This product image provided by Skype, shows the Freetalk ConnectMe...

This product image provided by Skype, shows the Freetalk ConnectMe Home Phone Adapter for Skype. Skype is making it easier to place less expensive Internet calls from home phones. Credit: Skype

Skype is looking to make the jump to the mainstream with two new devices that gives normal home phones the power of Internet calling.

The Freetalk Connect-Me phone adapter and the GE Digital Cordless Telephone are plug-and-play gadgets that allow placing and receiving free Skype-to-Skype calls as well as low-cost calls to landlines and mobile phones worldwide — all while using a familiar home phone and without having to dump the current phone service.

The Freetalk Connect-Me is a $60 adapter that connects to  an existing home phone using an Ethernet cable from an Internet router, a power outlet, and a normal phone jack. It’s a bit like installing an old answering machine.

Once the physical setup is done, hop on a computer (Mac or Windows) to set up calling preferences via a clunky browser-based software. This is where to set up speed dial numbers with specific Skype names to make free Skype-to-Skype calls since you aren’t able to access a Skype phone book on a normal home phone.

If you want the ease of being able to scroll through a list of Skype contacts, the $90 GE Digital Cordless Expandable phone has the address book built in. The phone shows you which Skype contacts are online, and when you dial a number, you can choose whether to route it through Skype or the phone company (with the adapter, you need to set this up one time through the software).

With both devices, normal incoming calls and your landline number aren’t affected. Also, they let you receive Skype calls at any time, without having your computer on.

From start to finish, the setup of the Skype devices does require some tech know-how. There are some older routers that will not work with these Skype devices. Make sure your router supports uPnP (Universal Plug and Play) protocols. I found this out the hard way, as the devices crashed my entire home network because they didn’t play nice with my old D-Link router.

And although Skype says to connect the devices directly to a router via an Ethernet cable, I used a bridged Apple Airport Express that allowed me to connect the adapter to any phone in my house, regardless of how far it is from my main router.

My biggest gripe with the setup process was with the browser-based software. The setup repeatedly froze using both a Windows and Mac. Trying to get my speed dials and preferences saved was frustrating.

But once everything is up and running, the integration between your normal landline and Skype line is seamless.

Call quality on the adapter and GE phone was surprisingly great. When calling landlines in Spain and Switzerland, neither I nor the people being called could notice a difference between the landline and Skype Internet calls.

The devices come with a free unlimited calling plan for the U.S., Canada, and 40 other countries for the first month. After the trial period is over, there are plans that range from $4.49 per month for unlimited calls to the U.S./Canada to $13.99 per month for unlimited world calling. As always, calls to other Skype members are free, no matter where they are in the world.

The Skype devices potentially offer some good savings but they aren’t for everyone.

If you’re more a national caller, most phone and cable companies already include unlimited domestic calling, so paying for a Skype domestic plan would be redundant. If you’re thinking of maybe dumping you’re current landline provider for Skype, the company doesn’t offer 911 calling and you would have to pay $18 every three months for a Skype number.

On the flip side, the unlimited world wide plans are great, especially if you’re dumping a bunch of money on calling cards. Skype also said they plan on rolling out the GE phone globally later this year, which could potentially mean free phone calls to family and friends who also bought the $70 phone.

Before making the jump to Internet calling, check out some of Skype’s competitors like Vonage and Ooma. Each allows 911 calls, voice mail, let you keep your number, and offer national and global plans. Ooma even delivers an HD-like audio call quality. Both are an alternative to dumping your regular landline, but depending on your needs, these options could get on the expensive side.

But if you’re happy with your current phone service but frequently use calling cards to call abroad, Skype’s service is a good money saving alternative to look into.

Trump trial continues … Stony Brook protesters arraigned … Summer attractions Credit: Newsday

Updated 4 minutes ago Rex Heuermann's house searched ... Trump trial continues ... Stony Brook protesters arraigned ... School budget preview

Trump trial continues … Stony Brook protesters arraigned … Summer attractions Credit: Newsday

Updated 4 minutes ago Rex Heuermann's house searched ... Trump trial continues ... Stony Brook protesters arraigned ... School budget preview

Latest Videos


Unlimited Digital AccessOnly 25¢for 5 months