We’ve been playing around with the new 3 Skypephone for a month or so now, so I figured it was about time I wrote a post about our impressions of it.
The phone itself is a pretty nice sized candy-bar style handset. The pair I have are in a stylish matt black finish, although I think they come in silver too. Size-wize, it’s just very slightly smaller and lighter than the Nokia 6120 Classic that I have on a contract with 3.
While the 3 Skypephone has the usual camera, video, media player, web browser functionality that most mobiles do nowadays, what makes it different is that it has direct access to the Skype service built-in.
When you turn on the handset it signs into the Skype service, and then the square central button gives one-push access to your Skype contacts instead of your normal phone contacts.
When making calls to other Skype phones and calls to Skype PC clients, the sound quality seemed to be on a par with PC to PC Skype calls.
The plus points
- size and appearance
- well integrated Skype client
- free (effectively) unlimited Skype calls, as long as you top up each month
- a decent 2 mega-pixel camera
The not-so-good points
- a fiddly key pad (lots of wrong button presses!)
- a relatively low resolution screen
- lack of support for SkypeIn calls
I don’t want to get all techy, but my understanding of how the Skype client on the 3 handsets works is that it actually uses a phone gateway through which Skype calls are routed, so you’re not actually making a true 100% VOIP call (not that this makes a blind bit of difference as far as I’m concerned).
A Skype client has been available on 3’s X-Series phones and packages for a while now (I already had it on my Nokia 6120 Classic), so the launch of a dedicated handset is part marketing hype and part deeper integration of the Skype service into hardware and interface design on the handset.
Personally if you use Skype a lot, I’d recommend getting a 3 mobile, as it means you can always be available to Skype callers without any expensive call forwarding from within the Skype service when you’re not at your PC.
That said, if you’re going to do this, I’d recommend getting an X-Series mobile on the 3 network, as they’re more advanced handsets than the 3 Skypephone itself, and (if you can cope with a slightly less integrated client) they still have Skype on them. The X-Series handsets are more technically advanced than the Skypephones – meaning you can do everything the Skypephone does and more.
My guess is that the Skypephone is probably targetted at a different market from the X-Series phones – Skypephones are aimed at bringing accessible mobile VOIP to the mass market pay-as-you-go user, while X-Series is more about using handsets for a wide range of data-intensive smartphone applications.
It’ll be interesting to see whether the Skypephone does sell in large numbers – despite widespread availability PC-based VOIP clients have remained relatively niche in the UK, probably in part due to competition in the landline market meaning call prices remain relatively low and many users have unlimited call packages.
My main gripe with 3’s implementation of the Skype service is that it doesn’t support SkypeIn numbers (traditional landline numbers that connect to you on your Skype account), nor does it support SkypeOut (Skype’s service for calling non-Skype users). I can see some commercial challenges with these services for 3, but the omission of SkypeIn really limits the usefulness of having Skype on your mobile for me – it’s fine for Skype to Skype calls, but not much use for people calling me on my SkypeIn number.