The advent of 'unlimited' mobile plans has sparked a new category of gizmo: Bluetooth home phones that use your mobile to place calls. PLUS: The most bastardly press release ever.
Imagine my surprise when, this afternoon, I received a bill from a company I'd never heard of called BlueSIM
. I was immediately ropable -- it's not the first time I've received bills from unknown telcos for unsolicited review products that they've sent in and then billed for after the first month. Steam was just starting to come out of my ears when I looked closer at the bill and noticed something odd about it -- the payment date was "never again".
Aha! I'd just been comprehensively sucked in by a PR agency stunt. Normally, when an unsolicited bunch of roses or a cryptic clue of some sort arrives in an envelope (sent by a PR company trying to create interest around some product launch), I mutter something that can't be printed under my breath and throw it straight in the bin. But I was delighted by how utterly sucked in I was by this stunt.
As it turns out, the product being pimped is something I was very interested in anyway. The BlueSIM phone connects to your mobile via Bluetooth and allows you to place and receive calls via a PSTN-style phone, but via the mobile network on your mobile.
This might seem like an awkward way to make a phone call on your mobile, but it's a perfect sort of device to go with all the unlimited cap plans that are coming out at the moment. For example, Optus, Vodafone and 3 now all offer $99 caps which provide unlimited calls to landlines and mobile phones on any network Australia-wide. TPG even has one for uber-cheapskates that costs $59.95 a month and includes unlimited calls to mobiles and landlines (but no data, SMS, etc.)
We've been hearing for years about people dropping landlines for mobile phones, but I've always wondered how people manage to stay within their cap limits while still being able to make the half hour long phone calls to their parents / girlfriend / whatever. A $99 unlimited plan, on the other hand, offers a catch-all option for all your home phone and mobile calls, and usually includes a fair chunk of mobile broadband data as well. (The caveat is that these 'unlimited' plans do have exclusions usually, such as voicemail pickup and/or calls to 13/1300/1800 numbers, which are charged on top of the plan fee at call rates that would make even Sol Trujillo wince.)
Anyway, mobile plans aside, the BlueSIM phone, which was the subject of the bogus bill that sucked me in so impressively above, is $299 and connects to your mobile up to 10M away, so you can make lengthy calls without worrying about "frying your brain" as BlueSIM's website delicately puts it.
The BlueSIM phone isn't the only similar product on the market though.
If you already have a naked DSL service with VoIP, for example, and are happy with running your landline calls through a free VoIP service you might want to check out a "GSM gateway", which can be connected to your existing VoIP setup. You can then place calls to landlines via VoIP, and calls to mobiles via your Bluetooth mobile, avoiding the costly per-minute rates that VoIP providers have to charge for calls to mobiles.
GSM gateways have been around for years, but the problem with them is that they traditionally need their own SIM card -- and that means additional costs on top of your regular monthly mobile plan fee. A new breed of GSM gateways operate much like the BlueSIM phone -- they connect to your mobile via Bluetooth and place the call that way. As a result, you can make calls through any regular phone in the house, but take advantage of your unlimited mobile plan.