On the SPH101 the power switch has been moved off the keypad and on to the top of the casing. Once powered up the phone will search for available wireless access points and display them for selection. Enter your key for those that have encryption switched on and you can save these details and use them for automatic logons. Be aware that the phone cannot run a web browser so any public hotspots that require this to log in will be unavailable. Once you have wireless Internet access the phone will offer you the opportunity to set up a new Skype account or enter details of an existing one.
The phone’s main display shows your status, how much cash is left in your Skype account, battery charge level and the signal strength of the wireless connection. A big disappointment is the miserable selection of ring tones available – surely Skype could have come up with something better than these three embarrassments. However, if you can’t face the idea of anyone else hearing them you can switch to a silent mode and use the vibration mode only. There are a number of call related limitations as you can’t engage in texting and the phone can only participate in conferences but not initiate them.
Contacts can be kept organised in the phone for quick access and the History option provides a complete rundown of inbound and outbound calls, those missed and voicemails. Searches for Skype users can be conducted and if permitted they can be added to your contact list. The Services option shows your credit status plus the amount of time remaining on it and if you purchased SkypeIn you can view your chosen number and your subscription status.
During testing we found the voice quality of the SPH101 to be vastly superior to SMC’s SWPSK100. The microphone is sited on the front panel rather than underneath and this location resulted in none of the irritating echoing that plagued SMC. Calling out to landlines resulted in good clarity and recipients were generally impressed as most were unaware that they were being called over Skype unless we told them.
If you’re in the market for a Skype phone then the SPH101 warrants closer inspection as Netgear scores highly on build quality, design and call clarity. However, it does have a few niggling faults and the level of call related features on offer simply don’t justify the price tag.