The Home Phone of the Future

Yesterday I took a look at what Telstra are Dubbing “the Home Phone of the Future”. It’s a big call, so what’s it all about, and will it be...

Yesterday I took a look at what Telstra are Dubbing “the Home Phone of the Future”. It’s a big call, so what’s it all about, and will it be a game changer? Read on for my thoughts and a full preview of the Telstra T-Hub.

Telstra's T-Hub

Telstra's T-Hub

On April 20 Telstra will make the T-Hub available through all its retail channels and I have no doubt you’ll see a big push for it in some areas of Telstra’s Marketing.

This is NOT a product for everyone, but for families who are looking to take their connectivity to the next level and for people looking for an extra layer of convenience in their communications this has real potential.

Also, given it’s available to people with either a Telstra Residential or Business Fixed-Line phone, I can see some small business users with this on their desk.

There is so much to cover in this device that it’s hard to get to it all here and now, but let me run through the basics.

When you buy a T-Hub (Either $299 outright, or $299 spread over 24 months at $11 per month plus $35 up front, and other bundled options) you get the device pictured above, plus a regular looking cordless phone.

The Hub (above) is the key device.  There isn’t much fascinating about the cordless handset other than its interaction with the main unit, and there are other Cordless systems around that allow you to synchronise your contacts etc between handsets.

So, you plug the Hub into a power point, it gets its power through the main docking station and charges the Hub unit up.  Taken out of the dock, the T-Hub has 2 hours talk time, but I’m not sure anyone will ever have this unit out of the Dock for much longer than that – and certainly not while using it as a phone.

The ‘base station’ (not the Hub or Dock) also plugs into your power, and also into your normal home phone line (has to Be Telstra – otherwise this is a very expensive phone with little or no real features!)

Once connected to the phone line, you then configure the T-Hub to connect to your existing home WiFi (Wireless) network for Internet access.  Again, you have to have Bigpond broadband or this is a very expensive device on which very few features will work.

Forgetting the cordless phone, which as I’ve said, operates essentially the same as any other normal phone, the T-Hub is the new, and innovative peice of gear – thus the “phone of the future” tag.  While sitting in the dock, or standing on a bench using the built in flip out stand, this device is a n 18Inch touch screen phone and Internet Tablet.  As a phone you can dial and call people on speakerphone with the touch of the screen.

Store contacts, synchronise those contacts with your Bigpond account and listen to voicemail messages all at the touch of a button.

The voicemail features are perhaps some of the most innovative.  When you click “Voicemail” after seeing the small notification of new messages, you get a list of voicemail messages.  So no need to listen through them all, you can pick the message you want to listen to.  Click play and that specific message is played on the device on the built in speakers.  Delete the message with the touch of a button, or replay.  Very simple and very cool.

There is even the option to send SMS messages, but be warned, this only works to/from Telstra lines.

Telstra T-Hub

Telstra T-Hub - FRONT

If you’re speaking to someone on the handsfree T-Hub then want to wander without carrying the Hub around, click TRANSFER and you can transfer the call to one of the cordless handsets you have (T-Hub handsets – one comes with the package).

Use the T-Hub beside your bed or in the Kitchen as a large screen clock display, or even as a Digital Picture frame (insert card into SD slot or USB slot).  Given what you’ll pay for a Digital Photo frame, this makes the price of the T-Hub that little more reasonable.

Then there’s the calendar – include your appointments so everyone in the family can see what each other is up to.  At release this is a feature that still needs a lot of work.  To be a true family device you need your own calendar and colours so you can view ‘family at a glance’ or your own calendar.  Given it’s connectivity the great news is that features like this will come thick and fast via the online automatic upgrades you can do.

The Calendar is just one of 12 Apps, or icons on the device.  With 2 screens of 12, not customisable there isn’t a lot of personalisation you can do on the T-Hub, and don’t expect a Bigpond App store to open up any time soon for the T-Hub this is not going to be that kind of device.

