RTX DualPhone 3088 – Skype without the PC

January 2, 2010

in Skype Journal

Who wants to Skype without a computer? Is Skype relevant or more relevant when the computer is no longer required? Two use cases really show how Skype usage is changing. One on mobiles like the iPhone Skype app (which fails the always on test) and then there is the traditional handset.

Over years of testing Skype and discussions with many people one concludes that usage occasions define the type of headset, handhold, speakerphone etc that we want to use when Skypeing / talking. So this is a post about the RTX DualPhone 3088, who I think it is for, where it fits in the Skypeosphere, and a few reasons to buy it. Yes I did get it along with a few other goodies from the ISS team who supply products to the Skype store.  So upfront I didn’t buy it although am considering buying one for my father. It’s worth writing up and discussing as it affect behavior and how perhaps we manage calls in the future.

What is a RTX Cordless DualPhone 3088?

Most importantly the RTX DualPhone 3088 is a Skype phone that doesn’t require you to have a computer on. Skype is embedded in the small basestation which plugs into your router. (more on product innovation later). More importantly, the phone doesn’t have to be anywhere near the basestation. It comes with its own charging unit and can sit in your kitchen or where ever you might want to have a phone convenient. For the most part it acts and operates like any cordless phone. You can also connect the base station to a traditional landline so the phone becomes a 2in1.

Setup was easy and I ignored the instructions. The handset has a wonderful color display. As a SkypePhone it works just fine. It also works as a basic / okay speakerphone. If you have a big buddylist on Skype then you may be a little annoyed at the 200 limit the phone imposes. I don’t know it it resynchs with the online contacts on each reconnect occurrence. It does mean that you may not find a contact that you know you have on the list. For those with the 200 buddies contacts are searchable and thus usually a letter will just find the one you want. That said I’m not sure the target for this phone is people that have 200+ buddies on Skype.

What else? It’s a handset. So it is not for messaging and there is no messaging functionality. And the keys really aren’t designed for texting. It also won’t set up conference calls etc. It will run concurrently with a Skype account on your desktop. So two or more endpoints can ring. So accept it for what it is. A cleanly styled phone although the charging dock is a little large. It wasn’t clear from the instruction book if you can add other units / extensions. Perhaps. However, that may also not be necessary. One possible way to look at this phone is as an “always on extension” for your laptop / PC. Plus keep it out of the office. The downside of this may or may not be that Skype accounts on PC’s tend to be personal while the home handset is well.. more shared by nature. Which brings us to who’s it for and perhaps even who should buy it?

Who’s the DualPhone for?
I think you purchase it when….

  • You want your wife/home to have an always on Skype connection when you travel a lot and they never became really Skype savvy. That also covers the use case where there isn’t an always-on Skype enabled PC.
  • Small business perhaps? May make sense to dedicate another account to this phone and call forward your own Skype account (s) to it. This “shared” option could be useful but there’s no way to transfer from the phone to someone else. So don’t expect to make it a PBX.
  • You want your parents to be on Skype but they are barely computer literate and again won’t have it on all the time. It’s a good way to keep them connected globally. The device is familiar and the technology disappears.
  • You just love Skype to death, and cannot do without a traditional handset for yacking. This may be the best motivation for many, although the motivation to buy this handset is also tied into saving money and cheap calls. We’ll come to cost and investment later.
  • You want to make Skype your landline equivalent (no 911) and get an account with SkypeOut and SkypeIn. Now your telephony is based on Skype costs and not the old style costs of the PSTN. The phone would payout in six months for most people. Unfortunately, landline numbers don’t seem to be portable or transferable. A variation on this. You could use Ribbit for your SkypeIn number and get addtional benefits and functionality while also staying in touch with your Skype buddies.

How I’ve used it.
I added my wife’s account to the Dualphone 3800. Then rather than connecting the base station to the PSTN I connected it to my Linksys Papt box (which connects to Gizmo5) which rings my GoogleVoice account which acts as our Home  phone number for traditional people that believe you still need one. GoogleVoice does lots of other neat messaging things too.

