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.