Verizon’s Home Hub: Initial Hands-On & The Backstory

verizonhubTomorrow will see the launch of Verizon’s Hub home phone offering. Engadget has a post describing their initial hand’s-on experience with the device. Also, Telephony Online has a nice piece on how Verizon went about developing the Hub in conjunction with OpenPeak.

In reading through both these posts I find myself left doubting that Verizon is going to get much traction with the device & service.

Here’s my simple pro & con analysis:

Pro:

  • Bright, touch-screen color LCD interface
  • DECT-based cordless handset
  • Speakerphone
  • Widgets replicating services commonly found on many cell phones
  • Looks cool
  • Not overly expensive when compared to good IP phones ($250 less $50 rebate initially)

Con:

  • Requires two year contract @ $34.95/mo, actually more than Vonage
  • Requires existing Verizon Wireless cellular account
  • No 3rd party SDK, so no 3rd party widgets, no DIY widgets
  • No femtocell, so no impact on in-home cellular coverage
  • Not as attractive as the OpenPeak prototypes

While every outlet is reporting that the voice service is “voip” over your residential broadband I can find no mention of the standards involved. So we don’t know if its UMA like T-Mobile’s Hotspot@Home, SIP or something else. What we do know is that it’s not at all related to their Voice Wing service, because they’re finally shutting that down. Voice Wing was actually provided by Delta Three, a company that seems to be suffering lately.

Back to the Hub: for me the major stumbling block is their insistence upon a closed platform. By not offering an SDK and opening to 3rd party developers they ensure that the variety of widgets available will be limited, hence the utility of the device will be limited. I can easily see myself wanting the device integrated into my home automation, stereo or home theater. While OpenPeak makes noises about such possibilities on their web site Verizon doesn’t seem willing to go that distance. At least not yet.

It’s as if Verizon sees this as just another cell phone, and they’re notorious for maintaining tight control of the features allowed on phones that they offer. If they can get over this habit then they could find themselves with the residential equivalent of AT&Ts iPhone. That would be awesome, but seems unlikely based on what we know today.

A word of warning to Verizon & Open Peak: I’m an early adopter, and I’m usually willing to pay a premium for that privaledge. If enthusiasts like myself are not willing to adopt the Hub then it’s unclear who will.

At very least the process of getting the Hub rolled out might inspire someone else to step up and do it right.

  • Dave Zatz notes quite correctly that the HUB requires that you already have a Verizon Wireless account.. Add one to the list of “cons” as it can’t be used standalone. Here are his thoughts about it.

    http://www.zatznotfunny.com/2009-02/marketing-the-verizon-hub/

  • While I turned down a hands on invite and can’t really comment too much on the tech (we last saw a prototype months before launch), PC Mag’s Sascha Segan comes away disappointed with the PIM functionality:
    http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2339859,00.asp

    I do believe the Hub has potential… IF they can make it easier to purchase and do a better job explaining why we’d want it.

  • Pingback: Graves On SOHO VoIP » Verizon Hub: A Work In Progress()

  • mbv

    If it’s voip it’s a little over priced. But if it uses the cell network, unlimited for $34.95/mo is pretty cheap.

    • Look into it a little further. It’s voip. And when’s the last time you had to sign a firm two year agreement to get a voip service that’s the equivalent of a land line?

      I still think that until they open up the platform and allow third party widgets it’s a non-starter. Cute, but not functional enough to be compelling under those terms.