One More Time for the old “brick” mobile phone


Binatone’s Brick phone was acceptable in the ’80s (hands-on)

My Comments

Ever so often, a company will make a “modern” take of an older product or design that has attained “classic” status in some form. This is typically by exploiting the device’s industrial design and function; and making a device that uses newer technology in it.

In this case, the device of concern is the classic Motorola “brick” mobile phone. This was a first-generation mobile handheld phone design that was effectively shaped like a brick with the speaker, microphone and keypad placed along the narrow edge of this phone and it used a “rubber-duck” whip antenna. This design, which initially came about in the mid 1980s, was developed for the original AMPS analogue cellular-mobile-phone technology and the phone was gradually evolved with newer power-efficient circuitry including an LCD display rather than an LED display. When the GSM digital-cellular-phone technology came on line, there was even a variant of this handset that was designed for this technology.

This design became popular with people in the building and allied trades because of its durability and was valued as a way for these workers to “catch” new work while on the job without needing to be near their van to answer a car phone or carry around a very heavy transportable “bagphone”.

Binatone have given this phone the “One More Time” treatment by releasing a GSM mobile phone that is based on this design. It would be able to do what is expected of a basic GSM cellular phone including being able to support Bluetooth Headset/Hands-Free Profile technology.

But what impressed me about this phone was that it can be set up to be a Bluetooth Headset or Hands Free device for another phone such as a smartphone. A classic example may be to have a “retro chic” appearance or to have that cheap-looking phone so as to avoid flashing the iPhone 5S or other premium smartphone in an environment where a nice phone attracts the attention of street robbers or potential “gold-diggers”. Similarly, you could operate a 2-account setup to dodge exorbitant roaming fees for you or keep work and home separate.

The personal worry I have about the Binatone Brick phone is that it may not be a durable handset like the original Motorola designs but be more the “novelty” phone-accessory product that is flashed on the Internet in order to cash in on 80s retro chic. This is in a similar vein to the cheap table radios and music systems that are styled like the classic Wurlitzer 1015 juke box or the recent crop of cheap record players that copy portable-record-player designs of the 1950s and 1960s, where these products don’t necessarily do justice to the original design.

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