A nice man from 3 sent me a couple of phones to play with this week. They are Skypephones. This is a very clever idea. The mobile works as a mobile, but because it has 3G, and is therefore connected to a nice fast network, it can use Skype as well.
Skype is an network based telephony solution. I find it very useful when I travel abroad and want to call home, because the bulk of the time a call uses the Internet to deliver the data, I only have to pay for the short hop from Skype to the actual phone in at the other end. It means I can phone Hull from anywhere in the world for around 2p a minute.
If the person I'm calling is on Skype too, rather than on their home phone, then the call is free. Up until now one snag has been that there is that there has been no mobile solution. Until now, and the 3 Skypephone. If your 3 contract includes free internet access then you can call other Skype users (or other Skypephone owners) for nothing. Anywhere in the world. Very clever. If you must call a "proper" phone the call will not cost much either.
The only snag that I can think of is those magic three words "Fair Use Policy". I've not been able to find out what constitutes reasonable use of your 3 "unlimited" internet connection. Voice shouldn't take up too much bandwidth, and it should allow for reasonable levels of use, but I wouldn't expect completely unlimited talk time.
The phone hardware is neat, very small and works. There is even a browser (although you can't use it to read this hallowed blog). The price (even for pay as you go) is very good. It will even support Microsoft Live Messenger at some point, and there is a Skype messaging service too. I think you can use a Skype phone as a modem on your computer (although I've not made that work yet and 3 might not see that as appropriate use). The phone has a little camera and supports Bluetooth, and you can plug in memory cards with music and media on them. All in all a good device.
If I had loads of people abroad that I wanted to be in regular contact (say I was an overseas student) this would be an ideal solution. Dad could use his computer at home to call my Skype mobile at no cost to him, or me.
If you're at Hull and you want to see my Skype phones, give me a yell. I've only got them for a few more weeks, but they are worth a look.
I've been doing some more digging. There is a really good explanation of the data options and pricing for the Skypephone here. It seems to me that if you are after low cost internet access for your mobile PC you would be bonkers not to get one. A Pay as You Go SkypePhone costs 49.99 (around the same price as an XBOX 360 or PS3 game). It will provide you with a good quality mobile internet solution at a knock down price. Whenever I go away I'm always amazed (and apalled) how much UK hotels try to charge you for internet access. A Skypephone would pay for itself in just one trip. I'm very tempted to get one just for use on my travels, and I don't go away that much.