Friday, July 11, 2008

Cool Technology of the Week

Since every other technology blogger is going to discuss the iPhone 3G launch, it's a day to blog about cool phone technologies. Yes CareGroup/BIDMC and Harvard Medical School will support the iPhone 3G with our Exchange 2007 systems, ensuring equal treatment of Blackberry and iPhone for email and calendar synch. I will test the iPhone 3G using a loaner from Apple that arrives on July 18. I'll report on my feature by feature comparison of the Blackberry Curve (I've not been able to test a Blackberry Bold yet) and the iPhone in a post later this month.

While traveling internationally with my Blackberry 8320, I make and receive numerous calls. Roaming charges can be extreme - $1 to $2 dollars per minute. How do you travel internationally with your smartphone and avoid the high cost?

My cool technology of the week is iSkoot , a downloadable Skype client for the Blackberry and other smartphones (HP, Treo, Nokia, Motorola etc). The iSkoot client places a regular local phone call to an iSkoot gateway server, then the gateway server places a Skype call, bypassing all long distance charges. While connected to the iSkoot gateway, the iSkoot client enables you to

* See who is signed in and view their online status
* Manage your own online status
* Click to call a contact
* Click to chat with a contact
* Make low-cost calls to any phone number, anywhere in the world using SkypeOut
* Receive calls from Skype users
* Add or remove friends from your contact list
* Refresh your contact list automatically or on demand

One other technique I find useful when traveling internationally is to use an inexpensive quad band mobile phone ($30 on eBay) with a local Sim Card, purchased in the country I'm visiting. This enables folks in the country to call you and you to call them at low cost. Also, you can receive calls from international callers at no cost to you. The caller pays a bit more to reach your roaming local cell phone, but you incur no long distance charges.

iSkoot and local Sim Cards - a Cool Technology solution for the international traveler.


Andy said...

Iskoot looks like a great service, though there seems to be conflicting information about how it places Skype calls. The way I read it, it makes Skype calls by placing a local phone call - not using the data service. This would still incur voice roaming charges, unless you're using a local SIM card.

When you've used this, have you been charged roaming fees for Skype calls?

It would be an ideal product if it placed Skype calls using only data.

John Halamka said...

Andy - I rewrote the blog entry to be very specific about that point. Sorry for the confusion. Yes, a local call is needed and the VoIP is initiated to Skype from a local iSkoot Gateway.

Savannah said...

I have a fantastic solution which is to use my Blackberry Curve which has the wifi hotspot at home service from T-Mobile when I travel abroad. As long as I can get a wifi connection (public city connection, hotel, office, whichever), I can make free calls to the US and it sounds and works just like my ordinary phone (unlike Skype which I also use but is a little less reliable). I highly recommend the solution... although it does mean you have to have T-Mobile service which may not always be what you want.

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