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Verizon Hub review: Verizon Hub

Verizon Hub

Nicole Lee Former Editor
Nicole Lee is a senior associate editor for CNET, covering cell phones, Bluetooth headsets, and all things mobile. She's also a fan of comic books, video games, and of course, shiny gadgets.
Nicole Lee
8 min read

When T-Mobile launched its @Home service last year, it marked the first time a cell phone provider dipped its toe into voice over Internet Protocol services. All you need for the @Home service is a specially configured router from T-Mobile, a home broadband connection, and a regular telephone. The service only costs $10 a month on top of your existing wireless plan and includes unlimited calls (You do need a T-Mobile mobile plan to use this service, though). Still, the @Home service is limited to just phone calls. Since regular phones can only handle voice, you still need your cell phone to get text messages.


Verizon Hub

The Good

The Verizon Hub allows you to make and receive calls like a regular telephone over your home broadband network. It sends and receives text and multimedia messages, streams V Cast videos, provides traffic reports, and more. There's also a Verizon Relay feature that acts like a family bulletin board.

The Bad

You can't send and receive text messages from non-Verizon Wireless phones. The Hub is expensive, with not only device costs but monthly fees. Video quality is mediocre. It won't work when your power and network connection are down.

The Bottom Line

The Verizon Hub is an all-in-one telephone, communications center, and entertainment system, but it isn't cheap.

Verizon Wireless also entered the voice over IP market this year, but it has taken the concept to a whole other level. Instead of a router, Verizon introduced an entire telephone system called the Verizon Hub. The Hub is a docking station with a cordless handset and a large 7-inch touch-screen display, plus it has almost all the functionality of a cell phone. Not only can you make calls and access your voice mail like a regular phone, you can also send and receive text and multimedia messages (only with Verizon Wireless phones though), watch V Cast videos, use location-based services like Chaperone and traffic reports, get local weather reports, and sync calendar and contact information. Not only does the Hub promise to replace your landline, it promises to be the central communication center of your home.

You still need a home broadband connection, and the device isn't cheap. The Hub costs $199.99 after a $50 mail-in rebate and a two-year service agreement. On top of that, there's a $34.99 monthly charge for unlimited calls and texts. Additional cordless handsets cost $79.99 each, and if you don't have a wireless router, Verizon will sell you one of its own for $69.99. The Hub certainly offers a lot more than a regular landline phone, and we think this would be very valuable for families, but the cost needs to come down a bit to truly make it worthwhile.

The Verizon Wireless Hub is much larger than a regular telephone. In fact, it looks like a mini computer, especially with the 7-inch touch screen display on the front. Measuring 11 inches wide by 6.5 inches tall by 1.6 inches deep, the Hub is black all around, with two strips of piano black plastic on the top and the bottom. The handset cradle is to the left of the touch-screen display. In between the cradle and the display are the volume rocker and the speakerphone key. To the right of the display is the external speaker grille. On the back of the Hub are connections for the power cord, an Ethernet jack, while a 2.5mm audio-out jack and USB connection are on the right side. There's also a space for an optional support stand. We recommend using the support stand so you can use the touch screen easier. At the top of the Hub is a little narrow tray for the included stylus.

To use the Hub, you have to connect the device to your home broadband network, either via a wired Ethernet connection or a wireless one. When you first start the Hub, it'll walk you through a step-by-step guide on how to get started with that. For the wireless connection, you have to select your SSID and enter in a passphrase if you use wireless encryption.

The 7-inch touch screen display on the Hub is quite stunning. It has 262,000-color support, which really shows off the color gradients of the menu interface and the wallpaper images. You can select from 11 different wallpaper backgrounds, or you can upload your own photos via the My Verizon companion Web site. This way you can use the Hub not only as a phone, but also as a digital photo frame. There's also a screensaver, where you can either run your photos as a slide show, or show the time and weather.

Using the Hub is almost like using a touch-screen phone. There's a Home screen, which you can customize with widgets like weather, the date and time, your latest calls and messages, the radio, and more. To go to the main menu, just select the Menu button to the top left, while the phone dialer button is on the bottom left. There's no haptic feedback, but the touch screen is so responsive that you don't really need it.

After selecting any item from the main menu, you'll see a top navigation row that will lead you to the Dial pad, the Calls menu, the Contacts list, Voice Mail, the Messaging application, and a Directories menu. Directories let you look up local businesses and numbers like you would with Yellow pages or White pages. You can also reverse look up the number that you just called.

The phone dialer is fairly easy to use. There's a number keypad to the right, complete with a Clear key and the Call button on the upper right. To the left of the number keypad is a list of recent calls. You can also locate a handset, or communicate to other handsets in the house via Intercom. To the bottom right of the dial pad is a button that lets you search from your contacts list.

