Chicago (IL) - Skype VoIP phones packaged in a traditional handset form factor have been making their way into the market since early this year. The first generation has been somewhat pricey with manufacturers testing the mass-market appeal of such devices. Now we are seeing the first signs of diversification - US Robotics just announced a simple $25 Skype phone and Logitech a higher-end speakerphone.
Skype claims to have hundreds of millions of users with multiple millions using the service as an alternative to their regular phone everyday. Skype or competing services such as Gizmo have left their geek status and are positioned well in the mainstream segment. But most Skypers are still using the regular Skype softphone in combination with a microphone and speakers or headsets. A new generation of Skype phones could change this scenario.
For the price of an entry level headset, you could also choose US Robotics' USR9602 USB Internet Mini Phone. The $25 device is not the prettiest phone you may have seen, but it promises to act more like a traditional phone for people who cannot or do not want to get used to a headset. The USR9602 resembles the look of a small cellphone with a cap covering the area where you normally would expect to find the screen of the phone. There is a keypad to dial regular phone numbers, but calling contacts by name is only supported through the softphone application.
US Robotics also offers a slightly larger phone that includes a display. The USR9601 device comes with a "bright, high-resolution" blue back-lit LCD screen that provides convenient access to contact and call status, and supports Skype caller ID. The USR9601 is priced at about $50. Logitech today announced its first products specifically targeted at the use of Skype. According to the manufacturer, the "Quick Call" USB speakerphone "delivers premium voice quality": The device uses two microphones - one on each side of the phone- and is able to capture sounds from a wider area in a room. Logitech claims that the phone eliminates the echo effect in Skype, which solves a common problem when the VoIP service is used with common PC speakers and microphones. The Quick Call phone will be available for about $100 in October.
Logitech also introduced a new keyboard which integrates a speakerphone and comes with a headset. The "EasyCall Desktop" will be available in mid-September for about $130.