One side effect of running my own business is that I’ve been spending a lot of time on the phone. Unfortunately, the $10 analog phone that I was using was hard to use for more then 15 minutes at a time, and it wasn’t always very easy to hear what the other party was saying. That’s not a great mix for a business phone.

So, I’ve been looking around to find a cheap way to get a good phone with a headset on my desk. None of the analog headsets phones that I’ve looked at have been very appealing, so I’ve been looking at cheap VoIP phones with 2.5mm phone jacks. Amazingly enough, decided to clear out a bunch of old phones via eBay at just the right time, so I was able to pick up a Pingtel Xpressa for a song.

Pingtel Xpressa
[50348768 Pingtel Xpressa]

The Xpressa was a first-generation VoIP phone, and it was orphaned by Pingtel over a year ago. However, in many ways it’s still the highest-end SIP phone on the market. It comes with a Palm-like 160x160 grayscale display, supports (pre-standard) Power-over-Ethernet, and runs Java applets natively on the phone. The SDK is still available from Pingtel, but you have to hunt for it a bit. I paid about the same for the Xpressa as I did for my Sipura/Linksys SPA-841, but the Pingtel is clearly better in nearly every area–it’s easier to use, it’s more solid, it’s more attractive, it has more features, and sounds better. It’s lacking a few NAT features and I can’t find a way to use different ringtones for different lines, but other then that it does everything that I need. It comes with a standard 2.5mm headphone jack, so I picked up a cheap Plantronics headset; I’ve spent nearly two hours on the phone so far today, and everything has been perfect.

Er, well, mostly everything. I actually ordered the mango colored model from VoIPSupply, but somehow ended up with a charcoal-colored phone instead. Hopefully they’ll be able to fix that soon. Also, since Pingtel discontinued the phone (and actually sold it off to an unnamed vendor, alleged to be 3com), they’ve pulled all of the add-on software packages off of their website; that means that I haven’t been able to find their LDAP-based phonebook. I’ve been fishing around and I’m sure that I can find a copy somewhere. For now, I’ve been using Jon’s Phone Tool to dial from Quicksilver. JPT is swimming in features, 95% of which are useless to me, but it seems to do a decent job dialing my phone for me, so I’ll probably pay the $12 fee for it if I can’t get the Pingtel Phonebook to work.

Update: As expected, VoIPSupply is fixing the mango-colored problem. I should have a mango phone on the way shortly.