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Monday, October 20, 2008

The Inexpensive Divas of Skype: IPEVO Skype Phones



I've been testing two of the new phones from Ipevo for the past four weeks.  Each has a different use in my classroom.  The first phone, the Free.1 USB Handset is perfect for phone calls and recording podcasts, the second is the TR10 speakerphone which completely solved the echo / Skype conference classroom problem that takes so much energy to solve.

Both of these devices are completely PC / Mac compatible with the recent fix to the speakerphone, making it compatible with ichat as announced this past Wednesday on Engadget.

As with all tests I do for vendors, I make only the promise that: 1) I will tell the truth and 2) I will tell them honestly about the problems or issues that I have and give them time to work it out before I blog it.


1. IPEVO FREE.2 USB Handset for SKYPE
(MSRP $39.99)

My classroom has limited or no cellular service and I have no school telephone.  Additionally, I fix computers all over the school, and we have only a few fixed phones with only one cordless. 

My biggest issue is with tech support.  I have to call and get answers, fix things, and then repeat answers to teachers. 

So, I use this Ipevo handset to easily call phone numbers -- I already had Skype Out (which runs around $40 a year.) I can be anywhere with my laptop, fixing computers, call vendors, AND use the handy Ipevo recording function to record the call and then share it with the teacher later.  Instead of repeating everything, I just email them the recording.  If the other person has skype, it tells them that you are recording, a courtesy that every recorder should do!

Additionally, I used this at our Special Olympics Bocce Ball tournament.  Some of the special olympians didn't have telephones and they wanted to call others, so we were able to make it available this way through my laptop and the wireless that reached out to the baseball field where we were set up. 

We sent text messages to student cell phones via skype by typing to manage the event.  We set up groups in my skype address book and it is a very helpful tool for managing events.

The call clarity is very good and I adore the recording feature -- the interface for recording is GREAT and the newest released software allows recording in mp3 instead of wav which is much more compressed.

I recommend this for:

  • People who are afraid of making skype calls, it takes them to familiar territory. 
  • Tech support people with spotty cell coverage or wireless telephone service in the places they support BUT have good wireless coverage over their area.
  • People who want to record phone calls.
  • Organizations who run large events and expect incidental phone service to be needed by others or need to text messages easily to their volunteers. (Will need skype out.)
  • It is worth it for the robust, stable recording software!
If you need your hands free, you'll still want  a headset, but I think this is a great device.  One suggestion I have for Ipevo -- make a handset with very big numbers and this would be a great device for cash-strapped retirees for Christmas.  I think the numbers are a little small for those who have poor eyesight.

And as with most devices, I recommend that you just install the software from their website to make sure you have the most current version.

iPevo TR-10 Speakerphone for iChat
(MSRP $79.90)
I am in love with this speakerphone for the classroom that is using skype to video conference their classes with others.

My ninth grade class used it to video conference with Al Upton.  Whether I fed the sound output through my speaker system or used the internal speaker, the sound was excellent.

I did find that the recording worked better if I fed Al through the external speakers as I didn't have an internal soundcard that permits recording through his voice through the speakerphone itself.

I had NO echo.  I was able to record when Al came through the regular speakers.  And, it took less than five minutes to set up.

When I let Al come through the internal speaker, all of the students could hear.

Additionally, the recording software didn't put too much strain on my system, as I was also able to go into Second Life AND have Al's video on my screen, record, and have the skype call quality stay true.

I also LOVE this device for the same reasons as I enjoyed the handset listed above.  When I'm fixing computers and cannot handle a headset nor a telephone and I do not mind having my audio overheard, then this is the device I plug in. 

With the fact that I can pull in people over skype and landline - I can literally make a 10 (or more) person conference call over my laptop, record it, and put this device in the middle of a table to function like a regular speaker phone.  And, unless I need skype out, it is free.  I think this makes the speakerphone very attractive for sales reps and those who want to help customers in the field.  They could plug in their speakerphone, call a customer care line or tech support issue with the customer listening in, record the call, and solve the problem right there using the Internet.

This device still requires you to dial ON the computer in the Skype program, but for me that isn't a problem. 

I recommend this for:
  • Classrooms who want to video skype and don't have the funding for expensive speaker/ microphone systems.
  • Mobile presenters who want to demonstrate skype video capabilities.
  • Classrooms who want to mobile skype, record, and turn it into a podcast easily.
  • Tech support people who need hands free skype calling and don't have privacy issues.
  • People who make a lot of conference calls and want to save on the cost.
  • Mobile sales reps who want to make calls, trouble shoot, and have wireless coverage.
Just remember, sometimes Skype over wireless can give issues, so keep this in mind.

Other options

For those who just can't stand the thought of even using a computer, Ipevo does have some phones that just require you to plug them directly into your network and they use the Internet sans the laptop or computer.  (See the Ipevo SOLO Skype Desktop Phone )

I would love to hear what you're using for your skype phone.  Honestly, I really didn't think I needed one, until I got these and now I'm sold!!  My skype phone stays with me in my laptop case.



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