Ditch the landline, keep using the phone AND save money

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Saving money. It's on everybody's mind, more so now than ever.

XLink connects cell phone and home phone

One way to keep some cash in your pocket is to take a good hard look at your expenses and make some possibly difficult decisions about what you can and can't live without.

More and more people are adding a landline to that "can do without" list. Even before the economy took a bad turn, going wireless was an increasingly popular move, especially among the younger set, who have grown up with cell phones.

The biggest drawback was losing the use of the handsets that most people have strategically scattered around the house. (Notice the use of the past tense there.) I, myself, have one phone downstairs and one in each of two upstairs bedrooms. And I tend not to carry my cell phone with me when I'm home. Few people do. It's usually charging somewhere, which makes using it at home not terribly convenient. My cell phone rings and I'm nowhere near it.

Enter Tony Smith and Chris Becker of Xtreme Technologies, maker of the XLink, the must-have gizmo for everybody who's ditching their home phone lines.

Basically, the XLink lets you make and receive cell phone calls on any phone in the house. You get to ditch the landline (and, more importantly, the associated monthly costs) AND keep using your home phones. It's the best of both worlds.

The XLink works by taking advantage of Bluetooth technology that's common to most of today's cell phones, and the setup is wicked simple. It took me all of two minutes to get the XLink up and running at my house. Yes, I timed it -- 2:07, to be exact.

"A lot of people get so used to having a phone -- they've always had a phone in the house -- and they don't think about canceling it," Smith said.

I never did because I always liked having a landline, even if nobody but my mother (and telemarketers) called me on it. There was a psychological comfort factor there.

Canceling a landline, however, can save most people an average of $33 per month, according to numbers from Nielsen.

By using your cell phone to make calls from your home phone, the XLink lets you take advantage of your cell phone minutes for which you've already paid.

All you really need to do is pair your cell phone -- up to three cell phones, actually -- with the XLink. That's all there is to it.

Once your cell is in range (about 50 feet), the XLink automatically detects it and if your cell phone rings, your home phone rings. If you pick up your home handset to make a call, it dials out through your cell phone.

The best part, savings aside, is that it's seamless. Talking on your home handset, you'd never know the call was actually going through your cell phone. And, yes, your caller ID will still work, as will your answering machine if you have one.

"You cancel the landline, but nothing changes in the house," Becker said. "It's a painless transition to canceling the landline."

Becker is the one who actually came up with the idea, which occurred to him one day when his cell phone was ringing. It was upstairs and he wasn't. Not terribly convenient.

"A cell phone is convenient out of the house," he told me. "I wanted to make it convenient in the house, as well."

He thought of replacing his landline with his cellphone, but that had one inescapable drawback -- the home phones stopped working. He wanted to make his cell phone "talk" to his home phone without a bunch of cable.

"Bluetooth was the obvious solution to the problem," he said.

The XLink box is small (4.5 inches x 4.5 inches x 1.5 inches, weighing less than 1 lb.) and unobtrusive. Plug it in to an outlet. Plug your phone's cord into the box. Pair the cell phone and the XLink. A blue light lets you know it's a done deal. It's "plug-and-play" in the truest sense of the phrase.

Not only do you get the flexibility of using your cellphone, you get the convenience and comfort of using your regular home telephone. I love my BlackBerry, but I'll be the first to admit that it's not always the most comfortable thing to talk on, especially for long conversations.

You can pair up to three cell phones with the Xlink and each one will have a distinctive ring.

With the XLink, I come home, plug in the BlackBerry and leave it charge. When somebody calls me or I need to make a call, I just pick up the phone, like I've been doing for 30 years.

New-school tech meets old-school habit. (Side benefit: Now that I leave my BlackBerry in one place when I'm at home, I lose it a lot less.)

If you have a dead zone in your house, like many people do, just leave your cell phone where it gets the best reception and you're good to go.

Smith and Becker have big plans for the XLink, including Skype integration and cellular long distance, both of which they hope to having up and running later this year.

Where to buy...

416-840-5452

Xtreme Technologies, which is based in Calgary, makes two models of the XLink -- the BT, which is the one I took for a spin, and a more expensive BTTN. That one is meant to add your cell phone to your home phone line, making, in essence, a multi-line system. If you're looking to ditch the landline, the BT, which runs about $80 on , is the one you want.

I admit that $80 is a bit of an investment, but, depending on your traditional phone service, the XLink should pay for itself in just a few months. After that, it's pure savings. And who doesn't need that?

Before canceling your landline service, you'll want to try out the XLink for yourself and make sure it does what you need it to.

My experience with the little black box was great, and I have only positive things to say about it. I believe it's a brilliant innovation that gives people the flexibility and convenience of a cell phone and the comfort of a home phone, all while saving them money.