UrbanHello aims to make the home phone cool again
By Paul Ridden
January 7, 2013
Many of today's telecomms users find that their conversational needs are more than satisfied by smartphones, yet most still have a home phone connected to a landline. The latter has received something of a modern make-over at the hands of UrbanHello, a new startup founded in Paris, France by Hervé Artus and Catherine Seys. The appropriately-named Home Phone has simultaneously launched at CES 2013 and on Kickstarter.
The designers at UrbanHello say that while smartphones were designed for individuals, the Home Phone (which is described as the very first smart cordless home phone and has just received a CES 2013 Innovations award) has been created for the whole household. Like existing telephone models, it can be placed to the side of the head to converse, but also features a built-in 360-degree high definition loudspeaker with a rated output of 3W and bass boost technology to give your hands the opportunity to get on with something else while you chat away.
The microphone for both earphone and loudspeaker modes is hidden away behind the speaker grille and adapts sensitivity for each case.
When placed on a table (or other suitably flat surface), the 218 x 81 x 74-mm (8.58 x 3.18 x 2.91-inch) phone uses patented technology to automatically switch to hands-free operation, though users can also press a dedicated button on the keypad for manual activation. Akin to the mighty Ericofon designed in the late 1940s, the Home Phone's mechanical keypad has been relegated to the bottom and features essential buttons only.
With its supplied NiMh battery pack, the Home Phone weighs in at about 250 g (8.8 ounces) and is claimed to offer up to 50 percent more autonomous talk-time than other currently-available telephones. The battery should be good for more than eight days (or 200 hours) on standby, and is reported to have a usage life of at least five years, after which users can swap out the pack for standard AAA-sized batteries.
Elsewhere, it's capable of storing up to 20 entries in its phonebook, a call log keeps the numbers of the last 20 calls, and caller ID by number or name is displayed both top and bottom on discrete, white OLED displays (128 x 32 pixel resolution) that only come on when the phone is in use, reducing power consumption.
The speaker-grille and top panel come in a range of colors, including a special green-bodied version which has been created as a unique reward for backers on crowd-funding platform Kickstarter. UrbanHello is offering an early-bird pledge of US$85 to secure a standard edition Home Phone, after which a pledge of $119 will be required. The green Kickstarter special is available for an early-bird pledge of $119, and $135 thereafter.
Each unit will be supplied with its own base station for connection to a landline or any advanced internet gateway with the CAT-iq standard, but is also said to be compatible with any existing DECT/GAP base station you might already have.
The campaign is set to run until February 14, and the estimated retail price post-Kickstarter is $169. Seys told us that, should the funding campaign fail to reach its target, UrbanHello will "still make efforts to raise funds in a more traditional way."
Gizmag's CES team stopped by the company's booth (# 74106 in the Level 3 meeting rooms of The Venetian venue) and report being impressed by the sound quality of the 360-degree loudspeaker, even in a crowded room.