State of the Art IPhone-Free Cellphone News
By DAVID POGUE The New York Times
Man, oh man. How'd you like to have been a PR person making a cellphone announcement last week, just as the iPhone storm struck? You'd have had all the impact of a gnat in a hurricane.
But hard to believe though it may be, T-Mobile did make an announcement last week. And even harder to believe, its new product may be as game-changing as Apple's.
It's called T-Mobile HotSpot @Home, and it's absolutely ingenious. It could save you hundreds or thousands of dollars a year, and yet enrich T-Mobile at the same time. In the cellphone world, win-win plays like that are extremely rare.
Here's the basic idea. If you're willing to pay $10 a month on top of a regular T-Mobile voice plan, you get a special cellphone. When you're out and about, it works like any other phone; calls eat up your monthly minutes as usual.
But when it's in a Wi-Fi wireless Internet hot spot, this phone offers a huge bargain: all your calls are free. You use it and dial it the same as always -- you still get call hold, caller ID, three-way calling and all the other features -- but now your voice is carried by the Internet rather than the cellular airwaves.
These phones hand off your calls from Wi-Fi network to cell network seamlessly and automatically, without a single crackle or pop to punctuate the switch. As you walk out of a hot spot, fewer and fewer Wi-Fi signal bars appear on the screen, until -- blink! -- the T-Mobile network bars replace them. (The handoff as you move in the opposite direction, from the cell network into a hot spot, is also seamless, but takes slightly longer, about a minute.)
O.K., but how often are you in a Wi-Fi hot spot? With this plan, about 14 hours a day. T-Mobile gives you a wireless router (transmitter) for your house -- also free, after a $50 rebate. Connect it to your high-speed Internet modem, and in about a minute, you've got a wireless home network. Your computer can use it to surf the Web wirelessly -- and now all of your home phone calls are free.