Novelty phone handsets

We've checked out a number of novelty handsets for designed for use with a mobile phone. But how well do they work?
 
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01 .Introduction

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Here's a selection of quirky ways to connect to your smartphone.

Along with the somewhat gimmicky Hi-call Glove Handset, we've sounded out five retro handsets:

checking out their controls, and the sound quality they produce.

Retro appeal?

For those of us who grew up with heavy and clumsy Bakelite phones, the attraction of the retro phone handsets may be a mystery. Sure they come in funky colours, but the tethered models (the Swissvoice, Kogan and Gottagetit models) have little else to recommend them. 

The Bluetooth models at least have the convenience of no cord and all managed their claimed operating distance indoors (around 10m), so they could be handy if you find a smartphone too small to hold comfortably. However, you’ll still have to manage some controls on the smartphone for “pairing” (getting the Bluetooth connection set up) and actually making a call. All the phones (including the Hi-Call glove) can pick up an incoming call and hang up an existing call.

You can see what we thought of each handset on the product review pages that follow.

 
 

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Even with our smartphone at maximum volume, we found the sound level on the Hi-Call glove just acceptable in an office environment. It could be hard to hear if you’re somewhere noisy. Overall it has the most pleasant sound quality, even if it is slightly muffled by the glove material.

Two finger tips on the Hi-Call glove are made of a special material that allows the use of a capacitive screen on a smartphone. This can be frustrating because the fingertips are relatively large and the material seems to take some time to register on the screen, slowing you to a snail’s pace for dialling numbers or swiping between screens. It’s charged in about 30 minutes via a USB cable (supplied) and it claims a talking time of around 12 hours with standby of around 10 days. We didn’t test these claims directly, but over a period of a couple of weeks it did only require charging once, so the standby time is probably reasonably accurate.

Although it is a bit of a gimmick, the glove is a functional device and very warm – not recommended for hot climates.

Brand / model: hi-Call Glove Handset
Price ($): $97
Connection: Bluetooth, USB for charging
Controls: ON/OFF, Multi-function button (pairing, pickup/end call). No volume control.
Claimed battery life: 12hrs talk time, 10 days in standby
Origin: China
Contact: hi-Fun.com

03.Native Union Pop Bluetooth Retro handset

 
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This is the most expensive of the traditional handsets. Its rubbery surface feels nice and the colour is a quite intense blue, but it attracts dust very easily.

Standby time is claimed to be 100 hours and talk time eight hours, but charging time is three to four hours via the supplied USB cable. It has volume controls and can pick up and drop a call, but you’ll still have to dial on your mobile device. There is a provision for voice-activated dialling for some phones, but models aren’t specified so there’s no way of knowing if it will work your particular phone.

Voices sound a bit harsh and there’s no bass tones to speak of.

Brand / model: Native Union Pop Bluetooth Retro Handset
Price ($): $70
Connection: Bluetooth, USB for charging
Controls: ON/OFF, Start/end call, volume
Claimed battery life: 8hrs talk time, 100hrs in standby
Origin: China
Contact: Conexus

04.Novelty Shop Bluetooth Retro handset

 
Novelty-Shop-bluetooth-retro-handset

This is the least expensive Bluetooth handset. It's made of hard plastic, which could be uncomfortable with extended use, particularly if your hands sweat. It has a volume rocker and single control button, which click quite loudly in the earpiece.

All instructions are on the packaging and it claims seven days' standby with four hours' talk time. Charging is via the supplied USB cable. There’s no suggested time for a charge, but it does specify at least an hour to begin with.

Its sound quality is pretty poor. Voices are bearable, but there’s no bass and high tones are sibilant and scratchy.

Brand / model: Novelty shop Bluetooth Retro Phone Handset
Price ($): $35
Connection: Bluetooth, USB for charging
Controls: ON/OFF, Start/end call, volume
Claimed battery life: not stated
Origin: China
Contact: www.noveltyshop.com.au

Swissvoice-ePure-corded-handset

This handset is made of hard plastic and feels solid. It comes with a base, which doubles as a stand for the handset as well as allowing you to connect your mobile phone to it. This gives you the option of having a direct connection to your mobile for mobility, or a more permanent connection should you need it. The connection is via a cable which means it can be used with almost any computer or mobile device that has a 3.5mm headphone out socket. There are volume and ON/OFF controls on the handset, but the former didn’t work with our iPhone 3Gs.

Voices are OK, but high tones are sibilant and scratchy.

Brand / model: swissvoice ePure Corded handset CH01
Price ($): $50
Connection: Cord + cradle
Controls: Start/end call, volume
Origin: China
Contact: epure.swissvoice.net/

Kogan-retro-handset

The plastic on this handset feels similar to the Native Union Bluetooth handset and it’s versatile thanks to its 3.5mm connection. There’s only a single ON/OFF button so all volume control and dialling is via your mobile.

Voices are just OK, but high tones are sibilant and scratchy.

Brand / model: Kogan Retro handset red
Price ($): $19
Connection: Cable
Controls: Start/end call.
Origin: China
Contact: www.kogan.com.au

Gottagetit Retro handset

This model's plastic has a similar feel to the Kogan and Native Union Bluetooth handsets and it’s versatile thanks to its 3.5mm connection. It has both an ON/OFF button as well as a volume rocker. The latter moves the volume in small jumps rather than smoothly and makes loud clicks through the earpiece. Dialling is via your mobile.

Voices are just OK, but high tones are sibilant and scratchy.

Brand / model: Gottagetit Retro handset red
Price ($): $10
Connection: Cable
Controls: Sart/end call, volume.
Origin: China
Contact: www.gottagetit.com.au

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