A package arrived in the mail a few days ago containing a Vonage V-Phone, a new USB gadget that lets you make phone calls via your internet connection from any computer.
Vonage is a familiar name in North America as one of the rising stars in internet phone services. While relatively new over here (they started their UK service just last year), I’ve been hearing their name more and more.
So when I took a call from Inferno PR, their UK PR agency, with an offer to try out the V-Phone for a couple of months, I thought, why not?
I’m pretty much wedded to Skype as my internet phone service of choice, having been a user for over two years and I’m not actively looking to change that.
Still, the internet phone services market is one that continues to evolve very quickly with new business models and new services appearing with new ideas and offers that really push the boundaries of possibilities and consumer appeal.
In the case of the V-Phone which launched in the UK last month, you get a 256Mb USB stick with Vonage Talk software installed. It comes with stereo earphones and microphone plus your new UK phone number.
You buy it for just under Â£20 (more or less equal to its $39.99 list price in the US: nice to see Vonage didn’t just stick a pound sign in front of the US price) and then you subscribe to a payment plan starting from Â£7.99 a month which gives you unlimited and free calls to any landline number in the UK and Ireland, anytime. You can also make international calls which you pay for.
A V-Phone account comes with a suite of the essentials you’d expect from an internet phone service today including voicemail, call waiting, call diversion, calling from within Outlook, etc, plus a real number so anyone can call you.
Once set up, you’re good to go on any computer running Windows 98 and upwards (but not a Mac or a Linux computer) that you plug the USB stick into as everything runs from the USB drive. No software to install on any computer.
To get started, you just plug the V-Phone stick into a USB port and watch as the auto-setup program sets thing up and launches Vonage Talk from the stick. If everything’s ok, you’ll then get an on-screen keypad and you’re ready to make your first call.
This week is a good time to try out the V-Phone as I’m on the road in the UK with my traveling laptop for much of the week in different hotels at different locations (and so, different internet connections).
So I’ll be taking the V-Phone with me for a spin to see if the moniker Time magazine slapped on it in mid July as its Gadget of The Week is a valid one.
Will it persuade me to switch from (or at least co-exist with) Skype? That’s a big challenge for the V-Phone.
Don’t forget the per diem ACCESS charges made by hotels. At the Manchester Hilton, where I’m currently staying – it’s a whopping Â£15 per day. And this in the city that wants to be a massive wifi hotsopot?
Seems to be a similar picture just about everywhere in the UK, Dennis. I’m currently at the Marriott Forest of Arden hotel in Meriden, Warwicks, which also charges 15 a day. Just two price options, in fact – that or 6 for one hour.
Clearly high-speed net access is seen by hotels as a nice little earner.
As far as the Vonage V-Phone goes, it works just fine on this hotel’s net connection. Better than Skype, in fact, which suffered from many voice break-ups. None with the V-Phone. Ok, I don’t know the tech details of the underlying technology and whether it’s a fair comparison between the two. From a typical user’s point of view, though. will he/she care?