Where Was I Disappointed?
It took me awhile to figure out that this isn’t brand new to the market and launched back in 2007. So I’m not reviewing the latest technology or perhaps what I’d really like. More below. I did have an early RTX dualphone which I wrote up years ago. It was a great phone but keeping it synced with software updates from Skype was always a pain. This is a clear advance on that. Yet there are a few things that surprise me today.

  • Base stations are obsolete and perhaps not that convenient really. Actually it is sort of ok. Yet I’d expect an updated version to be WiFi enabled. I have no idea why you need to design this to plug into a router today although WiFi inside may complicate or simplify the setup.
  • In my experience where the router is.. is not necessarily where the phone lines are (cable dominates). A WiFi enabled rather than wired basestation would enable the charger to plug into the wall and the PSTN line. In the end these are trade-off although it seems to me the cost of the unit could be brought down this way.
  • I’d really like to see some messaging innovation. While I doubt I’d do texting on this phone most of my buddylist would text before calling me. That’s context before the call. I might actually appreciate it.. although wouldn’t want it bleeping on each update or perhaps on multi-chats.

Worth the Investment?
You can buy it today from the Skype Store for 169.99. That may be cheap for an “always-on” Skype that doesn’t need a PC yet in broader value terms it feels expensive to me. At $99.99 it might rocket out the door. The lastime I bought handsets for the home I purchased one of those sets with call recorder and that came with extensions and only needed one plugged in. Plenty of handsets everywhere and lots of noise when the phone rang. One standalone and Skype enabled phone doesn’t really replace that type of setup. So investment.

Lot’s of international calling or calling back home when traveling and need that always on handset ringing in the house. It could pay out quickly although rates today are so much cheaper than when Skype launched. The always-on can be created easily by forwarding Skype calls to a landline. You can buy a lot of minutes today for $169.99.

Want to make it pay out? Then use it as the excuse to dump your landline. Adopt SkypeIn or use Ribbit for that landline number. Use SkypeOut minutes and it will pay out real quick. Then again… maybe you love Skype and would just love to have it working without the trouble of using Windows.

  • PC-free Skype hardware first entered the market in 2006 – and it fell flat, dropping into the clearance bins rather quickly, with the manufacturers taking a bath. Many of these devices were introduced with huge fanfare, but never went very far.

    Skype and hardware are strange bedfellows. Skype zealots actually *like* that Skype is geeky to use – it makes it cool. And the hardware phones don’t support many of the benefits of Skype that are outside talking, the IM, presence etc. as you note. I don’t think any of the hardware phones support wideband (hi-def) audio either.

    I have a Linksys CIT400 that I leave connected simply to have an always-on presence on Skype, without having to sacrifice any CPU resources for it – but the voice quality sucks and it is pretty flakey and unreliable. I hardly ever use it.

    PS. I like the new theme.

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  • David, totally agree – yes those horrible handsets with USB cords were not useful and keeping them connected via the SkypeAPI almost impossible. Still that idea got Skype a big Sale price to eBay. The API was ahead of its time. Unfortunately the innovation stopped at the same time.

    Hardware become almost irrelevant when Skype and VoIP is integrated into the mobile handset. Truphone (when it was free and cheap to use) was a perfect example for me in 2006 making calls out of India on a Nokia N80 to the US for almost nothing when the bandwidth wasn’t enough for Skype.

    The idea of the home phone… or needing a Skype that is not always-on or always connected is so yesterday now. Text matters. That works on iPhones with SMS or notification turned on. However not with Skype or yet with GoogleTalk.

    Skype proved to me that we are names not numbers and would prefer to share a richer callerID. It also proved that it now just software. I still use Skype a lot. I’m not convinced it won’t be superceded… and that could be soon rather than years.

  • I have one of the Netgear phones. Not bad, but no one has figured out the human interface. There is some force determined to make this geeky. Skype has shown little interest or understanding of this market. I don’t see anything new of significance. No wonder Ooma can hang around. And now who wants to invest in a dying market.

  • Some company will get it right one day. Mostly I too have been disappointed in the fit and finish of the so called “Skype phones.”

    The only one I have seen that works is the INQ built Skype mobile phone for 3 in the UK.

