The VOIP433 handset is one of two Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) enabled cordless phone products just released by Philips (the other is the VOIP321). The rationale behind the new line is simple -- most consumers resent being chained to their PC when making calls (as with a traditional VoIP headset), and they also don't want to be forced to use a separate handset for their landline and VoIP calls.
With the VOIP433, Philips has teamed up with Microsoft to allow users to both make and receive Internet calls to and from their online Windows Live Messenger contacts. This is enabled by a 4096-colour display (98x67 pixels), which uses the same interface and icons as the desktop version of Messenger.
The device is also capable of hooking into your regular landline ("Public Switched Telephone Network" or PSTN for those familiar with the jargon), and you're able to switch between VoIP and PSTN modes seamlessly (at least judging by our limited testing at the launch event).
Philips has clearly put significant effort into designing the device. The kit comes with two primary components -- the handset (with cradle) and a separate box that connects up to your PC (via USB) and landline. The box communicates wirelessly with the handset, and provided that you're logged into Messenger on your desktop PC, your contacts and their online status are streamed to the handset in real-time.
The kit is sold with either one or two handsets (AU$159.95 for one, AU$249.95 for two), allowing households to potentially have a regular landline and a VoIP call taking place simultaneously.
As the attached images can attest, aside from the buttons enabling the VoIP functionality, the handset's design is virtually identical to any other cordless phone so non-techies can continue to place regular landline calls while the more technologically inclined members of your household can take advantage of the VoIP features.
Other handy features include a 100-name address book, ten pre-installed polyphonic ringtones and loudspeaker/hands-free functionality.
Easily the most apparent downside to the kit is the fact that the VoIP side is only compatible with Windows Live Messenger, which doesn't allow for PC-to-Landline VoIP calls (only PC-to-PC).
Another distinct omission we found is the inability to send text messages over Messenger using the handset -- you'll have to jump back onto your PC for that. That said, a spokesperson for Ingram, the local distributor for the product, told CNET.com.au that this functionality would be built into future versions.
Finally, while we loved the device's sleek design, we do feel usability could've been significantly improved if Philips decided to integrate a larger display.
Avid users of Windows Live Messenger's voice feature are sure to appreciate the flexibility that Philips' VOIP433 handset provides.