18 months ago, VoiP was just beginning to be taken up by those that come after the super-early adopters, and it was an exciting prospect. With it, came a rush of new products all designed to make us abandon our landline in favour of this new technology. The Internet Phone Wizard is one such product. It’s designed to allow users to make use of their landline handset as a VoiP handset, whilst still letting you make the landline calls.
18 months on, the products are still coming. In fact, Tesco have devoted a massive advertising budget to their VoiP offering. So, how does the Internet Phone Wizard stack up now?
The Internet Phone Wizard has been designed with the novice in mind. It’s got a quick start guide which includes such instructions as "At the ‘congratulations’ screen click Finish" along with a photo of what this screen might look like. As basic as this is, other manufacturers would do well to take a leaf out of Actiontec’s book. There’s very little chance to get confused, or go wrong (it even indicates how to turn over the page to find the next instruction).
Once installed, Skype is accessed by pressing ## – something US users are used to, switching between calls. You can then press the pre-assigned speed dial number associated with the relevant Skype contact. The box itself also has a LED light on the front, which lets you know whether you’re in Skype or normal mode. You can even switch between modes should you receive a call on the other line. Should your contact not have a speed dial number, double clicking on the name on your computer also connects them. SkypeOut can also be used, simply by dialing the entire number (including country code) from the VoiP mode.
The main problem with the Internet Phone Wizard is the tethering to the computer, something that is by no means restricted to this product. Whilst it gives the ‘on the box’ impression of you being able to use your home phone, be that in the living room, kitchen or bedroom, there’s a whole host of wires to get through first. The phone wizard need to be plugged into both your phone and your computer in order to work, so unless your main phone is situated right next to your computer, some changes are going to have to be made.
In our opinion
And as for how it compares to other products? It’s still up there, mainly because of the price. The Internet Phone Wizard costs £35, so isn’t a big money commitment for first time users, who will also love the failsafe instructions. It’s handy in a house where the router or computer is close to the main phone, and in those households with existing cordless phones, since you’re then not tied to the computer. However, we’re now seeing products that do the same as the Internet Phone Wizard (that is they integrate landline and VoiP services) but let you truly get away from the computer for just a little more. We’ll be looking at one of these, the Philips VoiP321 next week, which is just a little more expensive at £55. Check back to see how it does.