You can browse the web – any website – the screen resolution is around 800 pixels so many sites just won’t look that great, but with tablets taking over the world (extreme overstatement yes) mobile or scaled down sites are becoming more and more important.  It seemed to me that the Facebook site on T-Hub was accessing the iPod Touch version which worked really well.

Bookmarking favourites is easy, however you cannot set bookmarks as icons on the home screen.  Facebook, Twitter and MySpace are all default icons.  Twitter too would benefit from a better mobile site for this device, or a specific app.

News, Sport, Finance and Weather are other key features, using Bigpond content these are well displayed and easily accessed.

Telstra T-Hub and Cordless Phone

Telstra T-Hub and Cordless Phone

White and Yellow pages come as default apps – with Whitepages currently just a mobile web version (actual app to come) and Yellow pages an excellent easy to use directory with one touch dialling on search results.  Never before has searching for a plumber been so easy.

YouTube is another default icon, linking to a specific ‘screen’ version of YouTube (http://www.youtube.com/xl) which works really well – so viewing some fun youtube content while you cook or clean, or are just sitting around in your lounge is quite easy.

Without an AM or FM radio (or DAB for that matter) built in this is a disappointingly missing feature – however it is offset by the Internet Radio icon, which gives you access to the vtuner list of Radio stations all around the world just as many Digital Radios are starting to do also.  You can listen to most of your favorite commercial or non-commercial stations via the Internet.

Think of this as the device you flick through while making toast in the morning, or even lying in bed – news, weather for the day, check facebook or twitter – it’s really bringing those sites and content direct to you as very few devices have managed to do.

I live in a very connected household – both my wife and I have blackberry’s – we both have computers and really the information here would only be beneficial to us as enhancements of that.  The phone and voicemail features are really appealing to me, however without Bigpond Broadband I’m stuck for access.

I plan to get my Mother and Father-in-Law to be the guinea pigs for my test of the T-Hub as they are the ideal candidates in my view.  Bigpond Internet, Standard Telstra phone account, could really benefit from the better voicemail integration, the photo frame aspect, the contacts and calendar and in time the Facebook access too.

This is not for everyone.  It’s not for ‘early adopters’ because they will all have a technological solution to most of the problems solved by this device.  It’s not for people without an internet connection (or Broadband) – because this is not the device you want to first discover the internet on.  However, for those with a single computer, an interest in staying connected with friends and family, and especially those frustrated by making a phone call to retreive voicemail – you’ll see some real benefit in this device.

The photo below has a family huddled around the device like the original Wireless, I don’t see that being a reality – but I do see this being passed around to show each other YouTube clips or Facebook messages.

A Family using the T-Hub

I managed to crash one T-Hub I played with twice, beginners bad luck or a pre-production device I don’t know.  The touchscreen on the T-Hub is not like an iPhone, nor some touch PC’s, but after a very short play you understand the sensitivity required and its a breeze.  Not enough of a breeze to making typing less than a chore but still a good user experience.

No, it doesn’t have a camera – maybe one day that’s possible on a new version – lets get from A to B first through before we get to G.  No you can’t move the apps around, bit of a shame I must say. Will people really make speakerphone calls much at home?  I really don’t think so, but I could be wrong.  Will people enjoy the ease of access to Weather, News and Social Media – yes.  That’s the feature set that will take this to the audience, along with the very visual – large screen smartphone style interface for Missed Calls, Call Logs, Voicemail and Contacts – all an excellent user interface.

For the full download on this new device, see the official Telstra information below, for now though, I certainly think it’s worth checking the T-Hub out on the 20th – I’ll let you know how my hands on test goes soon!


OFFICIAL TELSTRA RELEASE INFORMATION:

Telstra T-Hub™: a one–touch phone and information hub for the home

T-Hub™ is Australia’s first device that combines a traditional home phone with advanced mobile phone-type applications.

The Telstra T-Hub™ is a new generation of home phone that works like a mobile phone by combining the features of telephony, information and entertainment.

