Belkin Wi-Fi Phone for Skype Review

The Belkin Skype Wi-Fi phone looks like a cellphone, but allows you to connect to Skype via a Wi-Fi network without the need for a computer. It seemed like an interesting concept/piece of tech-equipment to try out. This phone provides a majority of the functionality of the computer based Skype software, allowing you to make and take calls via Skype-to-Skype, SkypeOut, and SkypeIn.

Once I had logged into my wireless network and signed into my Skype account, my contacts list instantly showed up on the phone and I was ready to go.

Its shape, size, and number keypad/joystick is very reminiscent of the older Sony Ericsson or Nokia candybar cellphones. The screen is very small by today’s standards. The key layout is typical with the ten standard numerical/symbol, */shift, answer/hang-up, and menu buttons (based on which screen input) plus a joystick for navigating through the menus.

Package Contents

  • Belkin Skype Wi-Fi phone
  • Battery
  • USB cable
  • Standard USB wall charger
  • Software & manual CD
  • A 30 SkypeOut minutes card

Hardware Specifications

Wi-Fi Standards 2.4-GHz 802.11b and 802.11g
Network Securities open, WEP, WPA, WPA2 with PSK support
Talk time 3 hours
Standby time 50 hours
Connector Type USB
Dimensions (HxWxD in) 4.6 x 2.1 x 0.8
Weight (oz) 3.9
Battery 1,100-mAh, 3.7V lithium-ion (replaceable)
Warranty One year

As you can see, the phone is primarily black with a silver band going around a majority of the sides and top of the device. The black casing of the phone is a semi-rubbery material the is not slippery, easy to grip, and comfortable to hold. The volume control is a rocker type switch and is on the right side of the phone.

The left side of the phone has no controls.

Nothing on the top either.

The USB and earphone ports are on the bottom of the phone. Considering the cost of this device, I am surprised that Belkin did not include Bluetooth connectivity to this handset to allow the user the ability to pair their Bluetooth earpieces with the phone.

The device was simple to setup and operate. Logging into both open and password protected Wi-Fi networks was a breeze. Once online, logging into Skype was easy as well. The phone remembers all of the Wi-Fi access points you have logged into previously and your Skype log-in information as well. So, you do not have to manually reconnect and/or re-log-in every time you want to use the phone.

As you can see from the screen shots, the interface, like the phone itself, is relatively simplistic. The screen has a resolution of 128×160 pixels, making the 1.8 inch LCD display far from high definition. The interface does an adequate job of conveying what it is needed, but falls short of what we expect from a modern mobile phone.

Excluding, its simplicity and older look and feel, the phone does have one major drawback. It cannot log into networks that require web based authentication. The phone has no web browser of any kind, making it impossible. You cannot accept any user agreements and do not have the ability to log-in via the web thus making it impossible to operate the device at Starbucks, most hotels, airports, etc. The device appears to be connected (i.e., has 5 bars) but fails to connect. This limitation greatly reduces the locations the phone can be used at.

Call Quality

With all of its shortcomings and lack of high-tech glitz, the call quality is surprisingly good. I tried calling friends and family from a variety of places; home, parents, work, and a coffee shop (that did not require web authentication/agreement to log on). Both the Skype-to-Skype and SkypeOut worked great, both I and those I talked with experienced at least cellphone quality conversation.

In my real job, there are definitely places that I could use a VoIP phone like Belkin’s Wi-Fi Skype phone where cellular coverage is poor or nonexistent but there is Wi-Fi access.

Conclusion

I believe there is a place in today’s tech market for this type of device. Especially when you consider how many people are trying to get Skype to work on the iPhone, Blackberrys, and other smartphones/web enabled devices. However, if I were Belkin, I would re-engineer (and modernize) their WiFi Skype phone. I would make it thinner, add a touchscreen, web browser, and Bluetooth connectivity. I hate to say it but Belkin needs to create their version of the iPhone/Archos 5/Nokia N800 making it a more robust, multi-purpose device.

 

Product Information

Price:179.99
Manufacturer:Belkin
Pros:
  • Interesting concept
  • Can connect to and talk on Skype w/o a computer
  • Charges via standard USB connection
Cons:
  • Not possible to connect to networks that require a web based authentication
  • Not Bluetooth enabled
  • Small screen
  • A little large by today's standards
Posted in: Wireless

5 comments… add one

  • Andy Van Pelt November 26, 2008, 12:34 pm

    Julie,

    Interestingly enough, there’s a “Skype” phone available in England that’s a normal cell phone, but also has Skype installed on it. It even looks similar to this one.

