UTStarcom GF210 Review

Dual mode GSM/VoIP mobile telephone


The much anticipated UTStarcom GF210 dual GSM/VoIP phone has arrived to the shelves or U.S. retailers in time for the Christmas shopping season. The initial delay and renaming of the phone from GF200 to GF210 are attributed to last minute engineering challenges.

The mobile phone will be battle tested in the coming months and we expect to expand this review as new data come in. One thing is certain — UTStarcom GF210 boldly follows the footsteps of trendsetting WiFi VoIP predecessors F1000g and F3000.

What is so special about this telephone? It integrates two technologies in one. It is a GSM tri-band mobile phone and a WiFi VoIP phone in one slick package. Today’s smartphones also combine the two technologies but a couple of things set the GF210 apart.

The first thing is the price. The phone retails for around $250 U.S. which is half the price of most smartphones.

The second thing is the integration of the WiFi phone into the physical hardware. Smartphones require download and installation of SIP capable clients like Gizmo Project in order to make calls over the Internet. UTStarcom GF210 does not require installation of any additional VoIP software. It is ready to go straight out of the box.

Fixed Mobile Convergence technology behind this unit allows for seamless call handover between the GSM and VoIP.

This is a money saving feature which allows the phone to always select the least expensive calling option. Let’s say you initiate a call in your office. The call is routed as a VoIP call through the Internet. As you leave your office and drop the Internet connection the GSM network kicks in. As you sit down to have lunch at a coffee shop with free Internet access the unit switches back to VoIP which is cheaper than cellular call. You get the picture.

However, no U.S. mobile carriers offer support for this technology yet.

The WiFi side of UTStarcom GF210 is a further refinement of hardware that powers F1000g and F3000 phones. Both are very reliable, offer solid voice quality and superior access point roaming and auto scan capabilities.
Many WiFi VoIP phones fall short once removed outside of their familiar environment. They typically need manual reconfiguration in order to connect to each new AP.

UTStarcom’s answer to this problem is a powerful auto scan feature that scans and connects to the strongest open network available. This effectively means that you can use hands off approach. The phone will scan and connect for you.

AP roaming is another strong feature. It allows you to predefine a number of APs along with their passwords (if any) and freely roam around. The phone will drop a weak AP and pick up a strong AP without dropping a call. A practical application of this technology is in office and retail environments where multiple APs cover a wide area.

The WiFi side of the phone employs RTP/RTCP and SIP which are standard VoIP protocols. Sorry Skype users, the phone will not work with your service but will work with any of hundreds of low rate SIP service providers.

How about the GSM section? It is a cell-phone as we know it. Pretty standard although not as full featured as most today’s phones. There is no camera, no MP3 player nor similar amenities. It’s just a simple and functional mobile phone.

Tri-band feature is important to international travelers. The differences in radio bands in foreign countries require that your phone be able to access all existing bands. A tri-band phone is capable of accessing all GSM bands in use. All it requires is a local prepaid SIM chip to work at a foreign location.

UTStarcom GF210 offers exciting possibilities. Dual mode is great feature for cost conscious telephone service subscribers. However, until call service providers offer support for Fixed Mobile Convergence this unit will be more like a WiFi phone with a built in traditional mobile phone. This alone is a feature worth the price.

Size: (H) 107 x (W) 45 x (D) 20 mm

Weight: 95 grams

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