3 Skypephone in-depth review -

Look and feel

The Skypephone is a fairly unassuming looking candybar, but it's compact and robust with a smooth matt black or white finish with a choice of colour trims. At the centre of the phone's keypad sits the Skype key, which doubles up as the joypad. The keypad is a little cramped but the keys are beveled so are still responsive. And, while the display is fairly small, it's still bright and crisp enough to present all features and applications perfectly clearly.

Ease of use

As you'd expect Skype is simple to use with the Skypephone, with its one click access key. Whether you want to make a Skype call, add a new Skype contact, or begin an internet chat, it's all very easy. It's easy to forget that this is a 3G phone that's packed with 3G enhanced features like mobile TV and access to well known internet applications - all of which are easy to locate and access. A launcher soft key takes you straight through to applications like Google, YouTube and Facebook.

Features

Considering the price tag, the Skypephone is crammed with them. Okay, so the two megapixel camera is fairly run of the mill, but you get one-click access to Skype, YouTube, Facebook and eBay, cool games like Pac Man and mobile TV - and this really is mobile TV, with access to BBC1 and ITV and a very respectable picture. An astounding value for money feature set.

Performance

Everything we tested worked well. Mobile TV works a treat and internet browsing is fairly rapid. This phone punches well above its weight.

Battery life

The battery life on the Skypephone is respectable without being astounding. However, we were only having to recharge it after two full days of use, while testing most of the features.

 3 Skypephone Review -
4

Review by Sunetra Chakravati,12/12/2011 3:51:14 PM

8

out of 10

Performance

8

out of 5

Look and feel

8

out of 5

Ease of use

6

out of 5

Features

6

out of 5

Battery life

Pros:

An excellent value phone which makes Skype calls easy

Cons:

It's only dual band so you can't use it in the US.

According to the top mobile manufacturers and operators, mobile users are on the verge of a social networking revolution, with household names like YouTube, Facebook and Skype set to become as easy to access from our handsets as they are from our PCs and Macs.

Of all of these technologies, most experts agree that a voice over IP (VoIP) service like Skype is the most likely to make the transition from PC to mobile successfully because it is a telephony based service based predominantly around voice and text. The advantage being that it can prove a lot cheaper than the service you currently enjoy from your operator, especially for overseas calls and messaging ‘chats'.

Services like YouTube and Facebook on the other hand are photo and video led services that, like A-list movie stars, really look their best on the bigger screen. That said, few technology lovers would be too disappointed to find any of these applications embedded on their 3G handsets.

Which is exactly what you get with 3's Skypephone.

To find that the Skypephone offers Skype is, of course, no shock. But you may be pleasantly surprised to find that the handset also gives you one-click access to Google, Yahoo Search, Windows Live Messenger, Facebook, YouTube, Mobilcast and eBay.

All you' have to do is click the handset's Launcher soft key and you'll be presented with all of the above services. Of course, these are all data intensive, so if you fancy using them like you would on your PC at home, you're going to need to sign up to one of 3's unlimited internet or X-series packages.

Look and feel of the 3 Skypephone

The Skypephone is a compact, unassuming little candy bar phone that is very nicely put together and feels great in the hand. The keypad and menu control keys may be small and tightly packed, but their neat, beveled design helps reduce the risk of pressing the wrong key in a hurry.

The only keys that are a little fiddly, are the call accept and reject keys, which could have done with a little more room to breathe.

All in all it's an impressively compact handset for a 3G phone. Weighing just 86g, the Skypephone comes in a choice of white with a blue trim, white with a pink trim and matt black. All versions are attractive and the Skype branding which sits at the centre of the phone's joypad is small enough to be subtle and large enough to leave you in no doubts as to the phone's USP.

Skype calls on the Skypephone

The Skypephone is not the first handset to enable users to make Skype calls, however, unlike its predecessors, this is the first handset to carry Skype software as an integral component, with a central key allotted specifically for making Skype calls.

The Skypephone makes it as easy to make free calls to any of the 246 million registered Skype customers around the world as it is to make regular calls.

Skype details show in the Skypephone's contacts and can be selected and called using the Skype button. If you're not calling a Skype user, then you can just click the standard call button. The Skypephone shows the status of each contact, so you know if they're logged onto Skype or not. The Skypephone also lets you send free Skype instant messages from your phone to all other Skype users. It may not feature a QWERTY keypad, but proficient texters should find message speed too much of an issue.

With the proliferation of webcams on PCs, many Skype users are now making video calls from their PCs. You won't be able to do this on the Skypephone, because there is no front facing camera. That said, we've never been huge fans of video calling from mobiles, so this is no great loss.

The Skypephone's other features

Although there's no video calling camera, the Skypephone does offer a two megapixel digital camera and a video camera. Neither are of the highest spec, but both are very easy to use and a dedicated camera key on the side of the phone lets you take snaps and commence recording once you are in the required mode.

As you'd expect from any 3 handset, the Skypephone is 3G enabled and, while not a smartphone, runs on the BREW platform which is a lot like Java and lets you download Java games to the device.

As for the games, we had free trial versions of Pac Man and Tetris installed on the device, plus a game called Insaniquarium, which looked like it might have involved fish and may have been fun if it had ever loaded properly. We were told we weren't authorized to used the application.

On the downside, the Skypephone is dual band, so you won't be using it in the US, but it does feature stereo Bluetooth to go with its MP3 player and direct access to 3's MusicStore

Cost of the Skypephone

Although the handset may be missing a few top-end specs, its pricing makes it very attractive. 3 is (at the time of press) offering the handsets for £49.99 on prepay and free on contract. Whichever option you go for, you'll be guaranteed 4000 Skype minutes and 10,000 Skype chat messages a month. In addition to the bumper Skype allowance, the Mix and Match price plans range between £12 and £27 a month and let you choose how you spread your inclusive minutes and texts.


3 Skypephone - the verdict

This could well be the handset to attract mobile users to Skype, because it's so easy to set up and use and the low cost should provide a greater incentive. Skype is not an alternative to regular mobile calls, because you'll still be using the mobile network to connect to mobile numbers and landlines, but it is a cheap way to communicate with friends, family and colleagues around the world.

Considering its budget price tag, 3's Skypephone is a really good little phone which, to our mind, is the most complete consumer focused operator exclusive handset to date thanks to its wealth of supported features, from YouTube to Facebook. A hit.