Sunday, 18 January 2009

SMC skype phone: my brief review

Skype is so handy ... but sometimes I'd like a PC free version ... and so I found this phone by SMC. I didn't find many reviews worth a dam on the net (here's about the only one), so I thought I'd put this up.

The short version answer:

well its ok, it does what it says but try to get it cheaply on Ebay if you can cos its not perfect. If you get it for under $100 then I'd call that fair. Belkin seem to make another but aside from it being black and this being white I can't see the difference.


The phone is a stand alone (doesn't need a PC) handset which connects to the internet by 802.11 wireless networks. If you have (say) an ADSL connection at home and you're using a wireless access point to allow your computers to get out onto the net then this phone will be able to use that and get out ... voilla you have a cordless phone (without a base station) that allows you to use most of the functionality of Skype.

I'm someone who lives out of my own country a lot and so for some time I've been making use of Skype to stay in touch with people back in my home country (Australia) while abroad. Actually I've even come to use it to make quite some international calls to places no matter where I am, so I think its fair to say its opened up global type communications for me in general.

I've always used skype out of my laptop and have relied on bluetooth headsets for when I would like to be able to move away from my desk (and when I don't want to carry my laptop along with me). Chords just have a way of getting tangled and eventually yanked out of the socket or (worse) dragging the laptop tumbling off the desk.

Being a long time Skype user I have considered a few options of having a dedicated physical "telephone" sort of thinggy for Skype but so far most of those have been expensive and often required a dedicated PC to connect to ... which sort of means my PC has to be on all the time.

As a laptop user I also have a wireless LAN around the home (and at some of my friends and family's homes) so when I found there was a few stand-alone WiFi Skype phones I thought I'd like to try one. I hoped that it would save me needing to port my laptop along to keep in touch or have it on and in the way when visiting.

If you're a Skype user (and a reasonably confident) computer I'm sure you'll have no problems and hardly need to look at the manual, in fact it all operates in a way which seems natural and consistent to both Skype and normal mobile phone interfaces.

The phone connects to wireless networks easily enough, and has a neat (although perhaps a little primitive) management system for managing the variety of networks you may encounter. The major protocols are supported and it all seems to work happily with DHCP connections. I did have one odd situation where the WLAN address was other than the typical 192.168.x.x and there after the phone would not connect back to any other WLAN

Next, size. As you can see it fits neatly in hand, being not much bigger than some mobile phones, its quite light too.

Generally I like it and it does what it should, but (isn't there always a but?) there are some issues which I thought I'd try to make clear to potential buyers (and perhaps the companies could take notice too but I'm not holding my breath on their being any kind of iterative cycle of development and feedback happening).

As you can see from the picture, the buttons are quite small and located quite close together. I don't have big hands or fingers and I find this is something I have to take care of, someone with bigger fingers and hand may have difficulty and need to pay attention to what they are pressing.

This isn't really a problem in practice as the Skype phone does not support texting (or the Skype chatting). So you won't be typing much in to it.

This is also a significant point for people who use skype for its chat facility (people like me) because while you appear online, if someone chats to you they get an obscure message saying that you are using an older version of Skype which does not support chat.


The manual documents the phone well enough, but if you are experienced in using electronic or computer devices then you will find that just picking it up and doing "what comes naturally" will work. Navigation of the Skype menus is easy with the joystick and the buttons. I've found (though its not in the manual) that you can just start typing the names (using the keypad to key in names using normal SMS style input methods, and then the contacts list starts to shrink just like using skype on the PC. Once you've got the name selected you can call by just (intuitively) pressing the call buttong (with the green phone icon).

The phone charges with the typical mini USB cable (like on many digital cameras and compact hard drives) and so can be charged from your PC or with the charger which it came with. I really like this move to using mini USB as a charging standard, my MIO Navigator uses it, as do a few other things I have around the house. It also means I can use the Mio navigator's in car charger to charge the phone on the way to the in-laws place and use an camera USB cable to charge it while there too. Nice

Audio quality

My bench mark for audio quality is the basic simple headset which plugs directly into the headphone / microphone socket on my laptop. The SCM phone is nearly as good as that, and my testing seems to indicate that people say that the audio quality their end is ok but lacking in 'fidelity'.

From my perspective (the caller) the sound quality is acceptable (though not as good as my headset) and certainly loud enough. Interestingly it seems to never be as smooth as on my PC so perhaps the CPU on the phone is not as fast as it needs to be to cope .. dunno.

There is a headset connection available too, it uses the single 2.5mm cordless phone headset plug type. I've tried it with a Paltronics that I bought on "that auctions site" but frankly the sound quality sucked.

Quirks and Issues

As I mentioned above sometimes the phone has had difficulty in re-attaching to other networks and has required a battery out reset.

Definitely I think it is unwise to have the phone 'logged in' to Skype and have your PC logged into Skype. It will operate and both the PC and the phone get the call but the PC will respond to the signal faster and it can take a few seconds for the phone to start ringing. When you answer one (you can't answer both right?) I get a missed call on the other one. So you need to remember to quit the application on the PC before turning on the phone, and turn off the phone when using the PC ... I think there isn't much option for this other than to have multiple accounts which then becomes a hassle.

Overall I find the phone nice and worth while.

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