Window Phone. (circuit board and communications software) (Hardware Review) (Evaluation)
by Mark Minasi
Call me a gadget freak, but I just love caller ID. As soon as my local phone company offered the caller ID service, I signed right up. And it's been useful, too: A psycho ex-girlfriend started making middle-of-the-night hang-up calls, but my caller ID box told me who had called, so I was able to resolve the problem immediately. On the lighter side, when my friend Rob calls me, I see his number on the caller ID box before I pick up the phone. I answer, "Hi, Rob," and he wonders how I know. "You just have a distinctive ring," I tell him.
For a while, I fiddled around with my caller ID box, trying to figure out how to get the information from the box into some kind of format that my PC could use--a serial port or something like that. My idea was that when the phone would ring, a little box would appear on my Windows screen saying Joe Smith is calling. I never got far with the project.
Imagine my delight, then, when AG Communications Systems came out with Window Phone, the answer to my prayers. This $495 package is a combination circuit board and software that basically does all that I wanted--and more. You pop the board into your PC, connect it to your phone, and install the software.
When you run Window Phone, it shows you a screen with a speed dialer and a Who Has Called window. The speed dialer looks like the one that's on many phones; you have a bunch of buttons with names next to them, and you just click on one of the buttons to make Window Phone dial that number from your telephone (it works on any touch-tone phone). The window on the right side of the screen shows the phone numbers from which you've received calls recently and, if the numbers are in your on-disk phone directory, the names of the incoming callers. For example, you might see Susan Stathoplos--unanswered call or Andy Kydes--20 minutes. Window Phone can tell you not only which calls were not answered but also how long you talked. This is, then, a database that consultants could use for billing clients.
Window Phone will also pop up a box in front of any Windows application when the phone rings, telling you who's calling. It supports a database of information about callers, so I might see Gerry Manginelli is calling. I could then open up the Gerry Manginelli record on my database, where I would see Gerry's birthday, topics of last conversation, hobbies, or whatever I'd put in the database. If I had a scanned picture of Gerry, I could even put that in the record.
Window Phone is nearly perfect. If it has a flaw, it's the price tag: nearly 500 bucks. That's way too much. The price should be more in line with that of phones that display caller ID information--in the $150 range, with another $100 for the software itself. IBM PC or compatible (80286 compatible), 2MB RAM, EGA or better, hard drive, 5 1/2- or 3 1/2-inch floppy drive, Windows 3.0 and higher, available expansion slot, Windows-compatible pointing device, standard analog phone line--$495 AG COMMUNICATIONS SYSTEMS 2500 Utopia Rd. Phoenix, AZ 85027 (800) 858-9236 Circle Reader Service Number 350