Three Skypephone Mini Review

After the previous incident with my Nokia 1100, it has not been working well. It still works -- it can take calls, it can make calls, it can send SMS -- what else do I need from a mobile phone? Except it does not ring at incoming calls. So I decided it is time for me to buy a new mobile phone.

This is what I bought -- Three Skypephone on prepaid for $179 including $20 credit (off eBay, as Skype is an eBay company).

Three Skypephone
Three Skypephone next to my dying Nokia 1100

It is basically a cheap 3G phone made by Chinese company Amoi, locked to the Three network (so all you guys on Three can now call my phone for free!) Feature is pretty basic in today's standard. It can't do HSPDA, has a 2MP camera (1600x1200 image, 176x144 video), Bluetooth and Java. However, it is my first phone with colour screen! It's also my first phone with MP3 ringtone, and I didn't even have one with polyphonic ringtone either! Also my first with Bluetooth and Java and 3G and... So you can pretty much guess I am getting more Wow from this phone than Windows Vista.

However the most distinctive feature of Three Skypephone is... Skype integration! It is not a Skype client making calls using Three's data channel. Instead, 3 Skypephone uses iSkoot to connect to Skype so all the "Skype-calls" are still going through the voice channel (only logging in and presence information are transmitted through data). Most my families are on Skype, and with 4,000 minutes of free Skype calls per recharge (that's 2 days and 18 hours of continuous talking!!) it just makes sense to me to get this phone.

Some random thoughts after using it for 5 days:

  • It is small and light. Not ultra-tiny, but at 44mm x 13.6mm x 100mm and 86g it feels even smaller than my old no-frills Nokia 1100.

  • Good construction. Again, it is not Nokia but the construction feels quite solid, consider it is made by a lesser-known Chinese company. Obviously it is probably not going to be as rugged as my die hard Nokia, nor am I going to throw it into the washing machine for some extensive testing. It just does not feel it is going to fall apart like some of the Sony Ericsson phones.

  • Camera is not very good. There is only one camera so it rules out a proper video call, and the 2MP camera takes some very cold shots (bad colour balancing). Videos are hopeless at 174x144.

  • Task-switching button is very useful. Skypephone comes with around 11MB of phone memory (+512MB on MSD), and it can handle multiple jobs at once. For example you can have Skype, browser and media player opening at the same time. There is actually a dedicated "task-switching" button (next to the camera button) that brings up the "task list", which is very useful.

  • Skype calls are mediocre. Consider Skype was the main reason I bought this phone, the call quality is actually a bit mediocre. It is worse than your Skype client on PC with serious echoing and slight delay depending on the time of the day. It is okay if you are used to VoIP, but definitely not even mobile call quality.

    The presence management is also less than real-time. You need to manually "refresh" to see changes to your contact list. Also because of iSkoot, you can't actually see who is calling upon incoming calls -- it just says incoming Skype calls but nothing about which contact is calling you.

    But I guess I can live with all that with 24x7 Skypephone in my pocket :)

  • Three coverage is spotty. I went to the Centennial Park on Sunday and the coverage was good there. However at home it will sometimes show roaming as it dropped out from the Three network.

    Roaming is bad because Skype only works in Three network.

  • One interface -- USB. Only one connector at the bottom of the phone and it's generic USB. It can connect to computers for data-sync as well as USB storage. It also charges itself over USB which is very useful. The included hand-free also uses the USB connector which means you can't use your own earphone with 3.5mm jack. Yes the included earphone is pretty bad.

  • Battery gets hot after a few minutes of browsing on Planet 3. Maybe not the kind of untouchable hot, but it does get warm to a hot that it feels uncomfortable. It does not occur if you are just making calls or using Skype but only with the browser so not a big deal to me.

    Another thing about the battery. It is rated at 1150mAh and 320 hours of standby, but Skype does drain it more than what it was rated. I reckon it probably would not last more than 3 days standby with Skype turned on.

Overall a nice phone. I am using a different Skypename than the one I listed on my contact page so ask me if you want to connect me up. Beside making Skype calls it can also send IM over Skype (free 10,000 Skype messages per recharge). Time to look up on any Skype/Jabber integration so I can code a Skype bot, which will make this phone much more useful.