This year sees Skype casting off its PC shackles as a number of vendors release Wi-Fi Skype-enabled phones. The concept is simple enough as this new breed of mobile incorporates a wireless client and the Skype software allowing you to log on to the Internet from available access points and make and receive phone calls without going near a PC.
SMC’s is one of the first to market and its WSKP100 looks smart enough with its Apple-style white plastic front cover. Build quality is reassuringly solid although it would have been nice if the kit included a pouch to protect its good looks. The 1.8in colour LCD panel has a 128 x 160 pixel resolution which combined with a decent backlight makes it clear enough to see in most conditions. In the phone’s base is a socket for charging the battery and SMC supplies a small mains transformer and USB cable. Next door is a headphone socket and the kit includes a single earpiece and microphone cable. Both ports are protected by small rubber covers and the only other external control is a volume rocker switch on the side of the case.
It took a little while to get used to the keypad although it doesn’t lend itself terribly well to one hand operations and the blue backlight doesn’t make it easy to see the keys in the dark. We did like the little navigation joystick as this, combined with the soft keys on either side made light work of moving through the menu options. The WSKP100 has an 802.11b/g wireless client and supports 64/128-bit WEP and WPA/WPA2 encryption. Once the battery has been fully charged which takes around eight hours you can switch the phone on whereupon it takes you through a simple setup procedure. Select your language, agree to Skype’s terms and conditions and then move on to scanning for any available access point. Bear in mind that you won’t be able to use wireless hot-spots that employ a web browser portal as the phone can’t run one.
The phone displays all discovered access points along with details on any security. Use the joystick to scroll down and select one and, if required, enter a network key. We started off with a connection to an open wireless access point and were then taken to the Skype account setup phase. If you already have an account just enter your username and password but if not then the phone can set one up for you. We opted for the latter and the process only took a couple of minutes. Once you’ve registered it would be advisable to access your new Skype account and top it up as we were generously given 0.09 euros of free calls after our account had been created.