Land lock

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

The latest numbers show that nearly one out of every six U.S. homes, or about 16 percent, had only cell phone service - no landline service - at the end of 2007, an increase of almost 10 percent since 2004.

Panasonic has obviously been watching that trend, and for the growing wireless-only set, they've introduced the inelegantly named Link-to-Cell Bluetooth Convergence Solution with Two Handsets (available at Best Buy for $110).

This gadget allows users to access their Bluetooth-equipped cell phones via the Panasonic handsets to make or receive calls.

In other words, you can park your cell phone near the door once you enter the house. Later, when the phone rings, there's no hunting for your cell; just pick up the cordless handset in the living room and talk away.

This product comes with a second handset you might place in the bedroom for late-night or early-morning calls. No worries if you have a huge home - Link-to-Cell works with up to six handsets (each additional handset costs $40).

One or two cell phones can be registered to the base unit, which has a 30-foot range, though only one Bluetooth connection can be active at a time. Since many cell-phone providers offer features such as free long distance or free weekend and evening minutes, this unit lets you take maximum advantage of such packages.

Panasonic has filled Link-to-Cell with a number of useful features. It has "talking caller ID," which announces the names of callers rather than forcing you to read them. This same talk feature announces when the batteries on a handset are running low, or it can be set as an alarm, such as a "good morning" wake-up.

The unit can also be programmed to block certain phone numbers, so that bad date from last weekend gets dumped directly to voice mail. A "night mode" prevents individual handsets from ringing after a certain hour. Specific ring tones can be set for specific callers, and there's also an on-board phone book that stores up to 50 contacts. Each handset has a speaker-phone mode and can function as an intercom to talk with others in the house.

Panasonic's product also handles landline or VoIP (Voice-over-Internet Protocol) phone calls. However, since gadgets are about simplifying our lives, if it's in with Link-to-Cell, it should be bye-bye to your current home phone service.

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