Telstra “reinventing” the home phone?

Xavier Verhoeven
14 April, 2010
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In what I can only assume is a response to falling home phone usage through greater mobile uptake, Telstra has announced plans to introduce Australians to a “new generation of home phone that works like a mobile phone”. What does that mean? Well, not what I would assume is the core feature of a mobile phone – mobility – instead, the phone combines “telephony, information and entertainment”.

The T-Hub features a 7in touch screen that can be used to make and receive phone calls and text messages (this could finally be a useful implementation of SMS on landlines), browse the web, listen to music and radio stations, access white and yellow pages information and a whole range of other features through the BigPond portal.

According to Kate McKenzie, Telstra’s chief marketing officer: “Making a phone call on the T-Hub is simple with an easy to search address book and click-to-call. The hands-free phone on the touch panel makes it easy to multi-task in the kitchen. The cordless handset also enables a seamless transition to a more private conversation. Voice messages are displayed on the touch panel and can easily be selected to hear the message.”

“T-Hub also has mobile phone-like applications and features such as one-touch access to BigPond and Sensis services as well as popular internet sites such as Facebook and YouTube,” she continues.

It seems Telstra are truly hoping the T-Hub will become the “new family organiser”, with a calendar, notes, calculator and alarm clock. It can stay put on the kitchen bench, or be carried into another room.

“We’ve trialled the T-Hub and some of the most popular features were hands-free phone calls from the touch panel plus local weather, sports, news and finance information,” says McKenzie. “Customers also found internet radio a great feature for the kitchen or living area, along with a digital photo frame.”

The interface of the device (as seen in the promotional videos) looks a lot like Apple’s iPhone OS – but without the plethora of apps that have made Apple’s phones so successful. I personally can’t see this one being that successful – especially as so many people have mobiles that do this, and have the added functionality of being mobile. But it’s a nice try nonetheless.

The device works exclusively (unsurprisingly) with Telstra fixed lines and BigPond broadband – it connects for phone via the line (so is not VOIP, which will please some), but gets internet from a separate wireless modem.

The T-Hub will be available from 20 April at T-life stores, Telstra licensed stores, selected dealers, online and over the phone. It has to be bundled with one of Telstra’s packs, such as the Home Bundle 12GB (unlimited calls and 12GB of data) for $109 per month plus $35 upfront. T-Hub bundles are only available to new customers or current customers with a 13-digit account number.

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