The Vonage VPhone is a Windows-compatible USB dongle that has Vonage software and your configuration preloaded, as well as a headset jack; it comes with a headset the writer didn’t find comfortable. The VPhone is $40, and requires a monthly subscription to Vonage at $15 per month (500 North American minutes) or $25 per month (unlimited N.A. minutes).
At the Consumer Electronics Show, NetGear demonstrated its Wi-Fi phone to make Skype calls: The phone apparently has no special authentication, so will only work at locations that require only a simple encryption key or offer free service. Although Boingo and other hotspot chains have deals with Skype for cheaper VoIP-only access, none of the NetGear coverage mentions this arrangement.
Vonage is now shipping the UTStarcom F1000 configured for its service: This phone works over Wi-Fi networks that use no encryption or employ WEP or WPA-PSK (WPA-Personal) security. There’s no support for 802.1X authentication. The UTStarcom phone is a generic SIP (Session Initiation Protocol) device for VoIP, but the Vonage-branded version is preconfigured to work through the Vonage network.
The handset is $130 with a $50 rebate. The company claims 50 to 100 hours of standby time, five hours of talk time, and a two-to-three–hour recharge period. It requires a Vonage subscription, but there’s no additional charge to use the phone.