Vonage Unveils USB V-Phone

In an effort to diversify its offerings, VoIP provider Vonage has taken the wraps off its V-Phone, a diminutive USB device with flash memory and Vonage software pre-installed. The idea is that to place telephone calls using Vonage VoIP service, users just need access to a broadband-enabled Windows machine: pop the phone into a USB port, pop the earpiece mic into the V-Phone, and you’re ready to go.

“Vonage is pleased to offer our customers the convenience of making phone calls wherever they are, simply by plugging into any laptop or PC with a high speed broadband internet connection,” said Daniel Smires, Vonage’s senior VP of engineering. “One of the best features of the V-Phone is that customers are not limited to PC to PC calling and they still get a variety of choices with Vonage’s inexpensive, flat-rate and full-featured calling plans.”

The V-Phone features a detachable stereo earpiece microphone and 256 MB of flash memory (of which 250 MB or so is available to the user, so it’s also a USB mass storage device). Vonage Talk software is pre-loaded on the device: when users plug the device into a Windows computer, an on-screen telephone appears and users are capable of placing and receiving calls. (The V-Phone comes with a new Vonage phone number.) When users are done, they simply remove the V-Phone from the USB port and all their contact information and calling data goes with them: nothing is left behind on the Windows machine.

The V-Phone costs $39.99 with a $9 activation feel; customers also need to sign up for a Vonage calling plan, which run from $14.99 for 500 to $24.99 and $34.99 for unlimited calling for residential and business customers, respectively. the V-Phone requires Windows 98/ME/2000/XP; it is not compatible with Macs or Linux systems.

Reaction to the V-Phone has been mixed, with analysts trying to decide what market segments might be tempted by the V-Phone, and VoIP enthusiasts looking for compelling solutions to go with Vonage rather than alternatives like Skype.