Vonage sent me one of their Vonage V-Phone USB devices to review. As you probably recall, I wasn't very keen on the V-Phone
, but I decided to go ahead and test the V-Phone anyway. The concept of the V-Phone is that it's a small portable device that you can take anywhere and your phone number will follow you, as well as the added benefit of inexpensive VoIP minutes. I received my eval unit on June 30th (last Friday) and I attempted to install it on my work PC. I inserted the 256MB V-Phone into an available USB slot. I could see the device installing itself but the softphone client never popped up. I opened Windows Explorer and clicked on the newly created drive letter and received this lovely error message ("This operation has been cancelled due to restrictions in effect on this computer. Please contact your system administrator.")
This error "can" be related to Group Policy restrictions on an Active Directory network, however I am the CTO of our network, so I don't have any Group Policy restrictions on my PC. It was partially installed since I now had a new USB audio device named "C-Media USB Headphone Set". I was able to listen to music using the included headphones that I connected to the headphones jack on the V-Phone.
You can buy the Vonage V-Phone here.
Also check out
these cool Vonage products on Amazon!
In any case, I tinkered with it for a bit before finally giving up and then trying the Vonage V-Phone on another PC. One theory I have yet to try is to uninstall Daemon Tools, a utility for mounting ISO CD/DVD images, but it also reserves a drive letter, which may have caused a conflict. Although, I have never had a problem installing other USB Flash drives.
Vonage V-Phone Box Contents
In any event, I installed the V-Phone on a 2nd PC (and later two laptops) and the installation went smoothly. The Vonage V-Phone client popped up in about 30s and I was able to immediately make and receive phone calls. The nice thing about the V-Phone software is that it doesn't install onto the hard drive, it simply runs the executable file directly from the Flash drive.
Here's a screenshot of an incoming call - notice how you can see the CallerID with Name and accept or reject the call.
The softphone client also features a History tab to show your call log as well as a Contacts page. The Contacts page lets you add contacts with phone numbers for speed-dial capabilities. You can also organize contacts into groups. During my test calls the voice quality was very good. I don't believe Vonage uses either GIPS's
or Spirit DSP's
voice engines for better voice quality, but I was still pleased with the voice quality.
Calling plans for the V-Phone are identical to their traditional service offerings. It costs $15 per month for 500 minutes, $25 for unlimited residential service and $35 for business use. The V-Phone isn't a replacement for a traditional Vonage phone line. In fact, if you are currently a Vonage customer with an existing Vonage number, you have to order a separate Vonage phone number for the V-Phone. Vonage doesn't offer the ability to have a single phone number married to both. This would actually be a nice feature - simply take the V-Phone when on the road and your home phone calls are automatically routed to your laptop/PC when you plug in the device.
Although, I had difficulty on one PC, the V-Phone performed flawlessly on 3 other computers. It does what it is advertised to do - namely give you the ability to carry your phone number with you for use on a Windows computer/laptop (no Mac or Linux client). Though arguably a cellphone can do the same exact thing (carry your phone number). You could argue that the V-Phone lets you make calls using inexpensive VoIP minutes instead of expensive cell minutes. However, many cellphone service providers offer a large bucket of minutes or even unlimited plans for a fixed price, which negates VoIP's advantage over cellphones. With this in mind, you have to wonder why a person would even need
the Vonage V-Phone. I will say that the V-Phone could come in handy if you make a lot of international phone calls since cell phone calls to international destinations are still outrageously expensive. Then again, you can head over to Skype, download the Skype client for free
and charge your SkypeOut account with $40 worth of phone minutes instead of paying $40 for the V-Phone.
Well, I guess for $40 you get a nice 256MB USB flash drive. Then again you can pick up a 16GB USB flash drive from Amazon for $26 or less. <sigh> Well, at least the V-Phone USB stick is a pretty orange.