Linksys CIT310 Phone for Yahoo Messenger

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Linksys CIT310 Phone for Yahoo Messenger

Linksys has partnered with Yahoo to offer a new dual-mode cordless phone called the Linksys Dual-Mode Cordless Phone for Yahoo! Messenger with Voice (CIT310). Linksys sent me a review unit to check out and put through the paces. Similar to the Linksys CIT200 Skype phone I reviewed, the Linksys Yahoo Messenger CIT310 gives you low-cost PSTN Outbound calling using VoIP and FREE voice calling to your Yahoo Messenger buddies. Similarly the CIT200 also offered low-cost VoIP calling but using Skype's SkypeOut service and free Skype-to-Skype calling. Both models also support inbound calling as well.
Linksys CIT310

Linksys CIT310 Professional photo

Linksys CIT310

Linksys Dual-Mode Cordless Phone for Yahoo! Messenger with Voice on my desk

Both Linksys models also allow you to control your presence information (Away, Busy, Online, etc.) from the phone itself, as well as view the presence information for your "buddies" and instantly click-to-dial any of your buddies that you highlight. Unlike the Linksys CIT200 Skype phone however, the CIT310's base station not only supports USB connectivity to the PC, but also an analog (FXO) port for connecting to your home landline - hence, the "Dual-Mode" moniker in the full product name. The analog port allows you to place and receive phone calls using your traditional landline/PSTN in addition to making calls utilizing the Yahoo Messenger with Voice service. A more apt comparison might be with the newer Linksys CIT300 dual-mode cordless phone which supports Skype and a PSTN connection.

Linksys CIT310

Linksys CIT310 in cradle and backlit. Note the Yahoo smiley and Yahoo logo

The Linksys CIT310 features the wireless DECT standard, so it supports multiple handsets and has a range of 300 meters outdoor and 50 meters indoor. Standby time is 100 hours and talk time is 10 hours. The base station measures 3.9” x 4.7” x 2.9” W x H x D (99 x 119 x 74 mm) and weighs 7.69 oz (.218 kg). More importantly, the handset measure.8” x 5.5” x 1.08” W x H x D (46 x 140 x 27 mm) and weighs 3.39 oz (.096 kg).

Currently, the Linksys CIT310 only works with Windows  - sorry Mac and Linux fans. Installing the Linksys Yahoo Messenger CIT310 was pretty straightforward. Insert the CD, follow the wizard, and then plug in the USB connector, which adds the device as a standard USB Audio Device.

The Linksys software runs in the background and is accessible via the System Tray, but there isn't much you can configure, although you can add Contacts from the utility. The software's main purpose really is to provide the integration with the base station and the Yahoo Messenger! with Voice software client. In any case, I then connected an analog line to the PSTN port on the back of the CIT310 so I could test regular landline calls. It's worth nothing that the CIT310 supports CallerID and can use CallerID number detection for distinctive ringtones by adding contacts to your address book.

If you already have a Yahoo Messenger account, you can simply sign-in and immediately make buddy-to-buddy calls or sign into Yahoo's Voice Messenger page and purchase minutes for PSTN calls. In fact, after the wizard install you simply follow some web links to purchase minutes or add a PhoneIn number. Initial customers purchasing the Linksys Dual-Mode Cordless Phone receive 100 free minutes to make Yahoo! Phone Out calls to any traditional or mobile phone. International rates are 1-2 cents per minute.
Linksys CIT310

Linksys CIT310 out of cradle


Testing VoIP - VoIP-to-PSTN
For my first test, I attempted to make a CIT310-to-PSTN using the Yahoo Messenger with Voice service. I simply entered '2038526800' and was connected to TMC's auto-attendant. Curious to see if the phone or the service provider was intelligent enough to strip the '1' I then dialed '12038526800' and it also connected. A small usability feature for sure, but nice nonetheless. I entered in my phone extension and answered the call. I have to say, the voice quality was excellent. I held my desk phone extension to one ear and the CIT310 to the other ear. I then spoke into both receivers just to check the latency and to see if there was more latency going in a particular direction. There was very minimal latency and the latency seemed identical in both directions, so I give the CIT310 high marks here for excellent latency. A subjective latency test for sure, but I've heard and tested enough VoIP products to know when I hear poor, average, good, or excellent latency.

Testing VoIP - VoIP-to-VoIP (Yahoo Buddy-to-Yahoo Buddy)
For my next test, I scrolled through my list of Yahoo buddies and selected TMC's webmaster, Robert Hashemian. As previously stated, I was able to view his presence information and then simply click the infamous Yahoo smiley face button on the phone. (Technically the button looks like this: Yahoo Voice Phone button) We were connected and once again the voice quality was very good. Next, I had a Yahoo buddy call my buddy name to test the customizable ringtones on the CIT310. You can customize the CIT310 to have a distinctive ring (10 ringtones) by the following incoming call criteria: Yahoo! Voice call, intercom, VIP, Business, Family, Friends, School, Others, and Page. I should point out that these groups (VIP, Business, Family, Friends, etc.) seem to have nothing to do with the groups within the Yahoo Messenger client. Thus, the distinctive ring feature by a specific group only applies to incoming calls with CallerID info that you have previously mapped to a specific person and group. You cannot for instance map a distinctive ring for a specific Yahoo buddy. You can however globally set ALL incoming Yahoo buddy calls to use a specific ringtone as part of the "ringer type" feature.

