This new Verizon Wireless product (www.VerizonWireless.com/Hub), rather generically referred to as the “Verizon Hub”, signals and confirms two things. The first is confirmation of some consumers choosing their cellular service over landline service as their primary phone service in the home. The second is consideration of the primary phone device, the “hub” phone in effect, as potentially being located where it is most used or needed. In many consumers’ homes it is the most trafficked area of their home - the kitchen. This suggests one other primary target: the woman of the house.
The new VoIP tabletop device is designed to be both a home phone and Internet-enabled information appliance. Its use depends on both a broadband Internet connection into the home, and use of an in-home WiFi wireless network most often enabled by the modem or router that connects to the broadband network. The voice service is VoIP, not cellular, but the information and data services are that of Verizon Wireless. Interestingly, the Broadband Internet connection does not have to be Verizon service. Device features include a cordless handset, a 7-inch touch-screen display, and has both a modern, yet recent retro look and feel. The power of the device is in its computer-like specifications and use of the Linux operating system, 128 MB of RAM, another 128 MB of storage – and a 500 MHz CPU. Wherever the Hub is placed in the home, it is intended to become the center of messaging and quick information needs of the home by providing access to already existing Verizon services and content available as mobile service subscribers, combined with the economics and flexibility of VoIP voice and enhanced calling features. The calendaring and location-based features for keeping family members up to date on family goings-on and delivery to all handset holders may be particularly attractive to active families. The Hub integrates with Verizon’s “Chaperone” service (separate subscription required) that follows the location of children’s phones and there whereabouts. There currently is no videophone capability, but the device has USB ports for peripherals attaching.
While many of the value-add information services can also be accessed on Verizon Wireless subscriber’s mobile phones, the tabletop form factor and larger LCD screen - and ultimate convenience while in the home may be the difference-maker. VoIP as the voice service might also be, if the quality of the service on average is improved over those home locations where the mobile service reception may sometimes suffer. Additional services include Verizon’s VZ Navigator mapping service for obtaining maps and directions, for finding local businesses, and for buying movie tickets. Movie trailers are available too. Local traffic, weather and news, recipes pull up, phone numbers look up – and managing call logs are all there as applications.
The Verizon Hub is available now for $199.99 after a $50 mail-in rebate. A two-year contract is required that is a digital voice plan for $34.90 per month, and a Verizon Wireless mobile service subscription is of course required. It is clear that Verizon Wireless is targeting existing subscribers who have already or may be considering giving up their landline service and substituting mobile for in-home use, but also for those who want communications, messaging and everyday information needs and ready access for any family member – but for the household manager especially. The final question is how many family members or household managers want a tabletop device and larger screen for viewing, versus their handhelds that are omnipresent, on their persons and at the ready?