Skype is a wonderful thing. If you have broadband Internet it enables you to keep in touch with friends and family at long distance for nothing - if you call Skype to Skype. And you can make big savings on calls to overseas business contacts if you subscribe to the Skypeout service.
But it's hardly the most convenient thing to use if you have to sit in front of your computer every time you want to make a call. Donning a headset and fiddling with microphone and speaker settings is also a pain, and you soon tire of not being able to wander around the house while talking. Most people use the system for occasional calls as a result - it's just not convenient to do anything else - yet as products such as this Ubiquio 101 prove, it doesn't have to be this way.
The idea behind the 101 is to combine two phone services in one device, making it as simple to make and receive Skype calls as it is landline calls. It's not the first product to do this, by any means, but its price (£35) brings such features to the masses in a way that dedicated wireless Skype phones costing around £100 do not. Walk into an electrical store on the high street and you'd barely be able to purchase a decent DECT phone for this sort of money, so to get the Skype functions as well for this price is impressive.
And it does the job it sets out to pretty well. The handset itself is a rather unassuming; it looks like a normal DECT phone, in fact. And you connect and charge it in largely the same way you would a normal cordless phone. Just plug the base station into the mains and landline socket and you're away. The handset is powered by a pair of AAA NiMH batteries (included). The key difference between this and a standard DECT phone is the small USB dongle provided in the box: slot this into a free socket on your PC or laptop, install the provided software and the phone will now be able to talk to Skype wirelessly in addition to its DECT base station for landline calls.
With the handset charged, you'll find it's as easy to use as it is to set up. The handset is small and comfortable to hold. It has a hands-free headset socket on the side if you want to use it while taking typed notes, for example. The keys have an attractive blue backlight, and are straightforwardly laid out with intuitive labels too; it's obvious, for instance, which key to use to turn on the speaker phone function. A pair of 'soft' context-sensitive keys just below the screen make navigation around the phone simple, and I liked the fact that it has a colour screen - albeit one that uses the slightly smudgy-looking DSTN LCD technology.