So the iPhone really is here. (Actually, it’s been here since October 2005 at least, but more on that later). I was recently given an evaluation unit of the new Linksys CIT300 Dual-Mode Internet Telephony kit, a member of the Linksys iPhone line. The kit includes a combination landline / Skype cordless phone and a base unit that connects to your landline and a PC running Skype. I was excited to put this new gadget through some paces. I’m not a huge Skype user, but if this device truly integrates Skype with my existing home phone service, that has the potential to change my calling habits.
I’ll say right up front that I had an overall very positive experience with the CIT300. The phone is well designed, easy to use, and could go a long way towards bringing Skype into even more households. It does an admirable job of including key Skype functionality on a small handset, and handles its dual life as a landline cordless phone gracefully. But for several factors, the biggest being the inconsistent quality I experience with SkypeOut and SkypeIn calls, I’m not going to be switching to a device like this in my home anytime soon.
As we’ve come to expect with Linksys, installation and set-up was a breeze. After connecting the base station to a phone line and a PC, I ran the straightforward installation program. You have to authorize the software to use Skype and log on to your Skype account, and then it just pleasantly all works.
It was very interesting to have one handset that handled both my landline and Skype calls, and a new experience for me to use a handset for Skype calls. As I previously mentioned, my experiences using Skype connected to the PSTN have been pretty awful, and this device just amplified that problem for me. It was a very convenient handset for connecting to other Skype users though, where the quality was excellent, and I would imagine those with long Skype buddy lists would take to this product.
The handset is small, in the Nokia candy bar style, and the buttons have a bright and rather jarring red light when in use. I didn’t particularly like the feel of the basic handset, but it was perfectly adequate and familiar and easy to use. There aren’t many features here though, no extra bells and whistles. The main attraction is being able to do Skype and landline calling on the same device.
It was impressive to be able to scroll through my Skype buddy list on a small handset, and even more so to be able to easily toggle between my home phone line and Skype. At an estimated street price of $100, the CIT300 seems like a good deal.
One thing that I didn’t like about using the CIT300 alongside of my existing home phone system was the latency in its landline functions. On landline calls the Linksys phone would take significantly longer to start and stop ringing than my other cordless phones, to the point where I’d have answered a call on my existing phone, but sometimes still hear the Linksys phone ringing.
That iPhone Name
They say no press is bad press, and I doubt Linksys minds that their choice of name for this line of phones has solidly collided with the incessantly growing rumors around a possible phone from Apple. I’m pretty sure that the release of a new line of Internet-enabled phones with another name would not have received nearly as much media attention as the Linksys iPhone has in the past few days.
I, of course, couldn’t help but notice the “iPhone” label when I received this unit. So I asked my contact at Cisco what he could tell me about the name. Apparently, Cisco (who owns Linksys) acquired Infogear Technology Corporation in 2000, and Infogear had trademarked “iPhone” all the way back in 1996. I was also told that the CIT200 was the first Linksys-branded product in the iPhone family, which has been shipping since October of 2005. I guess we all missed that one.