Cell Phone to Landline Converter
Tom writes, "I just canceled my land line and am now pure cellular. I read about a gadget somewhere that acts like a router for your cell phone in your home, using the existing wiring. When you come home at night you plug your cell phone into the gadget and all of your house phones are now ports to your cell phone. It's the best of both worlds - you get the cheap cell phone service and can still use all of those land line phones scattered around your home. Have you heard about this? If so can you point me toward a vendor?"
There are a number of solutions that link cell phones to landline connections. Most of the current batch of options perform a hand-off from an active cell phone account to an active landline service provider, effectively forwarding the call to the landline so that you aren't subject to the issues associated with poor connectivity and dead spots in the home. There are two solutions I found that truly pass the phone call to a landline handset.
Dock-N-Talk is a universal solution for connecting cell phones to landline handsets. The key selling point seems to be the option to dock your cell phone in the prime reception area of your house and use the landline handset to talk from anywhere in the house. Dock-N-Talk supports voice dialing and any other features baked into your cell phone handset. If you have a Bluetooth phone, Dock-N-Talk connects to your phone via Bluetooth. In addition to the base station unit, you also need an adapter cable for any cellular handset lacking Bluetooth. Dock-N-Talk from Phone Labs is available on eBay and from a variety of cell phone accessory sites.
Cidco created their MERGE base station to address the exact situation you describe. You don't have phone service but you have a bunch of landlines scattered throughout the house. The MERGE is a charger for the phone with the ability to link the cellular service to landline devices. If you have an active landline account, MERGE makes switching between landline and cellular dialing a simply press of the '#' key. If your cell phone is voice dialing enabled, you can voice dial using the traditional landline handset too. There is a catch - Motorola is the only cell phone handset manufacturer supported at this point. MERGE is available direct from Cidco.
Another interesting alternative might be bypassing your cell phone altogether. If you download the Skype VoIP client, you can place a toll free call using SkypeOut to 1-800-FREE-411. Tell the service where you want to connect and have it complete the call. You are required to listen to an advertisement as the call is connected, but you get decent call quality without burning through minutes. As an aside, you can also use the Free411 number to avoid 411 charges from your cellular or landline phone provider.