If you would rather not use the touch screen for dialing, you can use the cordless handset that comes with the Hub. Measuring 5.5 inches long by 1.9 inch wide by 0.6 inch thick, the handset is just a simple rectangular slab. It has a small 1.8-inch color display, and you can change its background image if you want. You can also adjust contrast, and change the handset's ringtone and volume. From the handset, you can access the Hub's phone book, call voice mail, access the recent calls list, and call the Hub via Intercom. Underneath the display are the two soft keys, a joystick navigation toggle, Call and End keys, plus the number keypad. There are also speakerphone and mute buttons at the bottom. All the keys feel tactile and are easy to press and dial. The handset also has a 2.5mm audio-out jack.

You can't send out text messages on the handset, though. For that, you'll have to use the touch-screen interface. Just hit New Message in the Messaging application, tap "Enter Text here," and you'll be presented with a virtual QWERTY keyboard. It's just like any virtual QWERTY keyboard, plus it has a button that toggles between the letters and the numbers/symbols. You can use your fingers for typing, but we prefer the stylus for more precision. You can also attach an image for a picture message if you want.

The Verizon Hub is more than just a landline replacement. It also promises to be the communications center of your home, a digital photo frame, and even a mini television set. It has a 500 Mhz dual MicroPro processor, 128MB of RAM for storage, with 2MB just for ringtones. You can store up to 128 address book entries, with room in each entry for three phone numbers, a street address, and an e-mail address. You can organize your contacts by groups, add a photo for caller ID, and choose from one of 10 polyphonic ringtones. The call log holds up to 100 incoming/100 outgoing calls.

Call features include 10-digit dialing, call waiting, caller ID block (where you block your own caller ID from being shown), international call block, a Do Not Disturb function that will redirect calls to voicemail or just accept calls from a preapproved list, call return (or *69), and simultaneous ring, which lets incoming calls ring up to three additional phone numbers. The first phone to pick up will connect the call. You can also set a Backup Number, which is important because the Hub won't work in the event of a power or network outage. The Verizon Hub is E911 compatible.

The Hub also has Visual Voice Mail, which is what it sounds like. You can delete, reply, and forward voice mails in a visual interface without having to listen to messages. You can manage your voice mails from the Hub or the My Verizon Web site. This is included with the monthly wireless plan, unlike the Visual Voice Mail feature on Verizon's cell phone plans.

You can send text and picture messages from the Hub, plus you can receive text, picture, and video messages. But you can only do so with Verizon Wireless cell phones, or with another Verizon Hub. You can also access your e-mail on the Hub. We mentioned earlier that you can use the Hub as a digital picture frame. You can load pictures on it via the USB connection on the Hub or drag and drop them on the My Verizon Web site. It supports JPEG, GIF, WBMB, PNG, and BMP formats.

You can use the Hub with a couple of Verizon's location-based services. There's Chaperone, which lets you locate a family member's cell phone in real time, and Traffic, which uses a real-time traffic service to let you know the traffic situation in your area. With the Chaperone application, you can even see a map of where your family member is.

A few other applications include the Calendar, where you can set events and send text reminders to the people in your contacts list, the calculator, and the Movies app. For the latter, you can see a list of movies that are showing in your area, plus the showtimes in local theaters.

The Hub truly becomes a communications center, or family bulletin board, with the Verizon Relay feature. All the text, picture, and video messages from your family members will end up on the Relay message board as little yellow Post-it notes, Polaroid pictures, or video thumbnails. This makes it really easy to communicate with your family members, send each other reminders, and more.

But perhaps the most exciting feature on the Hub is the ability to watch streaming video clips from V Cast, thus turning your Hub into a mini television. The amount of content is pretty amazing. There are essentially four categories of videos: News & Sports, Entertainment, Food & Dining, and Lifestyle. These four areas are divided further into categories like Health, Fashion, News, Sports, and more. Content providers range from CNN to the Food Network, and there are dozens if not hundreds of video clips to choose from.

Why is this so exciting? Well, imagine your Hub in the kitchen. You can watch recipe instructions on video, so you can cook right alongside it. Or if you want to entertain your kids, you can select the Cartoon Network channel. Or maybe you feel like watching little news clips while waiting for the oven to beep. Not only can you view V Cast videos, but you have access to Internet Radio for streaming audio content. All this and it's still a phone, so you won't miss any incoming phone calls or text messages. So now not only is your phone a communications center, it's also a mini entertainment system, too.

Call quality was surprisingly good. Callers said we sounded loud and clear, and voices sounded natural with very little background noise. Speakerphone calls were equally good, though we did get the occasional static blip in the background.

V Cast video quality was OK, but not great. If you watch the videos in the little screen next to the sidebar, they look good. But once you enlarge the videos to full screen, you will see a lot of pixelation and noise.


Verizon Hub

Score Breakdown

Design 8Features 8Performance 8