Linksys Debuts SPA962 IP Phone

It’s often said that the small things make all the difference. In the case of the new Linksys SPA962 IP phone – announced today at VON – it’s the phone’s larger, color display that makes all the difference between the SPA962 and its closely related sibling, the SPA942.

So what’s the big deal? Why does a phone need a bigger screen, let alone a color display?

Quite simply, it makes the phone a whole lot simpler to use. A brighter background and more contrast mean no more squinting to see the display. And more real estate on the screen — in this case about four times as much – means a much more intuitive user interface.

For example, instead of cryptic abbreviations in small black letters, the SPA962’s six-line, high-resolution display is roomy enough to print out full words. The letters are large and clear enough against the light blue background so you can read the screen without magnifying glasses.

“Most people never will have to look at the user guide with this phone,” comments Ken Moll, Linksys Product Manager for IP Phones and ATAs. And this is just a start. Linksys plans further enhancements to make it even more user-friendly, according to Moll.

Those people who actually mastered the Byzantine sequences of keystrokes needed to operate the SPA841 needn’t worry that their skills are outdated, though. They will still work with the SPA962. The important thing is that new users never have to learn those sequences.

The SPA962 will retail for about $320, which makes it pricier than the SPA942. The price is also about $100 more than the comparable Polycom 601.

But the additional cost is justified, says Moll. “The functionality is much higher than Polycom’s top of the line phone,” he says, “and it [the SPA962] has a nicer user interface and a nicer ’look and feel.’”

Linksys is initially targeting the SPA962 at small-to-medium sized businesses with high call volumes — for example large law or medical offices. However, its use is certainly not limited to those environments.

“It’s a phone can span from SOHO all the way up to enterprises,” says Moll. For budget-conscious operations, the SPA942 remains an economical choice, he adds.

The phone can be used with any SIP-based IP-PBX or hosted service. Deals with service providers are currently in the works and will probably start rolling out early next year.

Still not convinced you need the SPA962? Consider this: the pretty picture on the screen will at least improve the feng shui of your office.