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Sony cordless phone a delight

technofile  by al fasoldt

Columns and commentaries in a life-long dance with technology

Simple gray rule

Extras make Sony cordless phone a delight

By Al Fasoldt

Copyright © 1993, The Syracuse Newspapers

Last year the first super-powerful cordless phones reached North America, at prices that kept most buyers away. Prices haven't come down, so most buyers are still choosing the less-expensive models that use standard techniques.

Super-powerful 900MHz cordless phones are not only expensive—selling for $300 or more, even at discount—they're just plain hard to find. With a one-mile range from the base station (your home or business telephone) and superb clarity, these phones will find a ready market when prices fall. Cordless phones don't have the range of cellular phones but are much cheaper to use because there is no monthly fee.

In the meantime, standard cordless phones are much better buys. This is especially true for models that include features that are not usually offered in the 900MHz versions, such as built-in answering devices and intercom-style paging.

One of the best new examples of this old breed of cordless phone is the Sony SPP-A60, which combines nearly all the features of a telephone, intercom, answering machine, speakerphone and all-purpose memo recorder. It discounts for about $180.

The SPP-A60 has a more-or-less standard range for a regular cordless telephone. I was able to make calls and carry on conversations anywhere within a one-acre range. The phone is supposed to beep when you are about to lose the signal, but I usually had already stepped out of range before I heard the beep.

Like most other premium phones, the Sony has memory dialing, last-number recall and a muting button, and it adds a volume switch for faint calls. It also will switch to any of 10 other calling frequencies on the fly if you find interference during a call.

But the extras make this phone a delight.

The answering machine uses a digital memory for 16 seconds of an outgoing message, along with a small cassette for incoming messages. You can record a new outgoing message and listen to all the incoming ones from the hand-held remote or even another phone.

You can also press a button on the base station or on the remote to record a telephone conversation. (Yes, it's legal now.) Unlike messages, which are cut off after a few minutes, recorded conversations can continue until the tape runs out (30 or 60 minutes). Likewise, you can record a memo from the base, from the remote or from another phone, of any length.

In effect, the Sony acts just like a handy tape recorder. My wife and I used it to record memos while we were relaxing after work on our deck. All we had to do was pick up the remote handset, turn it on and press the "REC" button. The intercom works in both directions, and the base unit becomes a speakerphone when you press a button. The sound quality is excellent, as long as you stay a few feet back from the base station. Incoming calls that are answered by either the base station or the remote can be forwarded to the other unit, just as with a fancy office phone.

The batteries in the remote handset are easy to replace, and are a common size for cordless phones. Sony rates the operational time between chargings at an amazing seven days if the ringer is turned on, and 30 days if the handset's ringer is turned off. If you like long conversations, you can gab for seven straight hours before the phone needs to be put back in the charging cradle. A companion model, the SPP-A40, has most of the A60's features, at about $20 less. They each come with a 30-minute tape for the answering machine and all accessories—batteries, wall-mounting hardware, etc.—you need to set them up.

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