Skype has made a lot of progress in bringing VoIP to the general public and is very quickly becoming to VoIP as Hoover is to vacuum cleaners. However, much like the PC, it can still be a little too confusing for the average punter. The PC may be incredibly powerful and capable of anything your mind can fathom, but single or limited function devices are still incredibly popular because of their simple and reliable nature. Despite my affinity for the Linux console, even I'm a little guilty of the sin of simplicity.
When it comes to a mobile phone, I want something simple and reliable with a long battery life – yet instead I have phones thrown at me with Bluetooth, Cameras, 3D games and instant messaging. Although I'm using a Sony Ericsson k800i, I don't use the phone any differently from the Phillips Savvy I was using five years ago.
Generally speaking, people don't particularly want to know what VoIP is, or even Skype – they hear cheap or free phone calls and that's all they want to know. But having to plug in a headset, or even having to have your computer turned on can be a pain, and not to mention costly. With the extra hassle, they would sooner pay the higher rates.
Asus is probably best known for its range of motherboards, but also produces notebooks, graphics cards, coolers, cases and pretty much everything else under the sun. You guessed it, it now makes a Skype handset.
Here you can see the AiGuru S1 sitting in its dock. A transformer is supplied with a mini-USB connection. To charge, this can be either plugged in to the phone itself, or in to the dock. When the phone is placed on the dock, two spring loaded pins contact with the phone to charge it. The battery is Lithium-ion and will provide 25 hours of standby time and 2.5 hours of talk time. If you ran out of battery mid-conversation, you can always plug in the charger and carry on talking.
The phone itself looks like a rather old mobile phone, but it's hardly unattractive. The screen has a bright blue backlight and has a resolution of 128x64 pixels. That's fine for displaying the essentials, and it does so quickly. There is nothing more annoying than an interface which is slow to react!
What really excited me about this product is that it connects using 802.11b/g wireless. This excitement was however, short lived. In a perfect world, this device would be able to connect to any pre-existing wireless infrastructure and bypass the need for a computer entirely. However, in this case, a USB wireless adapter is included with customised software that needs installing on the machine.
The dongle itself is nothing fancy, although it does come with a flexible USB extension lead that allows you to position the device around 360 degrees, for the best possible reception.
Once the software is installed, the phone must be plugged in using the supplied USB cable. The software then gives the wireless details to the phone, so that it can always connect.
The software on the PC then interacts with Skype and relays information to the phone. From the phone you can select one of your contacts and start a call, or just dial in a phone number.