Linksys CIT310

Linksys CIT310 side profile with pen for scale


PhoneIn
Although the phone supports "PhoneIn" DID (Direct Inward Dial) PSTN capabilities, which allows callers to dial directly into your Yahoo Messenger client (and therefore the CIT310 phone), I didn't test this feature. Yahoo's PhoneIn service is $2.49/month and I didn't feel like providing my credit card just to test this feature. I suppose I could have asked for a demo account, but my review time was limited.

Testing PSTN
Next, I made some test PSTN calls from the Linksys CIT310. Instead of hitting the Yahoo Messenger smiley face on the phone, you hit the handset/house icon Yahoo PSTN button and the call goes over the PSTN port instead of the Yahoo! Messenger Voice (VoIP) service. I also made incoming calls to the PSTN number and was able to view the CallerID info on the phone.

Testing Misc Cool Features
The CIT310 has some nifty side features, including the ability to retrieve the weather via Yahoo! Weather. After you define your ZIP code, you can view the weather for today and tomorrow. In addition, you can access Yahoo's Local Listings, with the ability to save up to 10 favorite searches. I added "pizza" and then I was able to almost instantly see local pizzerias - including phone numbers. The really cool thing is that you can scroll through the listings and after you find the one you want, you can instantly 1-click dial the number over Yahoo! Voice or the PSTN - your choice. Nice!

Other Features/Misc
The phone features a voicemail waiting indicator which works with the voicemail service of your local telephone company - you just have to configure the phone number on the handset. The phone also has a Flash button for call-waiting, call conferencing, or for redialing the last number. The CIT310 also sports a headset jack, walkie talkie mode, and speakerphone. It also has your typical phone book, speed dials, and call logs by call type.  Other features include wallpaper, alarm, clock, and auto answer. You can also transfer a call to another handset unit or conference in another handset, as well as make intercom calls to other handsets. The base station also lets you page your handset in case you misplaced it.

Here's a breakdown of all the major features:
  • Supports Yahoo! Messenger with Voice’s Internet-based calling services
    • PC-to-PC
    • Phone Out: PC-to-Phone
    • Phone In: Phone-to-PC
  • Supports traditional landline/PSTN calls using a local phone line
  • Color Display
  • Yahoo! Messenger Contact List display and search
  • Yahoo! Local Search based on city zip codes
  • Weather search (get 2 days of weather info on the display, based on the zip code entered in the phone)
  • Yahoo! Messenger Status Message (available, online, busy, etc.)
  • Yahoo! Address Book access
  • Call waiting for both incoming VoIP and PSTN calls
  • Intercom Call between handsets
  • Caller ID for both VoIP and PSTN calls
  • Last Number Redial
  • Polyphonic ring tones, and Melodies
  • Single base station supports up to six additional DECT based phones for PTSN calls
  • Headset jack for connecting a headset
  • Multi-language support (English, French, Spanish)
  • A full charge on the battery enables up to 100 hours of standby time and up to 10 hours of talk time
Room For Improvement
Currently, the Linksys CIT310 doesn't support incoming instant messages (IMs) - neither does the Linksys CIT200 Skype model. I'd even settle for a simple alert message on the phone that an incoming IM came in, in case you're away from your desk, but obviously the actual message would be even cooler. As with all these proprietary phones I've tested - whether they work exclusively with Skype, or now exclusive to Yahoo, I wish they'd be more open and support industry standards, such as SIP. Yahoo Voice does use SIP, but as far as I can tell, the Linksys CIT310 is "locked" to using Yahoo. If instead of "replacing" Yahoo Voice as the SIP termination service provider, it would be nice if the phone at least supported adding in your own SIP credentials in addition to supporting Yahoo Voice. But alas, as with any industry, exclusive partnerships are often the key to success, so who am I to knock Linksys and Yahoo for doing this?

Finally, I would like to see the phone have sound alerts for when a buddy signs in. This way you can be lounging on your sofa, watching TV or playing XBox 360 or PS3, and still receive notification that a buddy signed in without being chained to your PC. Great for the teenager demographic. Ditto for the IM feature I'd like to see.

Conclusion
This dual-mode cordless phone provides Yahoo! Messenger fans with the ability to make free PC-to-PC calls to other Yahoo! Messenger users, low-cost PSTN dialing when subscribing to Yahoo! Phone Out (PC-to-Phone calling) service, as well as inbound dialing for a monthly fee of around $2.49/month. Add in the fact that this is a multi-handset DECT phone with excellent standby & talk time (better than WiFi) plus you can connect it to your home PSTN -- then certainly the Linksys CIT310 is a tempting home phone system replacement.

Inevitably, the comparisons will be made with similar dual-mode Skype phone products such as the RTX DualPhone, Linksys CIT300, and others. Skype certainly is the top dog in consumer VoIP, however there are millions of Yahoo Messenger IM users that could be converted to VoIP. This phone bundles some cool Yahoo-specific features (weather, local listings), but really if Yahoo wants to take on the top dog Skype in VoIP, then Yahoo needs to add their strength - namely IM into the CIT310's feature-set. Without it, users may decide to go with a Skype phone simply because of Skype's dominance in VoIP even if Yahoo's CIT310 has equal if not better voice quality and even a few extra features thrown in.

The Linksys Dual-Mode Cordless Phone for Yahoo! Messenger with Voice (CIT310) is immediately available through Amazon.com for $69.99. It will be available through other leading online retailers later this month.

Finally, here are the Linksys CIT310 screens if curious - gives a good feel for the product:
Linksys CIT310 screens


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