February 05, 2006
I bought a new toy yesterday. Actually I bought it after being denied what I was really planning to do yesterday. I was going to test drive a Seat Leon 2.0 tfsi (for you Americans reading this, Seat is a Spanish car company owned by Volkswagen) and a Volkswagen Golf Gti 2.0 tfsi but it turns out that I need a Dutch driver’s license before I can test drive any cars in the Netherlands. My 30% ruling came through a couple of weeks ago, so all I have to do is swap out my Washington DL for the Dutch version, but I hadn’t gotten around to it yet. It turned out that the Seat and VW dealers I went to were very close to the MediaMarkt right by the Ajax soccer stadium (Again, for you Americans, Ajax is the local soccer team and I hear that they kinda suck, but the stadium is spectacularly massive).
While browsing through the aisles, I remembered that I wanted to get a Skype-enabled handset. I use Skype every now and then because calling from the Netherlands to the US on my cell is probably not cheap. But shouting at my laptop isn’t always the most comfortable thing to do. When I am at home I just suffer from a tired throat. But when I am at work or at a cafe or airport lounge, its just embarrassing. Plus, in order to talk to anyone, I have to have my computer on my lap. Although I knew that there were some Skype-enabled handsets out there, I didn’t have high hopes for finding anything. MediaMarkt doesn’t exactly have the best selection. And if you can’t find it, don’t bother asking the staff as they are completely incompetent. But unfortunately MediaMarkt seems to be as good as it gets here for selection. They have a lot of stuff across every category of electric products (Dishwashers to digital cameras, computers to coffee machines), just not a very deep choice in each genre. Many Dutch know that this is the place to go for these types of things, so it is always packed.
Anyway, I go to the phone section and was very surprised to see 3 choices for cordless Skype-enabled phones. Seeing no real difference between the phones, I picked up the DualPhone at 119 Euros. Of course, I can’t go into a store like this and buy only one thing, so I also managed to find aCruzerMicro 1GB USB stick for 50 Euros and a Microsoft Optical Notebook Mouse 4000 for about 35 Euros. One nice thing about buying stuff in Europe is that the price you see is what you pay. All prices typically already include the painful 19% tax.
So I get these things home and eagerly plug in the phone. It requires a software install which recognizes the phone and automatically updates the phone and its base station to the latest version and syncs it up with Skype. All my Skype contacts automatically appear on the phone. If someone isn’t online, I don’t even see them listed on the phone. But most of my contacts are actually SkypeOut contacts, regular phone numbers in the US that I pay 1.7 cents per minute to call. I also have a 305 area code SkypeIn phone number to enable my parents to call me without dialing international long distance.
After the thing updates itself and charges for a while, I try my first call. Anytime I get a new device such as a phone, microphone, etc, the first call is to my parents. And the first question is something like: how do I sound. Apparently most times I ask this, I sound like I am either in a fishtank or a large echoey room. This time they said it was the clearest I ever sounded. In fact they said it sounded like I was at a local Key Biscayne number. A few minutes into the conversation (we didn’t just talk about sound quality) I noticed how much easier it was for me to talk to them. My throat wasn’t tired. On a cell phone or a bluetooth headset, I always talk a little louder. With this I was able to talk normally.
Now that I have this device I can see my Skype usage going way up. At 1.7 cents a minute, its so cheap I don’t have to really think about it. And the sound quality is so much better than a cell phone (my only other choice when I am not at work as I never got around to getting a land line at home). For now, until I have my first problem, I am totally recommending this phone. Way too cool…