I’ve never had a landline. It hasn’t been a problem—my cell phone suits me just fine. But every once in a while, when I’m trying to talk on the phone and cobble dinner together at the same time, I long for the ability to cradle my phone between my ear and shoulder like you can with a traditional home phone. If I tried doing that with my cell phone, I’d probably end up eating iPhone soup.
The $49.99 POP Bluetooth headset from Native Union bridges this gap, giving you a traditional handset you can use to make calls from your cell phone. It’s fun, retro design, is very comfortable to use, and even allows you to access your cell phone’s voice control. Mediocre call quality holds it back some, but this is still a fun, inexpensive accessory for anyone that uses a cell phone, but finds themself longing for something a little more traditional.
Design and Setup
Inspired by the classic 1950s Bakelite phone, the POP headset has a cool, minimalist look that should complement any style. We tested the red model, but it also comes in black, blue, green, pink, or white. The handset measures 8.50 by 2.50 by 2.25 inches and weighs 6.88 ounces. It’s made entirely of rubberized plastic that gives it a soft, grippy feel.
Though I’ve been cell-phone-only for nearly ten years now, it turns out talking on a traditional phone is just like riding a bike. Using the POP feels comfortable and natural—much more so than my tiny iPhone. It also passed the head and shoulder cradling test with flying colors. This is the first time I’ve been able to talk on the phone and do dishes simultaneously since flip phones were in style.
Native Union provides a curly, stretchy USB charging cable, and rates battery life at up to 8 hours of talk time, which is solid. You also get a felt mat for resting the headset on, though really, you can pretty much stick it anywhere without one.
The POP uses Bluetooth to connect to your phone, tablet, or computer. Setting it up is simple. There are three buttons on the inside of the handset. Two are for volume, with a multifunction button in the middle. Hold down that middle button until the status light above starts to blink red and blue to enter pairing mode, then pair it with your device of choice. I paired the POP with an Apple iPhone 4S, an HTC One X+, and a laptop running Windows 7.
Performance and Conclusions
Once you’re connected, you can use the POP to pick up and end calls by pressing the multifunction button. Incoming calls trigger a loud, rotary-style ring, as well as your cell phone’s ringtone played through the POP’s earpiece. To place a call, simply press the multifunction button to trigger Siri on an iPhone or voice control on an Android device; I was able to use both just fine.
In addition to pairing the POP with your phone, you can also use it with your tablet or computer. The handset supports Google Talk and Skype, as well as other VoIP applications, which makes it a little more versatile than your average headset.
My only gripe, really, is voice quality. For phone calls, no matter which phone I was connected to, voices sounded fuzzy, and had some static in the background. I switched back and forth between the POP and cell phone on the same call, and there is no denying that calls sounded better through the cell phone’s earpiece. On the other end, calls made using the POP sound digitized, and almost a little distorted. You won’t have trouble hearing someone on either end, but for a product primarily made for making calls, the POP should sound better. And while it works within the traditional 30-foot Bluetooth range, I noticed calls starting to break up at distances a little shorter than that.
Voice quality aside, I still like the POP Bluetooth handset. It isn’t a dock, like the Goodcall iG1, and it isn’t a cell-to-landline solution like the Panasonic Link-to-Cell system. It’s just a comfortable, stylish, Bluetooth handset to complement your cell phone. Voice quality may leave a bit to be desired, but the next time you’re looking to multitask with your phone on your shoulder, you may decide it’s worth it.
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Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc