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3 Skypephone

 3 Skypephone Available November 2007
29th October 2007

We've not often seen such a media buzz accompanying the launch of a new handset, but the 3 Skypephone certainly seems to have generated a lot of comment, even from the BBC.

So what is it about this unremarkable looking mobile phone that seems to have generated all the excitement? Yes, the name Skypephone and the large Skype button on the keypad are pretty obvious, but why should an inexpensive VOIP handset be of any interest to consumers? After all, we've seen plenty of VOIP devices before that have hardly set the market alight.

In fact, what really makes the 3 Skypephone work isn't the Skype component - because that's available on many other mobile phones, but it's a combination of 3's very inexpensive calling plans and a handset that has been designed to use Skype from the beginning - rather than as an afterthought. And as far as consumers are concerned, Skype is synonymous with internet-based telephony.

 Skypephone colours Before we look behind the scenes, let's have a quick look at the 3 Skypephone's hardware. Obviously, it's a 3G device as it runs on the Hutchison 3 network. It has a 2" 176x220 pixel display, a 2 megapixel camera, microSD expandable memory (with 256MB in the box) and Bluetooth. Software includes a multimedia player and web browser, and of course the built-in Skype application. It's a fairly modest hardware specification, but then the 3 Skypephone is very light at just 86 grams and it has a good 4.5 hours talktime and 13 days standby time - remember that this is a 3G phone, and mobiles of this type tend to be larger and more power hungry than GSM phones. There are three colours available - white/blue, white/pink and black.

Annoyingly, this is just a dual band 900/1800 MHz GSM and 2100 MHz UMTS phone, so it won't work in the US. There's also no video calling camera - although we suspect that people will miss that rather less.

 

As we said, Skype is built into the Skypephone's software as an integral component. The Skypephone isn't exactly a smartphone, but it is built on Qualcomm's BREW platform which is a sophisticated and well-regarded development environment. BREW is often seen as an alternative to Java, but the Skypephone will also support Java-based applications such as games.

 3 Skypephone screenshots The Skype integration appears to be pretty seamless - Skype details show in the Skypephone's contacts and can be selected and called using the Skype button.. if they're not a Skype user, then you can just click the standard call button. The Skypephone shows the status of each contact, so you know if they're logged onto Skype or not. You can also use the Skype IM (Instant Messaging) client, although remember that the Skypephone doesn't have a QWERTY keypad.

We said that the other component that made this work was 3's pricing structure - and 3 have certainly made it an attractive proposition. In the UK, all subscribers get 4,000 Skype minutes for talk and 10,000 Skype messages - that's 66 hours of talk per month. That's not just the deal for contract customers - prepay customers get exactly the same deal. Contract deal start at £12 per month with a free phone, and the Skypephone is £49.99 for pay-as-you-go customers. In other countries, the deal and pricing will vary somewhat. Other Skype and VOIP devices rely on WiFi for a low-cost internet connection, but 3's deal makes this unnecessary for most users. However, We don't know how much Skype will cost if you go over the limits.

One final twist is this - in the UK, the launch date for the 3 Skypephone is 2nd November, just a few days before O2's launch of the Apple iPhone. Although the Skypephone and iPhone are very different, we suspect that quite a few people may see the Skypephone as being more useful.

3 say that the Skypephone will also be available in Australia, Austria, Denmark, Hong Kong, Italy, Ireland, Macau and Sweden during the remainder of 2007.

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3 Skypephone at a glance

Available:

Q3 2004

Network:

GSM 900 / 1800
UMTS 2100

Data:

GPRS + UMTS (3G)

Screen:

176x220 pixels, 262k colours

Camera:

2 megapixels

Size:

Medium monoblock
100 x 44 x 14mm / 86 grams

Bluetooth:

Yes

Memory card:

microSD

Infra-red:

No

Polyphonic:

Yes

Java:

Yes

Battery life:

4.5 hours talk / 13 days standby

 

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