The T-Hub™ features a large, 18-centimetre touch screen that enables users to make and receive phone calls and text messages, visit Internet sites, play music and radio stations, organise family activities, and view the latest news, sport and weather.

How is the Telstra T-Hub different to a normal home phone?

The Telstra T-Hub integrates wireless internet and home organisation services into a cordless home phone at an affordable price. Customers simply touch the home screen to access a wide range of internet sites through their BigPond® Home Network Gateway or compatible Wi-Fi modem.

What does the Telstra T-Hub do?

The Telstra T-Hub is designed to help Australians:

Stay in touch

  • The 18cm (7 inch) Touch Panel makes it easier to dial and redial, save and search contacts and check recent calls
  • Make hands free calls via the Touch Panel for convenient hands free calling
  • Write and send text messages using the Touch Panel keyboard
  • With MyInbox and Calling Number Display, it can be set so the person calling’s photo pops up
  • View a list of voicemail messages, including how long they are and the date and time received
  • Conveniently view missed calls and notifications when you have voicemail or SMS with the Touch Panel

Be informed

  • Pre-loaded BigPond® icons for virtually instant access to news, sport, weather, finance and entertainment
  • Find out what family and friends are doing by connecting to social networking sites such as Facebook®, MySpace™ and Twitter.
  • Touch-screen access to phone numbers and information in White Pages®, Yellow Pages® and 1234

Stay organised

  • A calendar for birthdays, dentist appointments, or footy training – customers just enter the event details into the T-Hub Touch Panel where everyone can see them
  • Other handy tools such as a calculator, alarm clock and notes feature are in one place

Be entertained

  • Play music, watch videos on You Tube or use it as a high-resolution digital photo frame using a USB drive or SD card
  • Touch the Internet Radio icon to choose from a selection of Australian radio stations and listen to them online

What features does Telstra expect to be most popular?

Our trials showed that some of the most popular features were one touch access to weather, news, sport and finance, hands free calling, accessing contacts for calling, and using the Internet browser. Trialists also found internet radio a great feature for the kitchen or living area, along with the photo frame function.

What do users need to get started?

From 20 April, T-Hub will be available to purchase from T-life™ stores, Telstra Licensed stores, selected dealers, online via t.com or by calling 1300 136 841. The T-Hub works exclusively on the Telstra network so to connect a T-Hub, users must have:

  • Telstra HomeLine® or BusinessLine® service pre-selected to Telstra for local and long distance calls
  • BigPond® or Telstra Broadband service
  • Home Network Gateway or Wi-Fi modem (please note that this is not included with the T-Hub)
  • MessageBank® or Telstra Home Messages 101®
  • Flashing Message Indicator (a free service that enables users to view voicemail)
  • MyInbox – when installing the T-Hub Touch Panel, users will be automatically signed up to MyInbox (unless they have done so already) and their Telstra phone service will be linked to it
  • Calling Number Display is also recommended, to help users identify a caller and display their name and photo if it’s loaded into your Contacts.

Connecting the Touch Panel and cordless handset takes only a few minutes. Customers then follow a step-by-step user guide to set-up the T-Hub.

How much does it cost?

From 20 April, T-Hub will be available from selected T-life stores for $299 outright or on a 24 month contract at $11 per month with a $35 initial payment. (Min cost is $1976.60 plus usage, based on HomeLine Plus and $39.95 BigPond Turbo ADSL/Cable 2GB Broadband plan for 24 months.)

T-Hub can also be purchased as part of one of Telstra’s 15 existing bundled options, ranging from $89 – $229 per month over 24 months.

For example, for $109 per month over 24 months plus $35 upfront customers receive – a home phone with unlimited local calls, a 12GB BigPond® ADSL or cable broadband plan and a BigPond Home Network Gateway for eligible customers. (Min cost is $2651 plus a $9.95 delivery fee and usage.

Prices for the T-Hub may vary at T-Life, Telstra Licensed Stores and Telstra’s third party dealers.

