I’ve always liked cell phones. My first one was a Motorola Gold Series bag phone, circa 1993. My dad bought it, mostly because my sister and I traveled together on our 600 mile drives to and from college in a car that no one would really want to stake their life on. But the car proved reliable enough, and so did that Motorola bag phone. All 3 watts of analog output, as we traversed the American Midwest.
In the years that followed, I’ve had lots of cell phones. I stopped keeping track after phone #26, and that was long enough ago that the details and place are fuzzy. Ok, maybe it was a Motorola RAZR V3 in Chicago. Anyway, I’ve since slowed down, and have been primarily using my trusty iPhone 4 since June of 2011. Seems like forever in iPhone-years.
And while my iPhone of 2011 can do so much more than my Motorola Gold Series bag phone that was 18 years its predecessor, for me a phone still has only one killer app. Making phone calls. And despite an iPhone’s ability to handle a dozen e-mail accounts at once, or let me read Twitter from bed or bathroom, maybe it has more features than some of us really need or even want.
Maybe you just want to make phone calls using a real handset. Maybe you move ever so often, and would like a ‘home phone’ that can move with you. Maybe you want to equip your small business with phones that can be carried home as that next snowstorm or hurricane approaches. Or maybe, following Edward Snowden’s revelations and demonstrations like this one, you no longer wish to carry an always-connected, GPS-enabled, gyroscope-equipped, dual-camera mini computer in your pocket everywhere you go. For some, the idea of a cellular desk phone may be a simple product whose time has come.
Last week one of my respected colleagues walked into my office and noticed the phone pictured at the top of this article sitting on my desk. As perhaps a prototypical American, the concept seemed initially unfamiliar to him. This particular example is a cheap Chinese-sourced 2G GSM 850/900/1800/1900MHz cellular phone, coincidentally about the same size as that original Motorola that I had all those years ago. I purchased this unit via eBay for less than $50. The primary power cord is European, but it accepts American 120V power via a cheap adapter. And the phone is compatible with either an AT&T or T-Mobile SIM card, and presumably a SIM from most MVNOs that ride either of these networks.
In my new, partially-below-ground office where my iPhone relies on an AT&T 3G MicroCell for adequate coverage, this 2G cellular desk phone shows a full five bars of native AT&T signal. Today I made two test calls spanning 50 minutes from this handset, and didn’t experience any glitches at all.
In addition to my low-cost example, there are higher-end cellular desk phones like this one from Great Britain and what may be my personal favorite from the Czech Republic. I only wish that American wireless carriers would embrace the concept of the cellular desk phone, as a step beyond recent half measures, where it makes sense. Who knows? When my iPhone ultimately stops working, maybe I’ll replace it with a simple desk phone instead.