Digital picture frames are so typical these days. No design is really out of the box and they basically do all the same things, the main differences between any of them would be switchable frame plates, larger internal memory, or the ability to also play MP3s. So it was nice to get a chance to review the GE PhotoPhone which is an all in one wireless landline phone and a digital picture frame. This makes the PhotoPhone unique and actually useful, instead of having a plain old digital frame hanging around that you’ll tire of uploading photos too eventually.
For anyone who has a digital picture frame, most of them don’t require much brainpower and neither does this one. The only difference here though is that you have to setup the telephone part as well. Included in the box is the frame with a telephone base attached to it. There is also a wireless handset, battery cover/backplate for the handset, a black frame, telephone cord, AC Adapter, metal stand, and manual. We snapped the included battery in place for the handset and then proceeded to slide the battery cover/backplate onto the handset. Holding the phone in our hands, we weren’t that impressed. The buttons feel and look very rubbery and the handset feels a bit on the cheap side – almost like a toy phone.
We set the frame up at first with just the silver frame. We plugged the telephone cable into the appropriate jack on the back of the frame and then the AC Adapter to power it all up. Once you plug in the power, the screen which was once black goes live and the telephone begins to charge, which is indicated with a green charging light on the frame. It was time now to make a phone call and put some images on this frame.
The design of the PhotoPhone is very sleek and minimalist and it can easily blend in with any office or home setting. The fact that it includes a silver and black frame makes it easy to color coordinate to any type of furniture or setting. The first thing we did was try and make a phone call and as expected the handset was less than desired….It was difficult to press the buttons to make an actual call! If you have long nails it will definitely help in this situation. Once we placed the call the reception was clear and no different than the current Vtech handset I currently am using. The PhotoPhone emphasizes the fact that it features DECT 6.0 interference free technology. I made a call near speakers and near other cellphones as well as my computer and there was no feedback or hissing noise from the handset or any irritating echos. The calls were clear and the volume could be adjusted pretty high if you have difficulty hearing.
However the handset is very plain, besides the buttons the screen is very simple with only a monochrome/green and black display and no other options for different colors or ring tones. There isn’t even a speakerphone function! The only function from the base is to ‘page’ the phone in case you misplaced it. There is no ability to answer the phone directly from the base except for picking up the handset. Caller ID, Speed Dial, Number Storage, and Call waiting, and the ability to set the date/time are available on the handset. These are common features of any generic digital phone these days. So I guess that pushes the handset itself to the late 90s.
Moving away from the handset, the picture frame comes preloaded with a few sample images on its 32MB of internal memory. So we got a chance to right-away see some bright images on the 7″ screen size before we even loaded our own on to it. The colors were impressive for a digital picture frame and it transitioned the other photos smoothly. The PhotoPhone has a built in card slot that supports XD, SD, and Micro SD Cards with an adapter. The same can be said with memory sticks, they will need an adapter as well to be able to use with this frame too. However the biggest capacity the frame will read is 2GB. When we first inserted our 2GB Ritek memory card the frame seemed to choke and then fade away. It didn’t like this card at all! We tried it again by taking out the card and removing the power to the frame then restarting it, when the card was inserted again it did the same thing again. The frame froze and the screen became full of lines and looked like a video card gone bad. So I restarted the frame once again and decided to use a Sandisk memory card and the PhotoPhone seemed to like that one better. It didn’t choke and immediately picked up the card. So I began the importing of pictures, the menu system is pretty simple and you can import up to 32MB of pics to the internal memory card. The frame will read directly from your memory cards and create a slideshow from it as well. However, the image you choose for the Picture Caller ID must be saved onto the internal memory of the PhotoPhone. We pulled as many images as we could on the frame and it began its slide show rotation. There is no special transition settings just simple fade in – fade out to the next photo. The speed can be increased and shuffle are the only options available.
The nice feature and what really makes the frame special is the ability to receive a call and set an image for that caller. It’s Caller ID with a photo on your digital photo frame. The phone number shows up along the bottom of the frame and the image you selected for that person shows up as your phone rings. When you dial out, the number dialed displays on the frame as well and when you are talking, the slide show will resume. So you can really scream at that person’s face if their image comes across the frame while talking on the handset.
The PhotoPhone has a lot of potential to be a really unique digital picture frame combined a telephone. However, there are too many drawbacks to substantiate the price of $99.99 such as the lack of speakerphone, cheap quality handset, and only 32MB of internal memory. Maybe with the next generation of this model GE can fix some of these issues. To its credit the picture quality on the frame is good and the menu system is pretty to easy to use, easy enough to give this as a gift to let’s say the grandparents. The Picture Caller ID is one of the only features I truly liked, now only if the rest of it would come up to speed. Oh, and another cherry, you can expand the PhotoPhone up to 4 wireless handsets….
The Good: Picture Caller ID feature is very neat, Picture quality is above par, like the convenience of having phone and picture frame in one device, nice minimalistic and modern design, very good call quality
The Bad: Cheap looking wireless handset with monochrome display, no speakerphone, seems not to like the taste of certain brands of memory cards..