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Amstrad [email protected]

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The [email protected] is a type of telephone available in the UK. However, it can do much more than just make calls.

Among its features, listed in full on the [email protected]'s page on the Amstrad website, it can:

  • Send faxes
  • Send and receive emails
  • Function as an answering machine
  • Store about 700 address book entries consisting of name, home number, office number, mobile number, email address, and 'snail-mail' address
  • Send SMS messages to mobile phones
  • Send simple greetings cards

The [email protected]plus is essentially the same as the original [email protected], but it has a few new features. These include downloadable games and will soon include the facility to carry out credit card transactions in the future.

It's great for convenience; emails can be sent and received without the need for a computer. However, email calls - necessary to send and receive emails - may be a little pricey.

Purchase price and running costs

Originally the [email protected] cost about £100, but, since the release of the [email protected]plus, this price has fallen to just under £50. This is a more realistic price for the features available. It can be bought from most major electrical suppliers.

One of the best aspects of the service provided is that there is no subscription charge. Telephone calls cost the same amount as normal and an email call costs 12p - although this will increase to 15p near the end of 2003 - more than a local call.

Looks

The [email protected] has quite a stylish design. Its main body is black with a silver section with certain special buttons and a silver frame to the screen. A mini-keyboard is located near to the front of the main body for quick access of the address book and a 'mailboard', used, for example, to compose emails, is located under the front of the phone.

The screen can be pivoted and rotated and the backlight is bright so is it easy to read the screen. The backlight can be set to go off after five minutes, to stay on all the time, or to stay on between 7am and 10pm, switching off five minutes after the last keypress at other times.

The main screen consists of a panel down the left listing some of the 'Services', such as mobile phone ring tones and graphics. A large analogue-style clock takes up the majority of the screen and there is also a digital clock in the top-right corner. A strip at the bottom shows the date and the telephone number of the incoming call1.

Phone Calls

The [email protected] can be used in the same way as most phones - you can make a call by picking up the handset and dialling the number. It also allows dialling prefixes to be set that will be automatically inserted before the main phone number. It features a hands-free button, which allows use without the user lifting the handset. Using the handset, however, allows the person to hear you more clearly.

Telephone numbers can also be dialled using the address book. The mini-keyboard can be used to enter some or all of the name. The [email protected] searches at the start of all words - pressing the 'B' button will display, for example, both the 'Bob Smith' entry and the 'Joe Bloggs' entry. The 'Up' and 'Down' buttons can be used to select the specific entry. The 'Home', 'Office', and 'Mobile' buttons can be used to dial the desired number. The [email protected] remembers the last entry accessed so the three number buttons can be used to dial without accessing the entry again.

If Caller Display is active then the number of the incoming call is displayed. If the number is in the address book the name will also be displayed.

The [email protected] also features a log of the last incoming and outgoing calls (accessed by holding the 'Office' button) which show the time and duration of the call, and the name and number of the caller. The call logs can be cleared by holding the delete button while viewing the list.

Email Service

When initially registering the [email protected] - this is done using the [email protected] itself - you choose a username for your Amstrad email account. This is the account that will be assigned to your [email protected] Up to eight email addresses can be registered and both @amstrad.com and @amserve.net addresses are available. Only accounts registered through the [email protected] can be used, meaning, for example, that you wouldn't be able to use a Yahoo! or Hotmail account with the [email protected]

A password is set for online access of the accounts at the amserve Webmail service and a Personal Identification Number [PIN] can be set for each of the eight accounts to stop other people reading the emails on the phone. If multiple accounts are set up, you will be asked to choose an account and enter the PIN, if required, to read or compose emails.

Sending and Receiving

Holding the 'Email' button initiates an email call that will send any queued emails and download any received emails. It can also be used to set the clock.

If there are any new emails, the red light slightly above and to the right of the screen will be lit. The 'Email Read' button displays the list of both sent and received emails, which can be deleted individually by highlighting them and pressing the 'delete' button. Emails can only be deleted individually.

Emails are composed using the 'mailboard'. This is an almost-full keyboard located under the front of the body. The buttons have a very definite click and the nearest comparison is the keyboard of the Psion Series 5 palmtops. The keyboard is very comfortable to use and is connected to the [email protected] by a wire so it can be moved a decent distance from the phone itself.

Upon completion of an email, your message can be queued to send later or sent immediately.

Answering Machine

The answering machine is activated and deactivated with the 'Stop' button. A red light is lit on the button if the answering machine is active. The messages are stored digitally in the [email protected]'s memory. When viewing the list if messages the time is shown as is the name and number if Caller Display is active.

The [email protected] comes with the generic preset message which can be changed to a more personal one if desired.

Memory

The [email protected] has a fixed internal memory but also features a slot for Smart Media cards. It is important to note that, once a card has been inserted into the [email protected], it cannot be used in any other device, except other [email protected] If a card is inserted, emails and answering machine messages will be stored on the card rather than in the internal memory. The internal memory will be used again once the card becomes too full. The [email protected] will not be able to write to the card if it is write-protected.

The unused memory, in bytes, can be found in the 'System Information' screen in the set-up menu.

Power and Accessories

The [email protected] is mains-powered. Only the basic phone, when the handset is used, and dialling is performed manually, can be used without mains power, since it takes its power from the phone line itself.

The [email protected] comes with a small electronic address book called a 'Pocket Dock-it', which can be plugged into the side of the [email protected] and can store the names and numbers in the address book and the configuration settings. It can be used as a backup in case something happens to the [email protected] or to transfer the data between multiple [email protected] Names and numbers saved to the Pocket Dock-it can also be transferred back to the [email protected] Addresses cannot be stored on the Pocket Dock-it.

The [email protected] can also be connected to certain printers so that emails can be printed.

Adverts

One small disadvantage is that adverts are periodically displayed on screen. The [email protected] downloads them automatically and their display is not optional. They no doubt ensure that Amstrad do not need to charge a monthly subscription. They can be deleted by holding the 'Delete' button when an advert is displayed.

Conclusion

The [email protected] is a great phone for people who don't want to buy a computer to send emails and for those of us that like gadgets. It looks good and it works very well. There's no subscription charge, so you only pay for what you use. The wide array of other features means that you don't even need to use email to get your money's worth. It's incredibly easy to use, and the now-reduced price tag makes it even more appealing now than before.

1The number can only be displayed if 'Caller Display' from BT is active on the phone line. It costs £1.50 per quarter and is added to the phone bill.

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