As I walked into this spacious, uncluttered store I was greeted almost immediately by a happy and cheerful saleswoman.
I explained that I was looking for a VOIP handset to connect to my computer. I was introduced to the 3 Skypephone S2I and told it was like a normal mobile phone, but with Skype software. It was available on Prepay for £69.99, or free on a £15 a month contract. There was a tempting offer of signing up to a sixmonth contract rather than the normal 18 months.
The thought of using Skype anywhere sounded amazing, and almost too good to be true. There are no network charges when using Skype-to-Skype – the only catch was that I would have to top up once every three months to keep Skype active. There was also a Fair Use Policy of 4,000 Skype to Skype minutes per top up (that’s 66 hours).
We chatted about the cost of Skype to other numbers and countries, and I discovered that it was very cheap when compared to landline use, dependant on location.
The saleswoman’s knowledge was impressive and had a ‘wow’ factor behind it, almost making me want to buy one there and then. She clearly believed in the product herself and left me feeling that this could be the future for Skype.
AFTER several minutes of browsing the store and being unable to find any VOIP handsets, I found a salesman who was just finishing up with a customer.
When I asked about VOIP he told me that the store used to stock several models in the past. However, the only model available at the moment was a US Robotics USB Skype Internet Mini Phone priced at £14.67, which was currently out of stock. Feeling undeterred I asked him some questions to check his knowledge further.
I asked which VOIP services the mini phone was compatible with. Skype and MSN were the two suggested. I was told that as long as my service provider allows VOIP it would work fine.
Offering an alternative method, he went on to tell me that using a webcam and microphone might be worth considering. As unfortunately I wasn’t able to find exactly what I was looking for, I left to continue my search elsewhere.
Unlike the Currys and PC World on the retail park, this Comet store was not brimming with customers. Salesmen and women were wandering around the shop looking for people to serve.
It wasn't long before someone sought me out. The sales assistant told me that the store didn’t stock VoIP handsets anymore. They didn't sell very well, he added.
After I asked him to explain other ways of communication, such as Skype and MSN, he suggested three headsets – the Sennheiser PC131 (£29.35), the Plantronics 350E (£19.56), and the 325E (£14.67).
The devices are compatible with Skype, MSN and most other VoIP services and are easy to use. The only difference was that I would have to dial the number using the software.
His recommendation was the Sennheiser, due to what he felt was its excellent speaker quality. He told me the Plantronics, especially the 350E model, was suited more towards gaming. All in all, it was a useful visit and I came away with some good information.