After I returned an analogue Binatone cordless (ue to useless sound quality and impossible instruction book), I decided to spend the extra on a digital cordless. I thought Philips had the monopoly on nicely style phones, but when I found Ascom, I was surprised. I discovered it in Which? Although it got the highest test score for DECT phones, it didn't get the best buy, so it probably never got the recognition it deserves. The Avena 122 Plus firstly has a base unit with the answerphone controls on it, no need to fiddle with the handset here. The hand set is a snug fit in the hand, in fact a simple and comfortable design, you forget you're holding it after a while and natter relentlessly. The handset then sets face down on the base tidily. The instruction booklet gets full marks from being the most easy to follow of any electrical good I've ever bought, period. My wife comments on the slight 'echo' she gets, I wonder whether this is the nature of digital phones, but nevertheless, speech clarity is good. I don't use much more than phonebook and last number redial so I haven't fully tested the phone yet, but I might invest in some NiMh batteries as the phone came with NiCd cells. There's nothing wrong with the batteries, but based on my wife's usage, I fear that the NiCd will suffer from memory loss before long.
I decided to kill two birds with one stone here – this review first covers the search for my phone, the website where I purchased my phone, and then finally onto the item itself. Part One – The Hunt Begins Does anyone have any idea how had it is to find a phone on the internet? Well, let me tell you – other than the retail sites, i.e Dixons, Currys etc, there appeared to be no sites on the world wide web that actually specialised in telephones. Certainly not in the UK. Finally, after two weeks of hunting I found the name of two sites – Rocom.co.uk and dognbone.co.uk. I first went into rocom and found a number of telephones at very good prices, from the familiar names of Erikson, BT, Philips, Siemens and many others. I was after a digital phone with answer machine – I thought that would be fairly easy to find. It would seem that there aren't as many of these on the market as you would hope. Atleast not if you don't want sell any body parts to raise the funds to buy one. And being attached to my limbs I set a budget of no more than £90.00. However, Rocom.co.uk had several makes for under £100. Feeling satisfied that I now knew where to get one at a reasonable price, I checked out dognbone.co.uk. The site was pretty much the same as the rocom site as far as content. Only difference were the prices. The phones were on average £10 – 20 higher. So I went back to rocom and chose my phone. The Ascom Avena 122 plus at £69.75 incl VAT and plus postage of £6.00, which I thought was a little steep but they do send it buy registered post so fair enough. (Dognbone price £94.00 + delivery) Part Two – Placing an order is as easy as... To order, you type your telephone number into the box provided, hit send, and they will call you back at the time you allocated. I chose the option "NOW". No sooner had I pressed send then my
phone rang. I picked it up. It was ringing. How good is this for service? Then I heard a voice. "All operators are busy please try again later." Followed by a click and then silence. This happened another six times. On the eighth attempt however I was lucky to get through to a charming young lady, I told her what I wanted and she processed the order, then she confirmed the price. The following conversation – word for word – then occurred. Her: So that's £88.24 including postage. Me: Sorry? How can it be that much? Her: The phone's £69.99 plus VAT, plus postage. Me: But your website says the phone's £69.75 including VAT. Her: No it doesn’t. Me: Yes it does, I've got it up infront of me. Her: You must be looking at someone elses site. Me: No – I'm looking at your site. You just phoned me back. Her: Well it's not. Me: Can you tell me why there's a difference between your quote and your website? Her: DO you want the phone? Me: Yes, but why is there a price difference? Pause Her: I've processed your order it'll be with you by tomorrow. And then the phone was put down. Now, I was at work at the time and didn't want to kick up too much of fuss infront of my new boss – so, I sent an email to the customer service address provided. I received confirmation back that the mail had been delivered to five different people. On my return home from work that night I had had a reply form the head of marketing from Rocom. They apologised for the trouble I had had with the sales assistant and they would be looking into this as well as the price difference. The following day I received a reply from them. Apparently I had been looking at the trade site and that is why the price was different. Fair enough, my mistake – but it didn’t say anywhere that this was a trade onl
y site when I looked through it. My credit card had been charged the full £88.24, but given the rudeness of the member of staff, if I called them up they would happily refund the difference back onto my credit card. Two weeks later and I have still not been able to get hold of anyone – the phone line is constantly busy, and despite several more emails requesting that someone phone me, I have still not heard anything from this company. Now the phone retails on the high street at approximately £130, so I decided that having still paid £40+ less than this it isn't worth the cost of anymore phone calls or emails for the sake of £20.00. But as I said to them in my final email – if this is your idea of quality customer service, may I suggest that you all go and take a refresher course. Part Three – The Phone Arrives. Anyway – the day after I was told my phone had been ordered it actually arrived on my desk at work. The box was huge and for some horrible moment I thought I’d got myself a monster phone that was bigger than the one I was trying top replace. Sigh of relief – Once opened, the box contained – One station, one handset, one adaptor and two rechargeable batteries. I have had the phone for two weeks now and still haven't figured out all of the functions it claims to be able to do. It is an attractive phone – very pleasing to the eye. The base station is very small and compact, in black with five buttons on the right hand side and three on the left. The five on the right are for the answer machine function, the three on the left are for... Well, one of them is for the intercom between handset and base – which is useful if you’ve put the handset down and can't find it again. Simply press the INT button and your handset cries out for your attention. The handset itself us blue in colour and incredibly comforta
ble to hold. It is incredibly light and the buttons are all large enough and spaced apart for easy dialling, and the LED screen at the top clearly shows the number dialled, or stored numbers. It can be used for Caller ID if you have it set up with phone line supplier. My old phone was analogue and living in a built up area as I do, it was often crackly and inaudible. The reception on the Avena is crystal clear every time. The digital answer machine can record up to 22 minutes of messages, which, if you’re that popular is actually a very long time. I however have only used up about 5 minutes so far on my busiest day. You can set up a pin code for the answer machine and dial up from anywhere to access it using this number. I've used this several times and it works fine – though it makes two high pitched noises if there aren't any messages. Not good on the ear when you're not expecting them. It can date and time stamp the messages – though I haven't figured it out yet. And it stores the last ten number dialled. I find this really useful when trying to hound friends in an evening and am going from one to the other. You can, if you wish, run up to 6 handsets from the base unit, though quite why you’d want to I've no idea!? You can record your telephone conversations – handy for the detectives amongst us. Or blackmailers even?! Well you never know do you? It says on the box that you will get 90 hours talktime out of this phone – and anyone willing to pay for 90 hours of calls is more than welcome to try that out – what I do know is that when left off of the base station for three days, it still worked when I got back, that's pretty good I think. What I can't say is this – this phone may not be any better than any other on the market, but the higher discounted rate that I paid for it, it certainly does the job I needed to. Ascom s
upply a lot of phones for big companies, so I had heard about them and their reputation before I brought this one. They have just brought out a new phone which, for those as shallow as me, is very sexy indeed. Infact, it won design of the year. But that's all irrelevant as it’s not the one I brought. It is certainly better than the Philips Kala phone, a friend of mine has the misfortune of owning one of those, and she is always cursing about it. And I think she paid more for that than I did for this. If you can be patient with Rocom then it is worth the £88.00, I wouldn’t even have considered this model if I'd seen it in a shop for £130. I still came within budget and got a good looking, stylish, reliable, clear, non-crackling telephone with answering machine. The only downside I have with this phone are the ring settings. There is no standard ring-ring. You have the choice of four settings and they are all a sequence of beeping. Their okay, but a little annoying.