Newton makes a versatile headset and case combo for iPhones. (January 17th, 2010)
Carrying a Bluetooth headset often adds a certain amount of inconvenience, and iPhone owners have been accustomed to this as even fewer truly portable options exist for them. Newton Peripherals hopes to fix that with the MoGo Talk for iPhone that we're reviewing here; it stows the headset into a discreet case that keeps the phone somewhat safe. It's promising, but with an ultra-thin headset, will it be a question of sacrificing space for convenience?
Product Manufacturer: Newton Peripherals
- Effective case and headset integration.
- Good audio quality in and out.
- Screen protector bundled with the case.
- Simple setup; up to five devices.
- Battery life merely OK at four hours.
- Need the case to charge the headset.
- Case isn't completely protective or rock-solid.
design: the case
The MoGo Talk is a rare instance of a symbiotic product set: each can in some ways work separately, but both depend on each other to work perfectly. As the home to the headset, the case actually works as a form of home base for the headset. It's not simply where the earpiece is stowed; it serves as a charging station and works completely independently of the iPhone. There's a unique flip-up micro USB connector to power the headset without leaving the port exposed outside of regular use.
As a whole, it's cleverly designed. The "nook" makes it quite easy to slip the headset in and out but still keeps it secure. And while we would have liked the headset to charge from the iPhone's dock connector -- a trick that would have charged both at the same time -- we can understand why Newton has opted for a separate power connection. A Bluetooth headset can be a significant power drain on an already limited phone.
Flaws definitely exist in the implementation, however. The inside of the case is actually a two-piece unit with a smaller inside section held only loosely to the main shell. When we first attached the USB cable, we pushed too hard and were startled to find the inner portion almost separate entirely, if in the way it was intended; that wasn't confidence-inspiring, even if more casual plug-ins were just fine. We'd prefer if it was a one-piece design that had little chance of going wrong.
Protection is also somewhat mixed. Appropriately, the shell does a good job of protecting the back and the sides while exposing the control switches and ports. What it doesn't do, however, is protect the front. Newton is courteous enough to provide a screen protector film, but like most of these surfaces it's just meant to prevent scratches. It won't prevent the glass from shattering in a drop to the concrete that hits a stone, for example. Many users are willing to make this tradeoff, hence the abundance of silicone skins and open-face sleeves on the market, but this may be disappointing for anyone who wants the best of both worlds.
design: the headset
Lately, the trend has been towards wafer-like headsets that are as unintrusive as possible: think Aliph's Jawbone Prime as an example. The MoGo Talk by its very nature has to fit this bill and does so in an unusual way. The actual in-ear piece rests on a rotating boom that collapses flat when the headset is ready to be tucked into the case. Because of this mechanism it isn't quite as invisible as some headsets; passers-by will know you're using it. But it's nonetheless subtle enough to avoid some of the stigmas of bulk and overly flashy appearance associated with using a Bluetooth headset.
One would expect a design this small to clearly sacrifice some ergonomics. Surprisingly, that wasn't the case. Although it depends on an odd rectangular ear tip, we actually found the piece comfortable, stable and fairly easy to insert. Results will no doubt vary by the user, but Newton does include several ear tips of varying sizes and roundedness to accommodate different needs.
If anything, the chief limitation of the sliver-like design is its control. There's just one button on the entire unit, so there's no way to change volume outside of the host device. Be sure to check your iPhone's call volume before you need the MoGo Talk for a critical conversation. We'd also observe that the case is the only way to charge the headset because of the unique electrical contacts needed to keep the headset thin; you can't simply attach a micro USB cable directly.
pairing, call quality and battery life
Like most modern headsets, the MoGo is fairly painless to set up and just involves setting the host device to discoverable and holding a button down on the headset. Newton is flexible with pairing and not only doesn't tie the model specifically to the iPhone (which would be difficult) but allows as many as four other devices and simply connects to whichever device it can find first. We could pair it with a PlayStation 3 for in-game voice chat, for example.
Actual calls are, like the design itself, a pleasant surprise on this headset. Inbound calls were clean and clear; recipients could clearly understand what was being said even with a moderate amount of background sound. Noise reduction here isn't as good as on competing devices like the Jawbone, as callers told us they could still hear ambient sounds, but it means your call will be understandable.
One catch for iPhone 3GS users: because of the one-button design, tricks like Voice Control don't work. You'll simply turn the headset off if you try holding the button down.
Battery life is the one area that will disappoint in actual use, though it depends on the conditions. At four hours of maximum use, the MoGo just isn't likely to hold up to all-day calling; we could see car salesmen and real estate agents running it dry early. For hands-free calls in the car or just for a long conversation at home, though, it's more than adequate.
Creating an accessory like this is difficult precisely because the dual nature of the design leaves just that much more room for something to go wrong. In some ways, that's manifest here. The case isn't as rock-solid as we'd like, and again battery life could leave some wanting. There's also the slight question of the proprietary design needed for that all-important thin shape.
What's impressive is simply how much actually works as promised. Audio quality is good; the case, while somewhat basic, works well; and the ergonomics of the headset are tangibly better than some thicker, more ungainly models. At $129 this won't be the least expensive headset ever available, but it could well be a good deal for those who want a fairly capable headset but want to make sure it's always on-hand.