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Skype plugs hybrid landline/VoIP handsets

Skype started out as a way of making free calls using the internet. Now it says that most people don't really want to do that. What most of us want, it seems, is to be able to make free, or dirt cheap, calls from an actual phone.

Today we got wind of some new Skype-enabled phones, yet just one of them works with a PC. The £30 Ipevo Free 2 connects to a PC via a USB port and has an LCD screen.

Neither of the other two new handsets needs you to have your PC switched on in order to make Skype calls. Instead, you need a broadband connection - a bit of a given in order to make VoIP (voice over internet protocol) calls in the first place. As long as your router and broadband connection are live, you can make Skype calls whenever you want.

The Ipevo Solo 1 is a cross between a VoIP phone and a landline one, with a 2.4in LCD screen and an anti-echo feature. Echo is a particular issue when using VoIP services. The Solo 1 supports standard web-based Skype calls as well as Skype MMS and SkypeOut and SkypeIn.

These latter enable Skype fans to make and receive calls from other handsets via a redirection service without either the caller or the call recipient incurring the often high costs associated with overseas and overseas mobile phone calls.

As well as the £108 Solo 1, Skype has announced the TopCom Webtalker 6000 - a straight VoIP handset that, again, does not tether the user to a PC or laptop.

With wi-fi and Powerline networks installed in many households, users can now choose to make web-based calls in the part of the house that most suits them, rather than being restricted to calling from the same room as the household PC.

More and more VoIP phones are cunningly disguised as standard Dect landline phones. Skype has become just another feature on a regular phone. Skype hopes that this approach will lead to less technology-aware people such as senior citizens and small children using its services.

All three handsets are being sold exclusively through www.skypestyle.co.uk.

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