Review: Three Skype Phone

The premise is simple enough: carry around the phone, use it for regular cellular & mobile calls while being able to make calls to Skype users. It has internet access, an mp3 player, and even a camera. It’s lightweight, easy to use, and the battery lasts a fair while.

This year might be seen as Year of the Skype. We’re already seeing announcements from the various camps about how Skype and its use of VoIP will change the way we make phone calls with software being made available for devices like the PlayStation Portable and Mobile Internet Devices.

Among these products is the Three Skype Phone, a new idea to merge the already widely used 3G network held by Hutchison’s 3 with the ability to make calls on the Skype network.

The premise is simple enough: carry around the phone, use it for regular cellular & mobile calls while being able to make calls to Skype users. It has internet access, an mp3 player, and even a camera. It’s lightweight, easy to use, and the battery lasts a fair while.

But how does it stack up as a phone and as a plan?

The Three Skype Phone is a candy bar phone. It comes in several colours and has a nice weight to it. Faced with what you could say is a pretty generic look somewhere between a Nokia and a Sony Ericsson, it’s certainly not a phone that would make you stand out in a crowd.

What will make you stand out, however, is the prospect of knowing that you can make phone calls to anyone on the Skype network for free for around 4,000 minutes a month.

That’s 66 hours. Almost 67. Do you talk on the phone constantly for almost 3 days? If so, you’ll quite like this.

As it happens, it’s quite easy to use the Skype feature. Simply load up the program, enter your details, and away you go. You can initiate voice calls as well as do the whole Instant Messaging thing. The sound quality of the voice calls isn’t bad and while there are momentary pauses between talks, they’re not bad and you can quickly settle into the mindset that “hey, I’m not paying for this either”.

And if you don’t already have a Skype account, creating one is just an easy job of filling in the details on the first menu of the Skype application. It really couldn’t be any easier.

One quirk I noticed that you might want to be aware of is when you type your information in. If you don’t change the typing system to “123” using the # key, you’ll find it damn near impossible to type in the “1” and literally impossible to put a “0” in.

Because the Three Skype Phone is not just a Skype service, you can make phone calls, send messages, and even surf the web. Truth be told, the phone manufactured by Amoi (yes, don’t worry I’d never heard of them either) and badged as the Three Skype Phone actually works better than I expected. It has surprisingly good sound when making regular mobile calls, decent keyboard response, and while the camera could be best described as “mediocre”, the phone does a good job overall. Featuring Bluetooth and a microSD slot, you can even pull some decent mp3 player performance out of the Three Skype Phone.

It is a shame that Amoi went for a USB port as the only means of connectivity the phone has. This means that you can use either the crappy earbuds it ships with or a Bluetooth headset for handset operation.

The plan is where this review goes next because the Three Skype Phone is one of those things that can only run on a plan set out by Three.

Depending on the choice of a $29 cap or a prepaid plan, you will always get 4,000 minutes of Skype calls and 10,000 instant messages on Skype. That works pretty well and I honestly think that if you were a parent looking to make it easy and cheap for family members to contact each other, deals like the “2 (phones) for $299 on Prepaid” become really good value.

Likewise the Three Skype Phone becomes a good choice for those people who are addicted to Skype usage and want to communicate whenever they’re on the run.

Or maybe you’re just someone who likes to keep in contact with people overseas and you don’t want a computer anywhere nearby. If you’re someone who fits in this bracket, I should say now that any money you put into your Skype account to use on actual landlines (which Skype on computers can use) cannot be used by the Three Skype Phone. You’ll be stuck using the Skype service as you normally would without any intervention by external use.

The Skype phone is an interesting device. I approached this phone with a sort of respect for the idea. It’s a very cool thing to see a device that is inexpensive and offers a lot for not a whole lot… and that’s cool.
And that’s really what the Three Skype Phone is: very cool.

Should you buy it?: Great purchase for people who have a lot of friends on Skype as well as families who want to stay connected without the fear of expensive call costs between family members.

Product: Three Skype Phone

Vendor: Three

RRP: $179 for 1 (Prepaid), $299 for 2 (Prepaid), or Free on $29 Cap

Website: Three Skype Phone

Reviewed by Leigh D. Stark

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