Tech specs and future updates

The Telstra T-Hub will continue to get better with software updates in the future. The upgrades don’t count toward usage limits and users can choose to accept or ignore an update. An upgrade typically takes a few minutes and then automatically re-starts the device.

Cordless Handset

  • Dimensions: 49mm (w) x139mm (h) x 20mm (d)
  • Talk time: up to 2 hours (when not connected to charge)
  • Connectivity: DECT

Touch Panel

  • Dimensions: 184mm (w) x 150mm (h) x 18mm (d)
  • Screen: 18cm (7”) WVGA LCD with touch screen (800×480 pixels)
  • Talk time: up to 2 hours (when not connected to charge)
  • Connectivity: Wi-Fi for Internet and DECT for calling
  • External ports: USB 2.0 and SD card reader
  • 3.5mm stereo headphone jack, subwoofer
  • Audio compatibilities: MP3, WAV, WMA
  • Video compatibilities: WMV, AVI, FLV
  • Image compatibilities: JPEG, PNG, GIF, BMP, TIFF
Categories
Opinion

Trev produces two of the most popular technology podcasts in Australia, Your Tech Life and Two Blokes Talking Tech. He hosts a nightly radio show on Talking Lifestyle, 8pm Monday to Friday in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane, appears on over 50 radio stations across Australia weekly, and is the Tech Expert on Channel 9’s Today Show and A Current Affair. Father of three, he is often found down in his Man Cave. Like this post? Buy Trev a drink!
8 Comments on this post.
  • Abal14
    2 May 2010 at 12:17 am
    Leave a Reply

    Just purchased the T-hub and 2 extra handsets. There are no instructions to register the handset except to refer to online guide which I am still searching for. ….so far very frustrating!!

  • Sheryl
    8 May 2010 at 1:11 pm
    Leave a Reply

    I agree with Abal14. We have just today purchased the T-Hub and 1 extra handset and I am online on my computer trying to find the instructions to register it. So far no luck… Frustrating indeed.

  • trevorlong
    25 May 2010 at 10:34 am
    Leave a Reply

    Hi Abal14, I've spoken to Telstra, and it should be as simple as pressing the small button on the right hand side of the base station – that's not the T-Hub but the one that plugs into the phone socket, the square box with the blue light.

    Pressing that should start the process of hooking up the handsets.

  • trevorlong
    25 May 2010 at 10:34 am
    Leave a Reply

    Sheryl, ditto below:
    it should be as simple as pressing the small button on the right hand side of the base station – that's not the T-Hub but the one that plugs into the phone socket, the square box with the blue light.

    Pressing that should start the process of hooking up the handsets.

    DO let me know

  • Lyne
    26 August 2010 at 3:58 am
    Leave a Reply

    The worse investment we ever made, has been nothing but trouble. The first T-Hub wouldn’t charge up, also the screen kept freezing. Telstra sent a replacement isn’t any better, keeps saying it is out of memory, which is unbelievable as we hardly use the internet on it. As for the compatible phone, it is the worse phone we have ever had, if you need to make a call in a hurry, can’t be done, have to go through the whole push button process of contacts and OKs. Also when checking on Recent Calls it doesn’t always list the most recent call but will have names and numbers of calls never made as well as calls when there wasn’t anyone even home at that timeThink I will throw it out the window and plug back in my Panasonic Digital Cordless Answering System that never put a foot wrong.

  • Anonymous
    26 August 2010 at 2:07 pm
    Leave a Reply

    Very disappointing to hear that – I’ll be sure to have Telstra get in touch – Sure – its not for everyone, but that is a real disappointment for you.

  • Anonymous
    28 April 2011 at 8:17 pm
    Leave a Reply

    Contact Telstra – I’m hearing some of the very early units might be replaced

  • Anonymous
    28 April 2011 at 8:17 pm
    Leave a Reply

    That’s no good at all – have you spoken to telstra… Call them and discuss – if you have no luck, email me, we’ll sort it out for you

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