IPPH204B Multiple Protocol IP Phone
I am about as much of a techno geek as possible, but I frankly don't get all this hype about unboxing. I really have better things to do with my time than watch a Youtube video of some guy taking a Nintendo DS out of a box... And believe it or not, my indifference holds true if the DS happens to be pink. Never the less, this particular purchase highlighted why it is important to share the expirience with potential buyers. Sometimes you don't get what you expect. With that in mind here's some shots of the un-boxing (Sorry, no Youtube video.):
The box is not the fanciest I've seen. Haven't these people ever seen an Apple product?
OKaaay... Some bubble wrap, and one piece of cardboard. Elegant packaging it is not.
The total contents of the Box: phone, handset, handset cord, and AC adapter. No manual, and no Ethernet cable.
As I mentioned above, a VoIP deskphone like this would more commonally be found in an office environment, and not purchased by an individual. If a business orders 500 of these phones, I can see that they would not want 500 copies of the manual. Never the less, I think the average Amazon shopper expects to get a manual when buying an electronics product. Similarly, I have enough ethernet cables to... OK, I can't think of an anology that would not upset someone..., but the point is that customers will expect one in the box. The AC adapter was correct for the US, and is nice and small.
Installing the phone is pretty obvious - Handset, Power, and Ethernet. Given that the "B" model has the built-in 2 port switch, it can share a desk with your PC without needing 2 Ethernet connections, or a seperate switch or hub. Be warned, however, that if you do this, you may be slowing your local network (LAN) connection. The internal switch supports 10/100 Megabit/s (auto switching). This means that if your computer and LAN support Gigabit (1000 Megabit/s) speeds, you'll get dropped down to 100M/s. Now, unless you are are Steve Jobs -- who allegedly is one of the few people who's home is directly connected to the internet back bone, it will not slow your internet connection at all, but file transfers to/from local resources may be affected. If you don't have any other Gigabit hardware on your LAN, ignore this paragraph completely.
Connections are straight
forward: Power and Ethernet.
The "B" model has an extra Ethernet Connector.
With no instructions, I began plugging away at keys trying to get to a setup menu on the unit's LCD display. After a few seconds of this I realized that today, all such devices have web interfaces. I pressed the button labled "Local IP" and the phone immediately displayed the IP address my router had given it. To my surprise, the phone also read out the address to me via voice. I loaded my webbrowser, entered that address, and was immediately presented with a log-on screen. The kind person at Atrohog customer service also provided a "login password" - No explanation, just a password (actually, just a pass number.) It was now pretty obvious what to do with that number. I entered it and was presented with an initially overwhelming (even for a techno-geek) page of options:
A portion of the settings screen
- click to see the whole screen.
Portions blacked out for obvious reasons.
these are pretty obvious, some can be figured out or guessed, and
others... I still have no clue as to what they do. There is no
help page, tool tips, or any other clues.
Let's start off with some of the basic ones. The top is the network settings. These are pretty standard. Most installations will just set DHCP, as I did. The network will then set the other values. The second most likely is "static", in this case, your network administrator will give you values for the Local IP, DNS's Router IP and Subnet Mask. Note that the Phone's IP address must not be the same as your PC's, so you may need 2 IP adresses assigned to one wall jack. Some (ignorant) network administraors balk at this.
The next section is for your VoIP service. While the terminology may not be exactly the same, you should be able to match up many of them with the values your VoIP provider gives you. One thing that is unique in my case is that Callcentric does not use STUN for NAT transversal. The phone does support STUN, and most other common forms of NAT transversal. Some of the settings in this section, as well as the section below have to do with using the phone to make direct calls to other, similar phones on the same LAN. Given that I am not using the phone this way, most of the settings in "Phone Settings" are blank. Call forwarding, etc. should be handled by your VoIP provider.
Again, the settings under "Audio Settings" are dictated by your VoIP provider. VAD is voice detection (sends less data when you are not speaking). I have no idea what "age" is (in this sense, that is -- I am becoming more aware of the other sense every day, but that is beyond the scope of this article.) I can shed no more light on "aec" either. One may have something to do with what is known as "Comfort noise", and the other my have to do with local echo - the sensation of hearing your own voice in the phone, or the opposite - echo suppression or cancelation. These settings, and appropriate values for various VoIP providers can be discussed on the Linuxslate.com Forums. One setting I want to point out in this section is "ring type". Setting it to "user define" (sic.) is used in conjunction with the ability to upload a file on another page. (UPDATED: Some ring files are available. See Links below. Also includes link to a .pdf with instructions on how to make your own.) WARNING: Uploading a bad Ring File can ruin the phone, requiring a firmware re-load. It may even permenately "brick" the phone. Make sure Ring files do not exceed the 15K byte size of the examples.
