If you’ve been hanging around these parts a while you’ll already know that I’ve had the snom m3 SIP DECT phone system installed since mid-January. I got lucky and bought one of the first units delivered to snom’s US distributor in Dallas.
Then a few months later, and after hearing rave reviews from a few people abroad, I imported a Siemens S685IP SIP DECT phone system from the UK. So now we have two SIP DECT systems on the property.
Why you ask?
Neither is quite a complete solution. There’s something missing in each case, and I wasn’t able to determine this fact from the specs alone. It wasn’t until I laid hands on the hardware that the problems became evident.
In this DECT war we’re not yet declaring a winner around our house. We’re actually closer to declaring two losers. Funny how apparently little oversights can completely sink a product.
We have at least two handsets for each system and find that calling behavior internal to the system is about the same. You can take a call on one handset, transfer it to another without involving the PBX. Common calling features like hold and conference work about as you’d expect.
Both phones have really good cordless range. Better than any Wifi phone I’ve tried.
Both phones sound pretty good, too.
So what’s the problem you ask?
Let’s start with the snom m3.
The snom m3 has been our primary cordless phone these past seven months. It gets the most daily use. It’s one problem is that there’s no way to load contacts into the phones dialing directory.
I know, this sounds like a little thing, but it’s not. Our legacy 7 year old Panasonic KSU has 100+ family and friends loaded into the handsets. It can even copy contact lists from the base to the handsets and vice versa. My Aastra 480i CT could do this, too.
To decommission the Panny I have to get all those contacts loaded into the snom. Not once, but twice…once in each handset. Three times if I add another handset, which I’d have to do to replace the Panasonic system. And loading contacts by hand is really, really tedious and time consuming.
It’s simply an oversight on the part of the manufacturer that uploading a contact list isn’t possible. Heck, the phone has a web interface. You ought to be able to provision a contact list from a csv file, or vcards.
Remember, snom aim to sell these to businesses. The phone is already on the network, it ought to be able to pull contact details from an LDAP server. Now THAT would forward looking.
Now on to the Siemens S685IP.
I had really hoped that this phone would be a more complete answer as it has the contact list matter completely solved. Using the web GUI it can import a contact list from a vcard file in a heartbeat. Wow! That was great.
It supports G.722 wideband calling, too. Wow! That’s really great!! In fact it was the one thing that compelled me to buy the phone. Even importing it from the UK.
But it’s also really annoying in a few critical ways.
Firstly, there’s no mute function for the microphone.
What? No mute?
You’re kidding right?
Yeah, no mute.
That’s a major pain if you’re using the phone for business. Y’might not think so, but it’s really is inconvenient.
I frequently take part in long conference calls. I clip the phone onto my pocket, wear a wired headset and continue to do stuff while on these calls. That I can’t locally mute the mic means that everyone on the call hears what I’m doing.
They hear when I visit the coffee machine and pour myself some joe. They hear me later when I take every sip. They hear me typing.
Many conference bridges have some form of automatic gain control. If you’re not speaking, and not muted, they actually ramp up the gain on your line. Thus, when you have been quiet for a short while and you start typing everyone on the call hears your keyboard clatter…really loudly, like hail on a tin roof.
Now it’s true that many conference services have server-based muting, often on *6. This is certainly the case with the Talkshoe bridge that we use for the VOIP Users Conference calls. Also on others that I use. But even so, this is less convenient than it should be.
When you press *6 to engage the mute the bridge interrupts the call for a few seconds to tell you that “you are muted.” Duh. I know. I did it.
Later, when you want to unmute it’s two keypresses again, then wait for the message…then talk. ARGH!
The snom has a soft button assigned to mute/unmute when in a call. Even the aged Panasonic handsets have a mute feature, on that most prized of things…a dedicated button!
Not having a local mic mute is a serious problem.
Further, the phone is very Euro in nature. Now this is not completely its fault. I did import it from the UK. It is made by a German manufacturer specifically for the European market. They don’t even offer them in the US. Mea culpa.
But it’s selection of ring tones is very strange. There’s nothing even close to a North American ring tone built-in. There are a number of lovely melodies that would doubtless bring a smile to an Austrian composer or German trance or techno-fan.
Finally, the phone has its own built-in music-on-hold. When you put someone on hold, or start to transfer a call, the other party is going to hear a completely regrettable MIDI-like melody. And you can’t turn it off.
In the case of the Siemens phone I must admit that I’m overlaying my requirements onto something that is very clearly intended as a consumer device. It’s not designed as a business phone. Cutesy music-on-hold may be a feature at home, but it’s embarrassing in the office.
Pity. So close, but no cigar.
I’d list the S685IP on E-bay and set it free, as I have done many IP phone in the past. But I’d feel uncomfortable selling it to someone in the US when it’s not sold or supported over here.
So there is no solid solution yet. The ancient Panasonic KSU remains in service in the house. We still use the m3 a lot, especially in my office where the lack of a contact list is not an issue.
I could be very satisfied if snom would release a firmware update that supported an uploadable contact list. But as snom OEM’s the device from RTX Telecom it’s unclear if they have such scope in the development of the firmware.
So eight months into the fight this DECT war has come to a stalemate with no clear winner. I’m considerably invested in this matter. I guess I just press on examining ever more SIP/DECT systems as they arise and hoping for the best.