By Lisa Johnston
New products on display at the American International Toy Fair, held in N
Phone Labs plans retail, wireless-carrier and local phone-company distribution of a pair of devices that lets consumers use home phones to place calls over a cellular network.
The products will also be available at phonelabs.com.
Phone Labs is a supplier of residential and SO/HO phones and adjunct devices to local phone companies.
Wireless carriers that don't offer local land-line service will market the devices as a land-line replacement, said president Carl G. Lopp. Local land-line companies that also operate wireless networks can turn to the devices to entice customers to keep at land-line service, he said.
With the devices, consumers could use more ergonomic home phones to take advantage of cellular rate plans that offer free mobile-to-mobile calls, provide free night and weekend calls, and include long distance in their per-minute charges. When installed in a vacation home that's used only part-time, the devices would make it unnecessary to pay for landline service to the home.
One device, Dock-n-Talk, lets users connect all phones in a house to their cellular phone via a universal charging/docking station that plugs into an RJ-11 jack in the wall. Once the docking station is plugged in, consumers can use any home phone in the house, including a cordless phone, to send and receive cellular calls. The docking station can be placed in a part of the house where the cellular signal is strongest.
The device effectively creates a second phone line in the house, letting a consumer use one home phone to conduct a cellular conversation while another person uses another home phone to converse over the house's landline service. Separate ring tones indicate whether an incoming call is coming through a user's landline or cellular service.
Dock-n-Talk also lets users access cellular phone features through their home phone. For example, caller-ID-equipped home phones will display the caller ID numbers of incoming cellular calls, and consumers will be able to use cellphone features such as voice dialing and one-touch dialing through a home phone.
Dock-N-Talk, available in mid-July, consists of the $139-suggested docking station/recharger and a separately sold adapter cable available for more than 100 cellphone models at a suggested $12.99 each.
When the docking station is used in homes with two-line land-line phones, the two-line phones will ring to alert users to either an incoming land-line call or an incoming cellular call. If all phones in a house are single-line phones, consumers can plug each phone into a line splitter and designate only certain phones to ring only for an incoming cellular call.
The docking station can also be plugged directly into a phone in a one-phone household or in college dorm rooms.
A second device, targeted primarily to SO/HO users, is the $199-suggested Unity phone, due in the third quarter. Unity consists of a two-line corded desk phone that incorporates a cellphone charger. Users connect their cellphone to Unity via a separately available phone-adapter cable. A $69.99-suggested Bluetooth adapter makes it possible to keep the cellphone in its own charging stand.
Down the road, the company plans a Unity phone with built-in Dock-n-Talk, enabling all household phones to place and receive cellular calls.
From the Unity handset, users can access more cellphone features, including SMS and predictive text input, than they could if they used Dock-n-Talk with their current home phones. For example, users can view cellular SMS messages on the desk phone's larger LCD display. Consumers can also tap out an SMS message on the desk phone's larger keys, taking advantage of the cellphone's predictive text-entry technology if the cellphone is so-equipped. The Unity phone also captures and displays the cellphone's directory and integrates it into the Unity's directory.
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