VTech Phones to Offer Email, Info, Wi-Fi

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VTech Communications has announced a set of new Internet-enabled cordless landline phones which aim to combine all the features consumers want in a traditional landline handset with convenience and messaging features they normally only get from their computer or wireless PDA.

VTech’s ip8300 infoPhone will offer real-time information from the Internet on the phone’s color LCD display—including news headlines, sports scores, weather, horoscopes, and local directory searches—and even provide access to email and instant messaging via the handset. The phone operates as a standard cordless handset, while the base station sports an Ethernet jack which pops onto a user’s home network. VTech has partnered with Casabi to provide integrated access to Internet services. The Casabi software provides an interface to email, IM, and information feeds, and users configure and organize the information to be sent to the handset via a Web-based portal. The phone offers the usual gamut of landline features (including caller ID, a speakerphone, voicemail indicator), hotkeys for favorite information services, and the system supports up to five $50 ip831 handsets. No word on what IM services it supports and what Internet-based information will be available, but the company promised to show the phone at CES in January, and get it on the market by March 2007. Estimated retail price: $129.95.

VTech has also announced its wf6972 Wi-Fi phone which, instead of grabbing Internet information from a Ethernet-connected base station, pulls it out of the air from a nearby PC via 802.11 wireless technology. The handsets sport a color LCD screen for data display, offer caller ID and a speakerphone, plyus the ability to share phonebook directories between handsets via Wi-Fi. Again, VTech plans to show off the handsets at CES, and the wf6972 is expected to be priced at $179.95 when it his retailers in April 2007. The system can accommodate up to five handsets via $80 wf6909 accessory handsets.

Interestingly, both the ip8300 and wf6972 systems use a 1.9 GHz band for cordless phone operations, via Digital Enhanced Cordless Telecommunication (DECT) 6.0 technology. Although it’s been in use in Europe for some time, the system has only recently been approved in the United States. Unlike some cordless phones on the market today, the 1.9 GHz band doesn’t conflict with Wi-Fi and other wireless services.

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