ITEXPO begins in:   New Coverage :  Asterisk  |  Fax Software  |  SIP Phones  |  Small Cells

Second Quater 1998


Riparius Ventures, Inc.
375 Padonia Rd. West Suite 200
Timonium, MD 21093
Ph.: 800-366-0937
Fx.: 410-561-3458
Web: http://internet_telephone.riparius.com  

Price: $29.95

Installation: 5
Documentation: 3
Features: 3
Overall: B-

As a fairly simple product, the installation of the Conairphone was no more complicated than plugging the microphone and speaker jacks into a sound card. Of course the sound card should be plugged into a computer! A good gauge of the complexity of any product is whether or not you have to read the documentation to install it. As on could probably guess, we didn’t have to. In fact, we probably broke a couple of speed records? Riparius sums it up best in their documentation by saying, "If you can record and play sound with any program (via the Conairphone), your internet telephone is working properly.

For a gadget as straightforward as this, one didn’t expect the documentation to be on the order of The Winds of War. The information that came with the phone we tested was on a long, thin sheet of paper with instructions on both sides (English on one, Spanish on the other). It gives a basic schematic of the phone as well as general safety instructions. Windows 95 users are able to tailor the speaker and microphone to comfortable levels using Sound Recorder while Windows 3.x users have to refer to the software that came with their soundcard.

The Conairphone has microphone and speaker jacks. The speaker jack is split into a male and female (external speaker jack) connector. This way, one can plug the phone into the speaker port, then plug speakers into the external speaker jack. It’s a simple add-on that allows the operator to use the phone and not lose the functionality of their speakers.

What we thought was a "phone spoiler" (not unlike what would be found on a Porsche 944 turbo) turned out to be a phone hanger. A strip of adhesive tape accompanies the hanger. Simply determine a convenient location to hang up the phone and stick it there! Software is limited to a trial version of NetSpeak Corporation’s WebPhone. The user can make an unlimited amount of phone calls as long as the duration is no more than three minutes. At $29.95, what did you expect?

We decided right away that we were primarily interested in the sound quality of the phone and therefore used Microsoft’s NetMeeting 2.1 as the test platform. The phones were tested both on the LAN and across an Internet connection using modems. We didn’t expect anything dramatic considering that a phone is nothing more than a speaker and microphone in a convenient package. (The thinnest of clients?) 

However, this actually helped the phone achieve better than average results, as compared to using external speakers and microphone. When using a microphone and speakers, the party on one end (party A) speaks and their sound resonates through the speaker on the other end (party B). Unfortunately, party B’s external microphone picks up that sound and sends it back to party A, which creates an annoying echo effect. In practice, the user is not going to talk directly into the microphone. Therefore, the sensitivity level has to be ramped up dramatically. The Conairphone (as with any analog telephone) has three distinct advantages over the standard external speaker/microphone system, which are:

  • Sound doesn’t resonate very far from the speakers.
  • Any excess sound will be muffled by the user’s ear. Therefore,
  • The microphone’s sensitivity level does not have to be ramped up to such a high degree.

When we tested the phones, the nor mal echo that one attributes to Internet telephony was not present. We experienced choppy conversation on one test occasion, but attributed that to traffic on our LAN rather than to the phone itself.It’s necessary to point out that due to technical difficulties, we were only able to test the phones over our LAN. It’s a safe bet that any additional distortion experienced while using the Conairphone over a standard dial-up, ISDN, T1, or any other connection to the Internet should be attributed to poor bandwidth and not the product.

At a price of $29.95, one really can’t expect too many improvements. We’re probably nitpicking, but the packaging could probably use some reworking.It’s not the easiest in the world to open! Armed with sheer force and willpower we attempted to separate the molded plastic and access the phones to no avail. Ah, the beauty of heavy-duty scissors (and the experience of opening countless bags of potato chips). One engineer pointed out that he’s had an easier time picking some locks! Seriously, we don’t think there’s enough in a product such as this to have any complaints.

We agreed that the convenience of phone design coupled with the reduction of echo distortion would be enough to endear the Conairphone to many users. Its ease of installation, hanger, and low price are niceties that make it well-suited for the SOHO or home user. It’s also nice to know that one can obtain a private connection to another party through the Internet, since one is not using external speakers.Since the telephone has been around for a few years, however, we will stop short of passing out kudos to the Conair design engineers or giving it a higher overall rating. Sorry!

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