One of the inherent strengths of IP-based communications systems is their ability to do more—far more—than conventional (TDM) phone systems. As business users become accustomed to these extended functionalities, they tend to be taken for granted, while phone makers come to market with yet more extended capabilities.
The phones in this roundup, which run the gamut from moderately expensive to very expensive indeed, have become like hybrid telephone/PCs – the desktop equivalent of the mobile smartphone. All have at least some of the following features and functionality– some, pretty much all:
- Touch screen navigation
- XML based Web browsing
- Access to company and/or personal directories
- Video conferencing
- High definition (HD) audio for lifelike conversation
- Business productivity applications, built in or available
- Gigabit Ethernet connections
Collectively, these multi-talented devices have spawned a new terminology: media phones.
Pricing, where we were able to determine it, is “street pricing,” based on listings of the online dealer, VoIP Supply.
This high-end desk phone from Aastra Technologies features that company’s Hi-Q HD (high-definition) audio (a different audio technology than “high-fidelity” or stereo, requiring special “wideband” audio codecs), which proponents claim produces call quality nearly as good as “being in the same room.” The roomy touch screen provides navigation, as well as a QWERTY keyboard for data input. The device also supports XML for productivity applications.
Street price: $379.99.
Touted by the vendor as “the first meda phone for enterprises,” the 9670G sports a large touch screen that, in addition to providing navigation, provides one-touch access to applications – some are embedded, such as a QWERTY keyboard, weather, calculator, etc., others can be downloaded and installed – as well as directories, and other Web-based information.
Pricing not available (presumably available through Avaya’s dealer network).
|Avaya’s 9670G media phone|
The “GE” in the product name designates Gigabit Ethernet. According to Cisco, this model was the first offered with “unconconstrained bandwidth.” What this means, on a practical is that the phone can pass through data at gigabit rates and thus can never be a bottleneck in the network. The touch screen provides access to a typical array of communications information, timesaving applications, and features. Developers can easily add custom XML applications to the screen. The unit encompasses a high-quality hands-free speakerphone.
Street price: $399.99
The Grandstream GXV3140 is one of the two models in this roundup that provides built-in video conferencing, with its 4.3 inch digital TFT display and built in camera. The screen also supports Web browsing. The stereo audio system is not only a fully duplex speakerphone, but can be used to play streaming music. The device can automatically download news, weather, and other information and boasts built in applications like calendar and alarm clock.
Street price: $249
|Polycom VVX 1500 multimedia phone|
Polycom VVX 1500
This Cadillac of phone systems has it all. First is “one-touch” video conferencing – just pick an entry out of your personal directory and tap to establish a video connection. The device naturally features Polycom’s HD Voice technology for superior sound quality (as Polycom is a pioneer in this area), and functions as an application platform. A free Web service – My Info Portal – comes with the phone, delivering news, weather, and the like. Connections support Gigabit Ethernet, and the VVX 1500 uses low-power-consuming technology.
Street price: $769.
Polycom SoundPoint IP 560
A more modestly priced offering from Polycom, the IP 560 is more likely to grace the average executive’s desktop. The absence of video conferencing and the large screen cuts the price by more than half. Otherwise, the specs are much the same. This is a four-line phone with HD quality audio and support for GigE. It comes with XHTML browser and a suite of productivity applications.
Street price: $269.99.
The German phone vendor’s top-of-the-line desk phone, the 870 features “wideband audio” (synonymous with HD). It also provides a TFT touch screen for easy navigation. Snom maintains that touch screens are a natural evolution for phone technology (witness the iPhone and its work-alikes in the mobile smartphone category), and reduces or eliminates the need for training. The screen also facilitates XML browsing. Snom also claims low power consumption credentials for the phone.
Street price: $319.