Peer Review: T-Mobile's HotSpot@Home service

T-Mobile launched its HotSpot@Home service a couple of weeks ago, but because of all of the recent iPhone mania, reviews are only coming in now. The service costs $20 a month on top of the cost of your normal T-Mobile service ($10 during an introductory time period), and allows you to make free phone calls using wireless hotspots. When you walk or drive away from the Wi-Fi spot you've been using, the phone will switch seamlessly to T-Mobile's cellular network.

At least, that's how it's supposed to work. Reviews have been mixed. While some love the service, others find it difficult to use or glitchy. Reviewers agree on two things, though: First, seamless Wi-Fi/mobile service integration is a great idea. And second, the phones that T-Mobile is currently selling to go with HotSpot@Home are not cool at all. More detailed reports after the jump.

"Unfortunately, the service needs some ironing out. Say I walk into a Starbucks. If the cellular signal remains strong, it can take up to three minutes for my phone to switch to Wi-Fi and stop consuming my calling plan minutes. That's because, in an effort to save battery power, the phone sniffs around for Wi-Fi connections only every once in a while… I also dislike the available handsets." , BusinessWeek

"Calls over the Wi-Fi network sounded exactly the same as GSM calls. True to their word, we [sic] didn't notice that our phone had switched from one to the other, except in one rare circumstance…. It isn't hard to find cell-phone users who have problems with reception, even in their own homes. With HotSpot@Home, not only is reception no longer a significant issue at home, with Wi-Fi networks at work and wherever users frequent, the service offers customers more control." , infoSync World

"Call quality was nothing extraordinary…. Overall, we're very pleased with the service. The GSM/Wi-Fi transition could be a lot smoother, and we wish that we could actually use the Wi-Fi to surf the Web (Web surfing is unfortunately stuck to EDGE speeds — a bummer)." , CNet

"One benefit, which I didn't expect, was that calls made over Wi-Fi actually sounded clearer than those made using the cellular network…. The hype over the iPhone certainly drowned out T-Mobile's launch of HotSpot@Home, which was too bad. T-Mobile's new service is a revolutionary in its scope. , MSNBC.com

"[The two phones] sound terrific; over Wi-Fi, in fact, they produce the best-sounding cell-phone calls you've ever made. But the screens are small and coarse, and the features limited…. T-Mobile has found a way to embrace and exploit [Wi-Fi] to everyone's benefit. The result is a smartly implemented, technologically polished, incredibly inexpensive way to make over your phone lifestyle. , The New York Times

"My tests with this wireless network and its companion mobile phone were so underwhelming — when it worked — that I'd suggest anyone with even the tiniest bit of tech savvy wait for something better." , The Chicago Tribune

"The switch from Wi-Fi mode to cell-phone mode mid call is so smooth, it's shocking that this technology really works. If my cell-phone coverage at home was terrible, I'd say sign me up! The limited selection of phones is a major drawback. I can't imagine going back to a boring phone like the Samsung I tested." , The Orange County Register

"The big beneficiaries of this service will be International travelers. You can carry the phone with you, say to Rome. The phone will connect to a Wi-Fi network, and allow you to call home as if you were calling locally. The bad news is that if you have to call someone in Rome, then it becomes an international call." , GigaOm

"The promise of WiFi phones are great — bypass the slow cell-phone networks when you are near a Wi-Fi hotspot. But the realities of wireless computer networking — with closed networks, firewalls, and other incompatibilities — make them hard enough to log onto with a laptop, never mind a phone." , Business 2.0

"I've been using T-Mobile's HotSpot@Home from Poland this week and I can honestly say that the service is a lifesaver if you're a frequent pond-hopper." , CrunchGear