Mark Bridge writes:
I’m always on the lookout for technology that’ll make life easier. That’s one of the reasons the Movon MB80 caught my eye. It’s a Bluetooth handsfree unit that you wear on your wrist. The MB80 is designed for the times your phone’s not convenient and you don’t want to miss a call – but you also don’t want to wear a Bluetooth headset. Perhaps you’re playing sports or are out for an evening with friends. The Movon Bluetooth wristband rings or vibrates when someone calls – and then can be used as a handsfree loudspeaker.
I first saw this advertised by Elite Mobile – and, as someone who feels a bit self-conscious wearing a headset, I was interested to see how practical it really was – so I asked them if I could borrow one.
Well, when it turned up I was rather impressed. It comes in a transparent plastic box with a cardboard sleeve on the bottom part – I was expecting a blister pack. That bottom part is actually a cardboard box containing the microUSB mains charger and a user guide. Once you’ve removed the cardboard packaging, the side of the plastic box opens and you’re in.
The unit itself was a little lighter than I’d expected; it’s made of silver/grey plastic with a black strap and a little chrome edging. On the left-hand side are volume controls and there’s a charging socket under a little rubber flap; on the front is a small loudspeaker grille, a single button and a tiny LED – and on the right-hand side is a hole for the microphone.
First step – put it on to charge. The LED glows red and turns blue when it’s fully charged.
Pairing it with a phone is as easy as with most Bluetooth headsets. And this isn’t just a handsfree device, it’s also compatible with A2DP music and has AVRCP, which means it can even be used as a remote control for a Bluetooth music player. As well as that, it can work as a kind of security tag because it’ll warn you when your phone is out of Bluetooth range (which admittedly means a 10-metre start for any thief!)
It promises 4 hours maximum talk time and up to 160 hours of standby – that’s almost a week – and is class 2 Bluetooth, which gives you a maximum range of about 10 metres.
So that’s the spec – how does it work in real life?
Well, once my charging had finished, I hit the streets.
There’s a gap in the strap, so you just stretch the bracelet over your wrist and it holds itself in place. Because it’s not heavy, it doesn’t feel uncomfortable and it slipped under the sleeve of my jumper although I did wonder what other people would think I was wearing if they saw it.
I use my mobile in my left hand and wear a Bluetooth headset on my left ear when I’m driving so I wore the wrist-strap on my left wrist. I don’t wear a watch very often, so that didn’t cause me a problem and it felt perfectly natural – although on a couple of occasions I looked at it expecting it to tell me the time.
The basic controls are pretty much as you’d guess: a long push on the button switches the MB80 on or off, a single press is for answering, making and ending calls. A quick press on the button redials the last person you called; my first thought was that I’d end up redialling people by accident – and, sure enough, I did… but only once. You can also redial the last person who called you, you can mute the mic during calls, you can mute the speaker during calls, you can reject calls… it’s very versatile, although some of the key press combinations took me a little while to remember.
And although there’s no display screen on the bracelet, you can make it speak the caller’s number – assuming they’re using caller ID – by pressing the volume key when someone calls. It means there’d be a bit of a delay before you answered but at least you can screen your calls if you want.
“And what are those calls like?” I hear you ask.
Well, I didn’t get off to a good start. I received a call from a friend at a railway station and they couldn’t hear me at all. I could hear them but it seemed as though the MB80 was confused by the background noise. The same happened with the next call, which was from another friend at a coffee shop. But then I turned the volume down and things seemed much better. Incidentally, the volume control seemed to be upside-down to me – you push the bottom of the rocker switch to increase the volume and the top to decrease it.
I also found that the MB80 worked well in the car. You’re not holding anything, so I don’t see any problem with the legality, and call quality was fine.
In general, usability was pretty good – and pretty intuitive. There were, as I’ve mentioned, one or two aspects of the design that didn’t suit me but overall I’d be pretty happy with my investment if I’d bought one. Noisy situations can cause it problems, but no handsfree speakerphone works as well as talking directly into a handset.
So, to summarise, the Movon MB80 isn’t a substitute for a watch phone – because the average watch phone needs a headset as well. But it could be a convenient alternative to a Bluetooth headset. Unlike wearing a headset, you don’t feel as self-conscious when you’re walking and not talking – although with the Bluetooth wriststrap it is (of course) nigh-on impossible to have a private conversation.
The current retail price seems to be around £40; mine came direct from Elite Mobile who are one of the UK’s biggest mobile phone and accessory distributors.