It's true: the iPhone is here--but not the one everyone's been talking about. Linksys announced today its family of Voice over IP and Wi-Fi phones, called iPhone.
The purveyor of home networking equipment has been shipping several flavors of VoIP and Wi-Fi phones since 2004 and announced two new products today, but branding them under the iPhone moniker is a new move. The two new members of the family are the iPhone Dual-Mode Internet Telephony Kit for Skype (CIT400) and the iPhone Wireless-G Phone for Skype (WIP320). The former is targeted for the home: it includes a cordless phone base that you connect to your home network via Ethernet and a handset that can be switched back and forth between Skype calling and your regular PSTN line (that is, your landline). The previous iteration of this product, the CIT300, did the same thing, but required that you leave your PC running in order to make Skype calls. The CIT400 incorporates the Skype client directly into the phone base, so you can make Skype calls even while your PC is shut down.
The WIP320 is Linksys' next-generation Wi-Fi phone. Using it, you can make Skype calls while on any wireless network, including public hot spots. While the CIT400 makes sense to us, the WIP320 is a harder sell. After all, if you're strolling about town and you go out of range of a Wi-Fi network, your Skype call will get dropped. Isn't that what cell phones are for? Even Linksys admits that this product isn't quite ready for prime time, as it requires a more universal Wi-Fi backbone, like municipal Wi-Fi.
Both phones support Skype's free Skype-to-Skype calls, as well as its paid features, such as SkypeIn, SkypeOut, and voice mail. The CIT400 immediately hits the market for $180, while the WIP320 retails for $200. Other members of the iPhone family include the iPhone Dual-Mode Cordless Phone for Yahoo Messenger with Voice (CIT310), the iPhone Dual-Mode Internet Telephony Kit (CIT300), and the iPhone Wireless-G IP Phone (WIP330). The CIT310 not only lets you make landline and Yahoo Messenger with Voice calls, but you can also check weather conditions and look up local businesses straight from the phone. The SIP-based members of the family use the SIP protocol and allow you to access music, photos, and videos from the Web and work with products such as Linksys' wireless video cameras, so you can monitor events in the next room. In all, there are currently seven iPhone products offered by Linksys and you can check them out at Linksys' Web site.
As for the rampant speculation about an imminent announcement from Apple regarding a phone, well, Crave knows nothing about that. Call us cynical, but we suspect Gizmodo knew full well about the Linksys announcement and was being a bit disingenuous with its Thursday blog posting. We should admit, though, that we found the resulting frenzy (even among our own ranks) rather amusing. As for the iPhone name, Linksys owns the trademark, so the speculators need to get cracking on potential names for the as-yet nonexistent phone from Cupertino.