- VoIP-over-Wi-Fi and GSM communications on a single device
- easy to use
- Test software did not map to handset's Call and End buttons
- few compatible handsets available
Hot on the heels of Cicero Networks’ softphone for Windows Mobile Pocket PCs comes a version for Windows Mobile-based smartphones. The smartphone implementation of CiceroPhone shares many characteristics with its Pocket PC-based sibling. Providing your smartphone has Wi-Fi, you can use the client to make calls to landlines, GSM handsets or IP-based recipients via Wi-Fi, with calls routed to the Internet from the handset via a wireless router. If you are not in Wi-Fi range, then the handset’s SIM kicks in to do its usual job.
At the moment, there are very few Windows Mobile smartphones with built in Wi-Fi on the market. We tested the software on the i-mate SP5m, whose very near sibling, the SP5, we recently reviewed.
Design & features
The CiceroPhone dialler software is designed to be 'skinned' by Networks' third-party partners. Our test version did not have a direct link to the on/off setting for the i-mate SP5m's Wi-Fi, so we had to turn Wi-Fi on before launching CiceroPhone. A small icon at the top left of the screen is green when a Wi-Fi connection is present, while a signal strength bar delivers additional information. The icon is red when Wi-Fi is not available.
Cicero Networks provided us with an i-mate SP5m with their software preinstalled, and things worked perfectly. The procedure for switching between IP-based and GSM calls is relatively straightforward, involving simply selecting the preferred method from a menu. The Windows Mobile dialer also continues to function as normal for making GSM calls.
Screen space is used cleverly, and we hope that 'skinned' versions of CiceroPhone are as judicious with their layouts. A large area is given over to showing the number being dialled, and beneath this a small bar indicates call progress -- calling, call connected or call ended. Beneath this, the bulk of the screen is given over to a list of dialled calls; selecting a number provides information on the time, date and duration of the call. You can switch views to see missed and received calls, as well as your contacts.
It was irritating that the softkey Call and End buttons did not function in the CiceroPhone software. Instead, the left-hand softmenu is used to initiate a call and then again to end it. There was no access to the i-mate SP5m's speakerphone from within the CiceroPhone software.
We worked with our own Wi-Fi network during the test period. Although test calls with the Pocket PC version of this software were successful, results were mixed using a Wi-Fi-enabled smartphone. We had no trouble hearing people we were calling, but all the recipients of our test calls reported some voice distortion, using words like 'fuzzy', 'far away' and 'echoey'. We made calls at different times of the day but only used one handset, so we can't be sure whether the i-mate SP5m, Cicero Networks’ service or some other factor was the cause of our problems.
Call quality may have been questionable in our tests, but the technology definitely works, and we connected first time on every call we tried. In principle, a smartphone-based VoIP-over-Wi-Fi solution is a lot more compelling than the Pocket PC-based alternative.
Cicero Networks will need to map its call and end functions onto the handset's buttons. However, this software should prove useful if Wi-Fi becomes a common feature in Windows Mobile smartphones.
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