Back when all phones were wired and controlled by the old AT&T, the standing joke was that you could get a phone in any color you wanted
—as long as you chose black.
Today the seemingly clunky handsets attached to those old phones have made a comeback as colorful cell phone accessories and other retro-looking gadgets are making significant inroads onto holiday gift-shopping lists.
For example, Native Union’s Pop Phone handsets resemble the ones that graced grandpa’s rotary-dial phone but Pop Phones come in an assortment of colors—including black. The $30 wired handsets plug into any cell phone or tablet with a standard 3.5mm headset/microphone jack.
Unlike today’s skinny cell phones, the Pop Phone handsets fit comfortably between the chin and shoulder. A single button picks up and drops cell phone calls or pauses and plays music on MP3 players. The Pop Phone is also available in special editions and wireless versions.
The Everything ION Tourmaline Infused Silicone Retro Bluetooth Handset ditches the wire, but easily links with most Bluetooth-enabled smartphones and tablets. In addition to a call pickup/end button, the $50 handset has a volume control rocker button and an LED to confirm the Bluetooth connection. According to the company, the use of a wireless handset keeps potentially harmful radiation away from your head and the tourmaline-infused silicone can “stimulate the healthy flow of vital energy throughout your body.”
The VTech Cordless Answering System LS6195 (pictured at top, starts at $60) is a modern landline phone with a distinctively retro feature: The keypad is arranged in a circle like an old-style rotary dial. The slim cordless handset, which uses DECT 6.0 digital wireless technology, has its own display and backlit keypad and can be used as a speakerphone.
The base, which can also be used a speakerphone, has a small display inside the circular keypad. The unit’s digital answering system can save up to 14 minutes of voice mail and the Caller ID memory can store up to 50 numbers.
Tivoli Audio, best known for its venerable Model One table radio with its huge analog tuning wheel, now offers the $300 PAL BT, an innocent-looking, digital-display-free portable AM/FM radio with a modern feature: Bluetooth connectivity. The PAL BT can wirelessly stream music from the many cell phones and other mobile devices compatible with the Bluetooth 2.1+EDR standard.
The Tivoli Audio PAL BT has a single 2.5-inch speaker, three analog knobs, including the trademark large analog tuning wheel, a preinstalled rechargeable nickel metal hydride battery pack, a headphone jack and an audio-in jack for wired devices. Pairing the unit with a mobile device is no different that pairing a Bluetooth headset with a cell phone—it only has to be done once. A $260 Bluetooth version of the Model One (pictured below) is also available.
Tivoli Audio also offers the $160 Radio Silenz noise-canceling headset, which exudes a retro look through its liberal use of wood. The 2.6-ounce headset uses two 40mm drivers with housings made of solid wood in walnut, cherry or black ash finishes.
According to Tivoli Audio, the unit’s noise-cancelling technology reduces extraneous noise by up to 85 per cent. A “defeat” button turns off the noise cancellation and reduces the volume so users can have conversations without taking the headset off.
So what will tomorrow’s hot gadgets look like? Look around your home and get a preview.
Text Copyright 2012
Robert S. Anthony, Stadium Circle Features