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Ok, so I made up the part about the vengeance, but what I didn’t make up is that Siemens used to sell some of their awesomely-designed Gigaset phone systems here in the U.S., and then one day they were just gone. According to Siemens Gigaset North America CEO Rod Keller, the original foray into this market was more of a test than a full-on product launch, and in the few years since that test, the landscape of the cordless voice market has changed considerably. Hit the clicky thingie to read more on what Siemens Gigaset is bringing to the table…

When I first saw the Gigaset products about 7 or 8 years ago, the first thing that struck me was their design. Clearly, these were telephony products cut from a vastly different mold than the countless systems available from the normal slew of manufacturers such as Panasonic, Sony, VTech and Uniden. Where those manufacturers often choose to go bigger and more…more buttons, for example…the Siemens Gigaset products were, by comparison, spartan. They featured clean lines, quality materials, a tactility not found on most other products in the market, and of course good sound. That last one being kind of important for a phone, let’s not forget.

So I’ve often been bummed that they left the U.S. market…and a bit confused. Were we, as consumers, not willing to spend a few extra bucks for something superior in terms of design and materials? Or was it just that the slightly higher prices of the Gigaset products, combined with a market shifting away from landlines to purely cellular-based telephony simply added up to bad timing for Siemens? The latter is probably closer to the mark.

And now Siemens Gigaset has something to address that very issue…more on that in a bit. First, though, let’s talk about the phones that we’ve got available here starting in a couple of weeks.

At the low end of the spectrum are the A490 and A495. The Gigaset product naming conventions let us know that if it ends with a ‘0’, there’s no answering machine, and if it ends with a ‘5’, there is. While I can’t report on these units directly, they’ll start at just $39 (A490) or $59 (A495) and additional handsets will be available for $29.99 and $39.99, respectively. Not too bad for something with high style and good sound. I should probably point out that all of the Siemens Gigaset cordless products use DECT technology.

DECT has been around for a number of years, but many people haven’t tried it. Our first DECT product at home, as a matter of fact, was our baby’s monitor. The sound is great, and DECT phones don’t interfere with WiFi networking products, as the DECT spectrum is reserved solely for cordless voice products.

Next up are the C590 and C595 products, available in either black or white. Again, they sport sleek industrial designs, bright 65k color displays and great build quality. In addition, they feature ECO DECT technology that uses less power than normal DECT phones. These two systems sell for $79.99 – $129.99.

Another rung up the product ladder gets you the S790 and S795 systems, with high tolerance metal keypads, a full-color display with an icon-based menu system and up to 500 contacts that can be sync’d through PC software. These retail for $79.99 and $99.99 for the S790 and S795, respectively, and additional handsets are $79.99.

Finally, Siemens Gigaset’s flagship DECT phone system is the SL785. This $189.99 model features stunning design, polished metal case, brushed metal keypad, icon driven menu system and tons of other features, including the same huge contact list, PC sync, USB & Bluetooth connectivity (to add sounds and images for things like picture ID, etc.).

In fact, if you’ve ever wondered why it is that dinky little cell phones seem to be able to pack in many more features than a “full-sized” cordless phone, it seems people at Siemens Gigaset were wondering the same thing. So they went ahead and created a phone, in the SL785, that has a ton of features, looks great, and feels superb to hold. There’s a great weight to the SL785 handset, without feeling so heavy as to give you fits of fatigue after using it for a while.

What’s even more cool is that everything in the phone system is in the handset, including the full-featured answering system. There’s no base station that you have to head back to just to check messages, because the handset does it all. (the ‘black box’ you see in the phone is actually the DECT ‘repeater’ or antenna…you plug it into an electrical outlet and a phone jack, but other than that you don’t really interact with it). Wanna use your SL785 as an answering machine? A couple of clicks in the handset is all it takes to turn it on. The 2.2″ display is bright and very well-designed, with a 240 x 320 resolution and 256k colors. Even more impressive is the battery life…I charged it a week ago and it’s still got what appears to be about 15% – 20% charge left.

Finally, the SL785’s full-duplex speakerphone works and sounds great…something not a ton of cordless phones can claim.

Needless to say, I’m very happy that Siemens has decided to do a full-on product launch here in the U.S….these are really nice phone products.

Ok, so what was that about the changing phone landscape? Well, yeah, as you know, a lot of people have ditched land lines in favor of cell phones exclusively. And still plenty more people are considering “cutting the cord” but are a bit apprehensive about making that move.

Enter the Gigaset One. It’s not a phone system, but what I like to think of as a “phone system enabler”. It’s a Bluetooth hub of sorts that lets you pair up to three Bluetooth cell phones, after which you can use any cordless or corded phones in your house to make or receive calls through your cell phones…even if you don’t have a land line anymore!

Seriously. So even if all you have is phone wiring in your home, but no actual phone service, the Gigaset One will allow you to plug in any combination of cordless or corded phones, and use them to make & receive calls through your cell provider’s network. Think of how cool that is for homes that only have a couple of places that get good cell signals…no more rushing to the window in the dining room just to be able to answer your cell phone. Plug in the Gigaset One in the best cell reception area of your house, connect it to a phone jack, and set your cell phone down within Bluetooth range. Then just use the cordless or corded phones in your house to make & receive calls.

Of course if you do pair more than one phone with the Gigaset One, you’ll know which phone a call is coming in through by the way your cordless or corded phone will ring. And even better, if somebody calls you from a number that’s in your contact list in your cell phone, the caller’s info will be passed along as CallerID data as well.

And, if you have one cell account in your household that has more minutes than others, using the Gigaset One to make calls through it is just another benefit.

It’s a cool product that I think a lot of people will find very useful. It’ll set you back about $100.

My only issue with the Gigaset One right now is that it didn’t come from the same design group as the rest of the Siemens Gigaset products, in terms of its physical appearance, but the folks there have told me that a version that’s more in line, aesthetically, with the rest of the Gigaset line will be introduced in the not-too-distant future, probably at the next CES.

Since I’m one of those people who’s too afraid to give up my land line still, I’m personally more excited about the availability of the Siemens Gigaset DECT products, but I’ve already had a couple friends ask about “borrowing” the Gigaset One to see how it works in their homes. In any event, if you’re in the market for a solid cordless phone system that won’t ruin the work you’ve put into making your home look cool, check out the line of Siemens Gigaset DECT phones. And if you’ve cut the cord and need a better way to deal with making and receiving cellular calls throughout your house, definitely check out the Gigaset One.

All of these products will be in stores starting in a couple of weeks. Look for them at Staples, Radio Shack, Best Buy and Office Max.