The DualPhone 3088 Cordless Phone for Skype is the successor to the original Dualphone which we wrote about in November 2004. It is the first home Skype phone to operate without requiring a computer, which makes it a pretty advanced bit of tech. You simply hook it up to your broadband connection and landline sockets and start making Skype or conventional calls. So what is it like, and how does it compare with the latest of the conventional home Skype phones, the USR Cordless Skype Phone from US Robotics? Read on to find out…
One of the real reasons why clever companies so assiduously seek ‘first mover advantage’ is because it gives them time to stay ahead of the competition, and it’s pretty evident that RTX, the manufacturer of the Dualphone, have not been sitting around twiddling thumbs while others have brought out home Skype phones. This new product is a quantum leap over the earlier model in a number of ways.
Set up and Installation. Installation is simply a matter of unpacking, charging the handset battery for 6 hours and plugging the whole thing up to both landline and broadband router with a standard Ethernet cable. It’s very cool just to be able to sit the slimline base unit on a shelf and connect up to the Skype service without a PC, and you quickly realise that this is a huge advance for Skype. A Jupiter report out yesterday revealed that only 4% of online consumers use Skype regularly, but that could be about to change in a big way.
The contrast with this fast install, and the old one where you had to install Skype on a PC, plug in a USB and landline cable, install the Dualphone software and test the whole configuration is major. It turns the whole installation process from a 30 minute techie affair, to a 10 minutes or less consumer oriented jaunt. Just switch on the phone and it automatically asks you whether you want to log in to Skype, and then asks whether that should be automatic in future. And that’s it. Consumer friendly R Us.
In Use. The first thing you notice is that the company has clearly listened to its users. The old handset was clunky, heavy and had a very soft keypad which made it difficult to dial out. The new handset is small, with a nice modern design and a great full colour screen. The keypad is very clicky and tactile, and all the controls are easy to see and use. Top marks.
However, even so, I do prefer the US Robotics keypad for day to day use, simply because the keys are larger and more ergonomic, but there’s not that much in it. I also hope that the new Dualphone 3088 screen lasts longer than the old Dualphone mono LCD, which started losing characters after less than a year and a half of use, which was very unimpressive!
There are a heap of really nice touches about the new Dualphone. First is the fact that you have a complete Skype interface on the screen – including full Call History, Search and Contacts – so you get to see how much SkypeOut cash you have left on your account and you can access your Skype account directly from the handset, rather than having to fiddle about with a computer. The trade-off is that the interface is a tad sluggish, so don’t expect to go zipping around inside your contact list or anything. That said, the ergonomics of the handset are such that even newcomers to the Skype world should be able to get up and running very quickly after installation. Oh, but you will need a PC to add money to your SkypeOut account though!
One of the worse things about the USR Cordless handset is the fact that you cannot make a SkypeOut call using the conventional Address Book in the handset, you have to use the Skype Contacts address book. It’s a criminal omission and one that drastically reduces the phone’s usefulness. The original and now the new Dualphone let you dial out anywhere, using names from either address list, and the new Dualphone 3088 now lets you choose to make SkypeOut your permanent preferred network. This is a joy for those people who live in countries where SkypeOut calls are currently free to landlines (e.g. the US and UK), because it means that you automatically dial out on the freebie Skype service. More cautious souls can override this option and have the phone ask you which network you want to use, landline or Skype, each time you press the call button.
Sound and Vision. The new Dualphone handset is a little less specified when it comes to sounds. Whereas the USR comes with a lovely set of cell phone type ringtones and warning sounds, the Dualphone ships with a paltry set of very beepy sounds. Even the ringtones are barely beyond arcade game level. But to be fair to the manufacturers, cramming a full Skype client in the handset as well as a full 40 note polyphonic ringtone chipset is probably asking a little too much, especially at this price point. It doesn’t ruin the phone, because the sounds are actually OK, it’s just that once you’ve heard the USR you are kind of tones hungry.
The call audio quality is, however, excellent on the Dualphone, clear and loud, so obviously the use of an internal Skype client hasn’t affected the all important audio a jot. In fact my sister-in-law in Spain tells me that calls are much clearer using the Dualphone 3088 than the laptop and USR Cordless handset we were using before, because the echo has gone from her end, so maybe there’s even an improvement from doing away with the PC? Go figure.
Like the USR Cordless, the Dualphone has both a headphone socket and speakerphone facility built in, which is great if you need to keep both hands free for typing or washing up etc whilst on a call.
Conclusion. There’s not really any argument about it. If you want the state of the art in Skype phones now, you’ll have to go for the Dualphone 3088, no question. The big trade off, however, is that because there’s no computer running Skype you cannot run any of the more exotic Skype extension applications like EQO or Fring, which will make it more difficult to hook your home Skype connection up to your mobile phone. At the moment there’s no real way round that, except to run a second instance of Skype on a PC, which is a bit of a kludge, but that’s sure to change over time as more technology comes on to the market. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a future Version 3 of the Dualphone come with some sort of cell phone server software on it, and it’s very interesting to note that this Dualphone is actually software upgradeable via the handset.
All in all, a great phone and a great solution. Well done. Priced at £99.00 from most main PC and electrical outlets in the UK and £109.99 online. Verdict: 9.5/10
More Photos (click thumbnails to expand)
The old and new Dualphone handsets are poles apart. Not least in the fact that the new model does away with the silly proprietary battery pack in favour of using two standard AAA rechargeables. Again nicely played.
At first glance it looks as though the Dualphone comes with a beautifully detailed user manual, unlike the primitive PC peripheral type from US Robotics. But looks do deceive dear readers, for the nice thick Installation Guide is no more rich in content, and in fact to learn how to do things like increase the ringtone volume of the Dualphone handset you have to go online to the 3088 User Manual on their site. Not great as a solution RTX, even a CD would help.
Although it looks as though you need the same amount of power sockets for old and new technology, the fact that there’s no PC involved with the Dualphone does free up a power outlet. Hey every bit counts eh?
- Range: Indoor up to 50 meters. Outdoor up to 300 meters
- Talk time: more than 10 hours • Standby time: Up to 100 hours
- Colour display with graphical user interface
- High-quality speaker phone
- Power on/off key
- AC adapter (110V-240V – 50/60Hz)
- Rechargeable AAA Ni-MH batteries
- Backlit display
- 10 polyphonic ring tones
- Headset jack
- New message light indicator on handset (Skype Voice Mail, Missed Call, Message Waiting) Indicator on base station
- Power, network Ports on base station
- WAN (Ethernet -10/100 Base-T, RJ-45)
- PSTN (RJ-11)
- Broadband Internet connection with Ethernet (cable, DSL, etc.)
- Landline operator subscription (PSTN, VoIP, VoDSL etc.)