    It’s available through “3”, and is made by Amoi.

    – Andy

  • Jake Tongue November 26, 2008, 1:16 pm

    you could get a psp 3000 as it has a built in microphone,skype but portability could be an issue and it doesnt come with any earphones

  • Murray Kitson January 2, 2009, 12:41 pm

    Great review, covered all of my questions (bluetooth capability). The pictures showed everything as well, loved the shots of the screen. i will be keeping an eye on ebay prices. Probably pick one up soon.

  • Kelly January 22, 2009, 8:15 pm

    Thanks for a thorough review! One question I still have: how long does it take from being off to connecting and being ready to use, after that initial start-up/set-up process? Thanks again!

  • Mr. Forrest April 15, 2009, 5:38 pm

    RE:Belkin Skype Phones F1PP000GN-SK – Poor Battery Life & Lockups

    I have now gone through three (3) of these phones and the 4th is on its way to me from Belkin on yet another RMA. The first two went back directly to Buy.com. Below is a brief description of the same problem I have had on all 3, a problem that could easily cause the user to assume a poor battery life.

    In a nutshell, every one of these phones I have personally used for an extended period of time (days) has the same problem. As an electrical engineer, it appears to me to be a very serious design flaw, most likely a hardware semiconductor “avalanche”, “breakover” or “breakdown” issue. In layman’s terms, this refers to a semiconductor that goes into a “shorted” or relatively “super conducting” state until current is removed from the circuit.

    The problem presents itself as if the phone were battery had discharged and the phone is dead. In reality, it is my observation that the phone will lockup and draw an extremely large amount of current from the battery, to the point the battery quickly and fully discharged. If one encounters the problem while the battery is actually in this “rapid discharge” with the phone appearing to be dead, none of the keys will do anything to turn the phone on or reset the phone. It appears to the user that the battery has simply discharged. However, in this state, prior to the battery actually fully discharging, momentarily removing the battery and then reinserting it will break this excess current flow/rapid discharge and will restore the phone to a point where it can then be turned on again normally with the keypad ON button.

    The only cure I have found when any of these phones are in this mode is to momentarily remove the back plate and remove the battery, then reinsert it. If you have caught the problem in the early part of this lockup and rapid discharge cycle, the phone will then turn on after the battery is reinserted, and appear to operate normally until the next lockup or the remainder of the battery discharges. If caught at this point, the battery will appear to have very poor life after it is “reset” because a significant portion of the energy or charge in the battery has probably already been consumed in this cycle.

    So, what are the clues when this problem is occurring on your Belkin Skype Phone? First, if you catch the phone when it has first gone into this mode, the phone gets very warm to the touch, particularly in the area of the battery while the battery is rapidly discharging. When the battery is momentarily removed at this point, it will be very warm, if not hot to the touch. If you attempt to insert the charge plug while in this mode, while the battery is still discharging and the phone is locked up, there is no effect and the charging symbol will not appear. The phone will charge again, but only after the battery has been fully discharged by the phone or the battery and charger are physically removed and reinserted, thereby resetting the phone to a normal state.

    NOTE: This problem will most often appears to the normal user as extremely poor battery life. I have closely monitored this last phone and reset it immediately upon lockup each time and it is now out 3 days and the battery indicates 1/2 discharge. When that fact is extrapolated, the phone should run on standby for about a week or shortly less.

    Alternately, there is a slim chance this problem could be a firmware problem, but all phones I have tested have been current on firmware and I don’t have access to their source code, so who knows. It would be difficult to imagine a software or firmware related scenario that could put these phones into this high current drain mode to the point of heating the battery. My money is on a semiconductor in one of the power stages, such as the audio output stage etc. that has a breakdown/avalanche voltage that is too low by physical semiconductor design That is validated by the randomness and frequency of occurrence nature of these lockups, between different phones of this same model and with the individual phones themselves. They are going to have a difficult time convincing me that a “firmware update” of any kind will resolve the problem – at least until I thoroughly test it.

    I have talked and talked to Belkin about this problem – All I can get to are “technicians” who haven’t a clue as to the nature of the information I am providing them and the observations that could help Belkin resolve a problem that only one “second level” technician has acknowledged as being a problem.
    Until we all can get Belkin to listen and acknowledge this problem, AND FIX IT for everyone who has this problem, I recommend you stay as far away from Belkin’s Skype Phone as possible! Just my opinion.

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