  • I was referring to stand-alone Skype phones, not USB handsets, first appearing in 2006 with a lot of hype from pundits about how it was going to change everything and now most people don’t even remember it happening. So much so, that we saw Skype “PC-Free” phones hyped again in 2007 (see October 10, 2007 SkypeJournal “A Primer for Skype’s Direction — Skype Hardware”), again, as though they would change everything, to the same result, and again… 🙂

    Again, I think the two, Skype and PC-Free hardware, are strange bedfellows, a solution for a problem that doesn’t exist. I think your post nails both key reasons why someone might want it and the key reasons why nobody wants it. Skype is locked in to a PC-dominant user space. On a non-PC platform, Skype loses its competitive advantage.

  • Stu

    I’ve had one of these for about 6 months.

    When I bought it, it was overpriced (once you get it, it looks very cheap) – I bought it for £70, I think you can get it for £40 which is the most it is actually worth.

    The UI is the area that needs the most improvement:
    – When you scroll down there is a really visible redraw.
    – Theres no way to decide some contacts (or just any contacts outside your home country) should dial using skype, while others on the standard landline.
    You can set it to dial *all* via skype or just skype contacts, this means when phoning friends abroad I have to change the setting, then change it back later.
    Nice to haves:

    – Being able to toggle between multiple skype users would be useful if you live in shared house.
    – Being able to check / update missed calls via wifi

    Theres no forum on their website to create a community or give feedback, just an anonymous web forum, which is a real shame… the UI issues make it seem flakey and cheap, fixing just these would bring it up to a baseline.

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  • DaveI

    I disagree with the above statement. Really making use of Skype is enhanced by these non-PC solutions. I’ve been using the Belkin WiFi Skype phone for about three years now…While it is far from perfect it does allow me to have a SkypeIn “always on” solution. I work overseas and this means for me I have a U.S. dial-in number that I can give someone back in the U.S. to call back (Even though I’m in Africa). While other solutions like Vonage exist I have experience setting that up an in places like this where 128K DSL is $100 a month and 256K is more than $150 per month the Skype is clearly a better choice as it works fine on 128K. Vonage does not (Even when you have it turned down to the lowest quality setting). Do you really want to leave your PC always on just so you have Skype up and running. Think of the wear and tear on the computer. The cost of electricty, the increased threat to your computer because it is always on with the same IP. The Skype WiFi phone even though it definitely is not perfect filled a most needed niche. Not to mention its nice to simply lay on couch and talk with someone with the WiFi phone vs. having to sit in front of the computer or laptop. I’m sure that the RTX would also fit the bill but at $169.99 it does seem priced too high when you can buy the Belkin WiFi Phone (Or the Netgear) readily at $99.99. However it would be nice to have both the normal PSTN and the IP phone in one.

  • Rahat Khan

    I bought this for my parents in July and Installed it for them when I went back in August. It has been working great and so far it has Already paid for itself in calling costs that would have occurred to me otherwise (the phone is in Pakistan and is used for calls between Japan and Chile).
    My parents are retired and are comfortable with the basic operation of a mobile phone, and happily the interface on the RTX 3088 is not much more more difficult. For now it is the best solution I could find and am very happy with the results.
    By the way, the software on the handset will update if there is an update available and you can link upto 4 cordless handsets to one base station.

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  • Marlon

    Bought this phone two weeks ago. Shipping was fast and the phone was delivered to Canada from Hong Kong (found that out thru the DHL tracking number) in 3 days. At that point, i was excited.

    Bought it into the office and tried connecting it. I’m a techie kind of guy, so, trust me when I say it was all connected in accordance with the instructions sent.
    The bottom line is, after numerous tries, the handset was unable to connect to the base station.

    I tried resetting settings, rebooting the base station, and just for the heck of it, left it on for overnight after repalcing the batteries they sent with Duracell Rechargeables.

    Nothing works. There was never a connection to the internet, and skype never worked.

    The supplier was written with a description of the problem. Every 24 hours there is a reply and then another set of reset instructions were sent out for me to try, all of which I did already.

    I have read other reviews on this phone and it seems like this “support” problem lingers on until you get fedup and just dump the phone into the garbage.

    My advice, try another skype phone for this one is junk.


    super telephone facile d’emploi
    Vous hésitez encore?
    Passer votre chemin alors

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