Most people, if asked, would welcome an alternative to their current
long-distance situation. Once the benefits and applications of Voice over IP
(VoIP) become better known, it's an alternative that is going to be tough to
resist. This seems obvious as VoIP products and services become increasingly
more popular and vendors flood the market with the latest and greatest
offerings. As an evolving technology, which presents new challenges and
solutions, VoIP is finally getting the recognition it deserves and consumers
are reaping the benefits.
One of the products included in this developing area of technology is
Super Phone. Defined as an Internet-powered telephone gateway, it is a
standalone device that enables you to make calls through the Internet
without incurring the standard long-distance charges. Super Phone is also
available as a dial-up version or a corporate Internet telephony gateway.
Regardless of which option is used, the real benefit is the ability to use
Internet connectivity to offset long-distance charges. Guaranteed services
are purchased from an ISP, and VoIP calls are routed over the Internet
connection to a gateway that connects the company's IP network to a phone
Installation just doesn't get much simpler. First, we connected the phone
line to the back of the Super Phone device. Then we connected an RJ-45 cable
from the device to the network jack. Last but not least, we plugged in the
AC/DC adapter, from which all good things come to life...and that was it.
All hooked up and ready to go. No rebooting, no software glitches or Dr.
Watson errors. What a nice change of pace from dealing with software-based
products! The only problem we ran into was a required quick software
upgrade, which was handled within minutes right from the device itself. Once
upgraded, the Super Phone automatically reset itself and operated without
any further problems.
As far as the setup procedure is concerned, that was relatively simple as
well. We followed along with the quick start guide's instructions, which
were clearly laid out and easy enough to understand. It walked us through
the input of the necessary parameters and was divided into two main
categories, the first of which was LAN configurations, including a valid IP
address, gateway address, and subnet mask.
The second category dealt with Internet telephony service provider (ITSP)
configurations that included an ITSP account number and a dedicated phone
number (both provided by Super Technologies), and long-distance dialing
codes. To obtain the ITSP account, we had to contact a technical support
representative and request that an account be activated for us. They also
started our account with 1000 ITSP calling points -- more than enough for us
to make our test calls.
The only documentation that we received with our Super Phone device was a
quick start guide. It was printed on a double-sided laminated sheet, which
made the information easily accessible. It contained complete information
that was outlined clearly and even included a diagram or two. The blanks
that were not filled in by the quick guide were covered on the Web site. As
an added reliable resource, the technical support representatives that we
dealt with were always available. They responded quicker than we could say
'Super Phone' and they didn't give up until the problem was resolved or the
question had been answered.
The most unique feature of Super Phone is a service known as Virtual Phone
Line. It is the "brains" of the technology behind the hardware.
This service is responsible for enabling dedicated numbers to be assigned to
the Super Phone devices. Having a dedicated number allows companies to take
advantage of telephone services on cable, DSL, and wireless Internet
Super Phone allows users to make VoIP calls quickly and without hassle.
Another useful feature of Super Phone is the ability to check on your
account balance. This is a simple procedure and only requires picking up the
analog phone and dialing "*88#." This displays a balance in terms
of calling points on the Super Phone's LCD screen. Similarly, by dialing
"*99#" you can view a device balance, which is a total amount of
calling points assigned to your device via a device number.
We unpacked the Super Phone hardware from the box and were anxious to
get it configured and set up. The process of setting it up and getting it
"online" was a relatively simple and quick one. Once we had
everything plugged into the proper ports, we set our sights on the fun
stuff: We were anxious to make test calls to and from our new device.
First, we picked up the analog phone connected to the Super Phone and
listened for the special dialtone. We entered a phone number and waited for
a few seconds while the phone call was routed over IP to the ITSP. From
there, an outbound call was made through one of its gateways to our
destination phone number. Once the phone was answered, we were able to
determine that voice quality was very good and latency was minimal.
Our next mission was to receive calls through the Super Phone. We wanted
to find out if this would be as quick and painless as making telephone calls
had been. Fortunately for us it was. We proved this by making several
external calls and receiving the same results each time. We didn't encounter
any major difficulties in making the calls and the device worked as
Next, we worked with Rehan, a Super Technologies representative, and
tested receiving a VoIP call. From his Super Phone device, Rehan dialed our
phone number. He was able to successfully complete the phone call and we had
a very interesting conversation. We, in turn, tried calling him from our
analog phone by entering his phone number. After a short delay we were
connected. Finally, we dialed his device number from our analog phone and
that call went off without a hitch as well.
Overall, we found the quality of the connection to be acceptable in both
incoming and outgoing call situations. As with most VoIP products such as
these, there was a short delay in the audio responses received, and it
seemed like it was a little longer from the side of the person using the
phone connected to the Super Phone. For the most part, the delay wasn't
noticeable enough to be a problem, and the calls were always clear.
ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT
We were a bit sticker-shocked by the $700 price tag. We've tested competing
products that were much less expensive and thus would highly recommend the
Super Phone lower their price to match their competitors. We'd like to see
the product's functionality extended to include connection capability with
NetMeeting. While it currently does not work with this service, we would
like to note that according to representatives from Super Technologies, this
functionality is in the works and should be available within the next few
Another suggestion we have for an improvement is in the standard phone
functionality. We think that it would be great if it were possible to make a
regular phone call the good old-fashioned way. Let's say we wanted to make a
quick call to the local pizza joint. We should be able to pick up the phone
receiver that's attached to the Super Phone and make the call without having
to use any of our ITSP calling points. There might need to be a digit that
is pressed first to signify that the call will be made "offline"
and therefore won't result in the calling points being reduced. We would
like to note that this option is slated to be in the next version of Super
Phone. In addition to this functionality, there are also plans for offering
a flat rate calling plan so users won't need to use a separate phone to make
local phone calls.
VoIP technology is transforming the way that people and businesses
communicate. Products are being developed, which offer us an improved method
of communication and also a possible alternative to troublesome
long-distance phone charges. Here at TMC Labs, we get to experience a
plethora of different products and study their impact on the market and on
consumers at large. The Super Phone installation and setup were simple and
we consider it a welcome addition to the VoIP product market. Overall, we
were very impressed with the Super Phone and its capabilities. It's an
excellent product that offers a very useful service. With the planned future
additions to its functionality, we feel that it is worthy of serious
consideration as a reliable and successful VoIP solution.
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