Thursday, August 4, 2011

CloudTC Android Based Executive SIP Phone Unveiling/Review

Update: Panasonic has released their KX-UT670 which is a much better option than the CloudTC phone.  You can read about it here:

In October 2010 CloudTC was showing off their fancy new Glass 1000 Phone at Astricon.  It's a beautiful device with huge potential in the SIP/Asterisk world.  We signed up to get a pair of development units which ended up shipping a little later than they had hoped for but it wasn't the end of the world.  Check out the picture of this thing, it looks quite impressive.

Phone Construction:
The phone is well built, it has a heavy base so it doesn't tip over when you press on it, however in order to press the home button I've found myself holding the back side of the phone with my fingers while pressing the button with my thumb as it requires quite a bit of pressure and sometimes can cause the phone to slide across my desk.  The handset is very light, which some people consider cheap feeling but that doesn't both me.  The handset that shipped with the device tends to fall off of the phone because the notch isn't deep enough, CloudTC said they will be shipping new handsets out that solve this problem as well as some call quality problems (which I honestly haven't noticed).  For an Executive SIP Phone I think this device is fairly well designed, although a case that is more "sexy" might add more appeal for picky executives.   

Phone Configuration:
Configuration of the Glass phone is very simple, the IP address is displayed in the top right hand corner so you simply navigate to that IP in your web browser and configure the SIP settings from there, the default username and password are both admin.  I had mine up and running in a couple minutes.

Phone Features:
Anyway, the device is fairly impressive on paper.  Android 2.1, a 1024x600 9?"  touch screen (not capacitive), PoE (Power Over Ethernet), Bluetooth connectivity, a quality speakerphone and a fairly well designed case.  I quickly plugged it in to my PoE switch and it didn't work.  As it turns out, the PoE feature was removed because  of issues sourcing parts, I guess they should update their documentation page saying the device has PoE.  Oh well, I plugged in the AC adapter and fired the thing up.  The first thing I did was install angry birds on it, which as you can imagine is pretty fun on a giant screen like this.  Without multitouch support you can't zoom in or out, but that doesn't really matter as this isn't an angry birds phone, it's an executive SIP phone.

I grabbed my bluetooth headset and went to connect it to the phone, but there is no way to pair a bluetooth device unless you've used android before and know how to create a shortcut.  I simply tapped and held on the homepage, added a shortcut to bluetooth and managed to pair my device.  The unfortunate part is while it may have bluetooth connectivity apparently it doesn't use it for anything.

Using the Phone as a Phone:
As a SIP phone the device needs to work well as an actual phone, not just be a pretty toy.  I've had a few more dropped calls than I normally experience, but the speakerphone on the device is pretty good on my end although I haven't been on the other end of one of these I haven't had any complaints.  Dialing on the keypad is simple although the dialer tries to format the phone number with parenthesis which is a little bit awkward.  If I dial my extension which is 1593 the phone will display "1 (593" expecting me to dial the next 7 digits of an 11 digit US based phone number.  Currently there is no way to tell the phone what the allowed dial patterns are, if that were added they would probably be able to better format phone numbers.  Hopefully this gets added in the future.

Bug List
  • CallerID does not display the name of the caller, only the number
  • If you hold down the back button for more than 2 seconds you get an overlay of the touchpad driver
    • Fixed in build 1768 (changed to 5 seconds)
  • The phone does not support auto-answer so you can't do intercom calls or callcenter work
  • Google Maps runs out of memory if you use it, i only opened it to test but it quickly crashed
    • As of build 2009 it works for a minute but with the traffic layer on after scrolling around a couple times it says low on memory and turns off the traffic layer, then the entire phone hard locks
  • If you pull down the android notification window you are unable to slide it back up
    • Fixed in build 1768
  • Inbound calls will be rejected if they come from the same number as the phone.  If i call 1593 from another device with the callerid of 1593 it will reject the call
  • The phone dialer is clunky, and the formatting of numbers is very awkward
    • Formatting is fixed, redial added in build 2009
  • The volume controls don't provide a test-tone so you have no idea how loud 10 is until you make a test call
  • The PC Connector software which is supposed to sync your contacts from outlook is broken and won't connect -- they said they don't support this, but it's the only way to get contacts in to your phone from exchange
  • The phone lacks a DND mode
    • Fixed in build 1768
  • The phone has dropped several calls or hung up during a call :(
  • Bluetooth doesn't work
  • There is very little documentation

Final Thoughts:
CloudTC has built a beautiful phone but has left a few things to be desired in the execution.  As a new small company I'm hoping they work out the kinks and get this thing moving but they don't seem all that quick to help.  I've been an early adopter before and in most cases companies are generally very appreciative of the support they get and provide early adopters with direct access to developers, generally taking feedback and incorporating it while providing users what they need to accomplish their goals in a give and take relationship.  In fact I've gotten free devices, free software, and features I needed from companies before while helping them introduce new products to market.  I'm not sure who else is developing for this device but I'm not going to continue investing my time or energy until the kinks are worked out.  

For a $600 executive SIP phone this device comes up short.  For an Executive that just wants to make phone calls the device is sufficient, but much more advanced use and I think the device is not yet ready for prime time.

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