Your phone is probably the most important piece of equipment in the Home Office. Today’s phones offer all sorts of handy features and the Casio PhoneMate IT-380 adds an email link to the list that we’ve come to accept as standard such as a built in digital answering machine etc. Here’s a list of the features:

Calrad HDTV Accessories
Digital Answering Machine
* Internet & On-Line Service Compatibility
* Subject & Sender Display
Scroll 60 characters of the e-mail subject and sender from up to 40 e-mail messages. Identifies important e-mail waiting and the time and day it was sent.
Immediate or Periodic E-Mail Searches
* Search at the touch of a button or at user programmed time intervals.
* Searches Two E-Mail Addresses
Lifetime Data & Message Protection
* No battery required – indefinitely saves active e-mail data, greetings, incoming voice messages and autodial numbers in the event of a power failure.
* Voice Time/Day Stamp
* Remote Access with Voice Menu
* Speakerphone
* 2 Greetings
20 Number Autodial

The IT-380 is the first combination telephone answering device to let users check for electronic mail, much as they now do with voice messages. It uses a three-line, 18-character liquid crystal display (LCD) to alert users about their new, unread E-mail — without requiring they be connected to a computer and lets the user review the E-mail message headers for up to 40 new messages for each of two E-mail addresses.

The IT-380 represents the integration of three levels of technology:

1. Standard corded telephone with keypad.
2. Integrated all-digital telephone answering device (TAD), reflecting Casio PhoneMate’s heritage as the industry’s pioneer. The IT-380’s TAD includes 14 minutes of recording time. Advanced Message Management allows for skipping and repeating of messages, variable speed playback, remote access, voice time and day stamp, and other features typical of a Casio PhoneMate TAD.
3. The E-mail link itself, the IT-380’s most defining feature.

Let’s have a look at the email functions to get an idea of what this phone can do for you. Set-up involves entering in your E-mail login name, password, and other information readily available from your Internet Service Provider (ISP). Although this sounds simple (and actually is) it may take a bit of digging to get the DNS, server name etc. if you’re not familiar with Internet jargon and don’t forget you’re using a telephone keypad to type the information so be patient and you’ll get there.

Now, what can I do once all this technical stuff is out of the way. Push the button that says “Search E-Mail Now and the IT-380 goes and gets new email headers. The “E-mail Alert!” sign on the IT-380 signals new E-mail with a flashing light. The 3-line, 18-character LCD permits scrolling of up to 60 characters, displaying each E-mail’s subject, the senders E-mail address, and date and time received. Of course, a little more programming and you can schedule the unit to go and get your email info at preset intervals.

No, the unit doesn’t get the body of the messages (it leaves those in your mailbox for retrieval with a PC). The IT-380 is designed to be an “E-mail advisory device” or Internet appliance, meaning that it informs you that you have new E-mail without providing the full message text; it is not designed for sending and receiving E-mail. My first impression of this limitation was negative but then when I thought about it, I realized that I really don’t want a phone to get my email anyway. How would I type in a reply, organize and save messages etc. with a keypad. And what attachments … where would they go … lost in cyberspace forever? So actually the system is designed to let you know when important messages are received so you can go and get them. Makes sense if it saves you booting up your PC to go and retrieve a bunch of junk mail. And, don’t forget, you can tell folks to put brief messages in the “Subject” header (up to 60 characters) to save you going online to find out that Aunt Martha says she’s fine. The manufacturer cites 3 primary users of the IT-380:

1. The casual user, who does not use E-mail on a daily or regular basis. For example, such a user may correspond by E-mail with a son or daughter away at college. The IT-380 can be programmed to check for new E-mail once a day, a perfect application.
2. The home office worker, who does not want to be connected to an ISP continuously. In this application, the IT-380 may be programmed to check for E-mail every few hours.
3. The heavy E-mail user, who may have a primary account at work and a casual account at home, or have multiple work-related accounts. The IT-380 offers a great way to stay in touch with the casual account, or monitor a second business account while connected to the primary account, without booting up a PC.

For the price tag of $149, this phone offers a lot of features and if the email link fits into your life / work style then this unit will give you great value as a communication center.