Verizon Reinvents the Home Phone

One of the reasons why cell phones are increasingly replacing landlines as the only phone service in some households is because cell phones can typically do much more than landline-based telephone units can. Cell phones have essentially become miniature computers with sophisticated audio-visual capabilities; whereas most landline phones do little more than make and receive phone calls and perhaps also act as speakerphones or answering machines. Verizon Wireless is looking to change your expectations of what a landline phone can do with its new Verizon Hub telephone, which includes a lot of the functionality you would expect from a multimedia cell phone.

Strictly speaking, the Verizon Hub is not actually a landline phone in that it does not use POTS (plain old telephone service); instead, the Verizon Hub is actually a VoIP-based telephone that uses a high-speed Internet connection. The Internet connection can come from any provider--it does not have to come from Verizon; however, in order to use the Verizon Hub, you will have to subscribe to a Verizon Hub service plan (of which details are not available yet from Verizon Wireless). But what the Verizon Hub aims to do is bring a new level of multimedia and interactive functionality to the home phone.

Verizon Wireless refers to the Verizon Hub as a " souped-up home communications system ," which can update " the tools busy families can use to manage their lives ." The Verizon Hub includes a color touchscreen which allows you to visually access weather, traffic, directions, look up phone numbers, and even watch movie trailers and then purchase tickets to see that movie. The Verizon Hub includes an integrated calendar that can be set to send you text message appointment reminders. You can even access the information on the Verizon Hub remotely from a " companion Web site ," which lets you do things like add new calendar entries and contacts. You can even have the Verizon Hub send " audible turn-by-turn directions " to Verizon Wireless mobile phones. Verizon Wireless reports that you can access V CAST content on the Visual Hub and that when it is not in use, it can act as a digital picture frame. The Verizon Hub also includes visual voicemail and " robust contact list management ."

Verizon Wireless has yet to release any specific technical information about the Verizon Hub, but we were able to glean a few bits of information from the photos that Verizon Wireless supplied with the press release. The upper-right-hand corner of the screen shows Wi-Fi strength signal. This leads us to believe that the Verizon Hub will include integrated Wi-Fi as well as an Ethernet port. Also, the weather forecast on the screen looks suspiciously like a widget; which has us wondering if users will be able to customize the display with different widgets, such as a news feed or a stock ticker. Lastly, the handset appears to be wireless; which also has us wondering if you'll be to add additional satellite handsets as you can with most modern cordless phone systems. We should know soon enough as the press release implies that the Verizon Hub will be available starting February 1. Crunchgear reports that the Verizon Hub will cost $199 after a $50 mail-in-rebate, and that the service will cost $35 per year.