Being able to upload ring tones is something we expect on mobile phones, so I am coming to expect it on my deskphone too.
The last section "Other Settings" has to do with administration of the phone. Like all devices connected to your network, change the passwords immediately. I also set the timezone correctly, and changed the time server address. By default, it was pointing to one in China. Any time server that supports NTP will work, but appearently you must enter the IP address, not a domain name. The one shown should be a good one for anyone in the eastern US.
As an asside, note that the setting names and headings have no uppercase letters in them. They must have heard that typing in ALL CAPS on the internet is akin to yelling, and not wanting to take any chance of offending their customers, erred on the side of caution.
After changing the settings, the unit will reboot, and it should log onto your VoIP provider, and report "Ready for Calls" in a few seconds.
Even given the confusing number of settings, lack of any instructions, tool tips or help page, It still took me longer to clean up my desk to make room for the phone than it did to get the settings correct enough to connect to Callcentric and place a call.
In addition to the settings page, there are much simpler pages for the address book, and a page that allows you to upload new firmware, the custom ring file, and a "Digitmap". A digitmap is used to determine what the phone does with certain dialed numbers. Like I said, I am a VoIP newbie, and anything beyond noting that the phone supports it is beyond the scope of this review.
I should also note that I have found out how to do all of the same settings from the phone itself. Using the web interface is preferred.
I have also discovered that the phone will accept a telnet session. It appears that some of the same settings can be adjusted here too. Personally, I would rather have 1 good user interface than 3 awkward ones.
UPDATE: In my research for this article, I have found user manuals for very similar phones. See Links below.
ADDITIONAL UPDATE: I have found new firmwares and a manual in M$ Word format. Note: v1.44 Made my Speed Dial work improperly, so I down graded back to 1.42 and the phone is working fine. This will "re-brand" the phone from "Tiger" to "JR168".
the IP Phone is connected to your VoIP provider, using it is straight
forward -- Lift the handset and dial. The light next to the
Volume control has nothing to do with that button, it is simply a
network activity indicator. It is quite bright, and when you
in a call, there is constant network activity, so the light flashes
obnoxiously. Now where did I put my wire cutters?
line display is easy to
read, but has no contrast adjustment - even via the menus. It
also not possible to adjust the angle. If you sit low relative to your
desk, you may have to stretch to see the display clearly. The
contrast is set for someone taller.
The display has a very nice green backlight, but it only
when placing a call. It does not come on when checking your
missed calls, for example. When the phone is idle, the top
contains the time and date which is always accurate, since it is set by
The second line alternates between the word "Tiger" and the
firmware version. This is a bit obnoxious, and I'd sure like
hack the firmware to find and change this. Most expected
are there, but some are a bit awkward to use. For example,
must press "Handsfree" to turn on the speaker phone before doing an "On
hook" dial. You must listen to a rather loud and obnoxious
dial tone while you select the phone book entry you wish to dial. (So
it's not really on hook dialing then, is it?) (UPDATE:
See Update 2 in the above section. Updating to v1.42 fixes
both speed dialing, and the sound of the dial tone.) Also,
press "#" to actually get it to dial the selected phone book entry, but
this is partly a "feature" of VoIP, and not really the fault of
As I mentioned, one of the big advantages of a network connected phone is the ability to manage your phone book entries via a web interface. In this case, it is not elegant, but it is functional:
Web-based Phone book management.
In this case, not
elegant, but it is sure better than phones that have no web interface.
Entries are limited to the number of characters that will fit on the phone's LCD screen. You can also scroll through the lists of Missed, Answered, or Dialed calls, but I have not yet found a way to delete entries, or entire logs, without re-booting the phone. Yes, a reboot does clear these logs. However the phone also has space for 4 "AA" batteries that will keep it up during power glitches. Phone book entries and settings are not lost even if you omit the batteries.
It's not beautiful... It does not even come with a manual. It's web interface is lacking... Well, it's just plain lacking. It also may present some security issues. Never the less, it costs less than some plain analog deskphones. It makes and receives calls fine, and feels solid. A business could sure save a lot by buying a few dozen or even hundreds of these and connecting them to the right VoIP provider.
THIS DOCUMENT IS PROVIDED BY THE AUTHOR "AS IS". IN NO EVENT SHALL THE AUTHOR BE LIABLE FOR ANY DIRECT, INDIRECT, INCIDENTAL, SPECIAL, EXEMPLARY, OR CONSEQUENTIAL DAMAGES ARISING IN ANY WAY OUT OF THE USE OF THIS DOCUMENT, EVEN IF ADVISED OF THE POSSIBILITY OF SUCH DAMAGE.