Verizon Hub Re-imagines the Home Phone

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Verizon Wireless—a company, as the name implies, is mostly concerned with mobile phone services—has introduced the Verizon Hub, a new VoIP-capable tabletop device designed to fit the roll of a home phone and information device. However, instead of relying on landline connectivity, the device latches on to an existing WiFi wireless network and provides VoIP phone service (and access to Verizon Wireless services) via an existing broadband Internet connection—regardless of whether that connection if from Verizon or another provider.

The Verizon Hub features a cordless handset, a 7-inch touchscreen display, and a profile that looks something like an executive phone on a villian’s desk from a couple-decades old techno-thriller. Under the hood, the Verizon Hub runs a version of Linux 2.6, sports 128 MB of RAM (and another 128 MB of storage(), and a 500 MHz CPU. The idea is that users drop the Verizon Hub into their kitchen or living room, and the phone becomes the center of their messaging and information needs in the home, providing access to popular Verizon content and services already available on mobile phones, while offering VoIP calling and coordination with multiple family members. For instance, Verizon Hub owners can manager calendars using the Hub, and sent updates and location messages to Verizon Wireless users out of the house.

Users can also access Verizon’s VZ Navigator mapping service to get maps, find local businesses, and even buy movie tickets—and, of course, streaming movie trailers are available too. Users can also check local traffic, weather, and news, pull up recipes, look up phone numbers, and manage call logs. The Hub also integrates with Verizon’s Chaperone service (separate subscription required) to let parents automatically show the location of children’s phones…and pop the directions right over their own mobile phone.

The Verizon Hub does not offer any sort of video phone capability, although it does sport USB ports that might be used to support peripherals in the future.

The Verizon Hub is available now For $199.99 after a $50 mail-in rebate and a new two-year agreement; the Hub requires a digital voice plan for $34.90 a month. User need 911 service, in-home broadband, a wireless router, and (of course) Verizon Wireless mobile service to use the Hub.

All told, the Verizon Hub seems like it wants to play the role of a home phone for users who have given up their landlines, but yearn for the days when lives were centered around a kitchen telephone and the little flipbook of numbers that used to sit next to it. The Hub does offer access to mobile services that many mobile users depend on—the question is whether those mobile users really want to purchase a device to sit on a counter or table to provide those services when they already have a mobile phone. Of course, if Verizon Wireless service doesn’t work so well inside their house, the Hub might make a lot of sense…but so would the new Verizon Network Extender.

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