Every once in a while there comes an invention whose imagery at one point in its evolution becomes universally iconic. The telephone, particularly the style of handset that started appearing in the US around the mid 1920s with the advent of the Western Electric B1 (also known as the Model 102), is one such item. How ubiquitous? Turn on your cell phone or fire up Skype. See that call icon?
The image of a telephone is synonymous with voice communications, and the people at Native Union have created a series of handsets, the POP Phone, to reintroduce the “retro” phone handset in a stylish way. Designed by Frenchman David Turpin, the latest offering is Native Union’s POP Bluetooth handset, touted as “The original retro handset with Bluetooth.”
Here are the box contents:
The handset come with instructions, a USB charge cable, felt mat for resting the handset on a desk or other surface and the handset itself.
Now the first question some of you might ask is “Why would I need this if I already have a cell phone?” Well in this case, the POP Bluetooth handset eliminates a couple of problems. The first is that it helps reduce cell phone radiation exposure with normal cell phone usage and the second is that it permits users to fully access their cellphones when in use. It’s also easy to cradle the phone between your ear and shoulder if you need to use both hands for a bit—say while receiving a call while typing at a keyboard or other task requiring both hands. Sure you could use a small, innocuous bluetooth headset instead of the larger POP Bluetooth, but here again is an advantage: while using the POP handset, users will avoid the risk of being perceived as mentally ill, because whether we care to admit it or not, we as a society are for the most part still not comfortable with people appearing to hold conversations with themselves. C’mon, admit it. You still do double takes when someone next to you appears to be talking to someone not there. While speaking to unseen people is fine for kids playing with their imaginary friends, it’s a tad disconcerting when adults do it.
The POP Bluetooth comes in a variety of colors, my review unit came in a deep blue, which shows faintly purplish tones in certain bright lighting.
This is a better representation of its true color under typical lighting conditions:
Measuring 60mm x 220.61mm (~2.4″ x 8.7″) the POP Bluetooth handset with its rubberized no-slip finish is light and easy to use. Rechargeable via micro-USB, the handset offers up to 8 hours talk time and 100 hours standby, Bluetooth version 2.1, and offers HSP and HFP profiles.
The POP Bluetooth’s controls are easy and intuitive to use. By gripping the handset, the call/answer and volume controls become easily accessible to the fingertips, allowing users to control the handset without having to significantly alter their grip.
In the image below, from top to bottom are the bluetooth connectivity status light, the + increase volume button, the circular call/answer button, the – lower volume button and the ringing status. The central Answer/End call button had additional capabilities as well. In addition to answering and ending calls, the handset supports voice-activated dialing, last number redial by double-pressing then call/answer button as well as rejecting calls by pressing and holding the same button for 2 seconds. Muting can be achieved by simultaneous pressing of the +/- volume buttons.
In an additional nod to “retro” ambiance, the POP Bluetooth by default rings like the old handsets did too.
In use the POP Bluetooth was a pleasure to use, and looks pretty sharp. Admittedly for me the handset offers some functional nostalgia having actually used rotary and push button telephones with such handsets, but I found as I used it around the house and office I found it surprisingly convenient. The handset is nicely weighted and feels well-made, and its slight rubberized feel made it comfortable to hold and not feel as cold to the touch in cooler weather. Call quality was very good and recipients reported they could hear me quite well.
The Native Union POP Bluetooth Handset is available directly from the company website.
What I Like: Comfortable to hold and use; Retro handset appearance; Easily accessible controls; Allows full use of cell phone while in use; Reduces exposure to cell phone radiation
What Needs Improvement: Would be nice to be able to change ringtones similar to other Native Union Bluetooth handsets