As a journalist working from home, I have a hard time taking myself seriously when conducting an interview via speakerphone — even if it's a high-quality speakerphone.
Maybe it's an affectation, but I know I ask better questions and feel more authoritative when cradling a handset to my ear in a “shoulder hug” and typing furiously in a shorthand only I understand. That feeling is made all the better when I see a coiled cord dangling from the bottom of my phone. Bluetooth just feels too modern for an ink-stained wretch like me, and even though the government is still studying the effects of cell phone radiation, knowing there’s one fewer wireless radio near my head all day is a perk of a corded phone.
That must mean I’ve been thrilled by the recent trend toward retro handsets, right? Wrong. There’s nothing retro about a neon green handset encrusted in Swarovski crystals, even if it does come with a coiled cord that plugs into a smartphone’s audio jack. I want my retro handset to have some gravitas—something like the phone Bob Woodward (Robert Redford) spoke into in All The President’s Men. A real retro phone must harken back to a specific era in some way, like the the vintage models for sale via the American Telephone Store.
Which of these classic retro handset styles would you choose? I dare anyone to find a more retro smartphone handset than the sepia-toned wonder I ultimately chose.
1. iRetroPhone 2.0 Classic, $200
We featured the original iRetroPhone (along with some Bluetooth smartphone handsets) in this post, but that was back before the iPhone 5, which is longer and requires a different sync and charge cable than its predecessors. The 2.0 Class fits the iPhone 5, but retains that same iconic rotary phone look that wouldn’t be out of place on the set of Mad Men, or in any newsroom. Black is the most retro color for this phone, but red is also acceptable: nothing is more executive than a presidential hotline.
2. Native Union Pop Super Retro High Gloss in Nude, $34.99
This phone and the next one compete for the title of “most evocative of the early PC era.” Maybe I romanticize the days of ubiquitous beige CRT monitors, but this “1950s Bakelite”-inspired handset brings me back to the 1980s when the first personal workstations entered homes and offices.
3. Yubz Classic Gray, $39.95
Just look at the plasticky, gray shell on that handset. The design sensibility here, which includes an extra long coiled cord so that you’re sure to get it tangled a bit, makes me think it could’ve been mounted to the wall in a suburban kitchen or classroom from a 1980s childhood. This utilitarian phone means business.
4. Classic Retro Telephone Handset on eBay, $11.57
This is the handset I bought. The brass and wood trim are actually plastic, though the replica does add a bit of roaring twenties nostalgia to my workspace. In fact, telephones retained this sort of style and ornamentation through the early 1940s. Though its a bit of a sight-gag, you can’t beat the price. Sound quality on this is just as good as on the Native Union Pop phone I compared it to.
5. Pyle Audio Retro Telephone System, $177.99For fifteen times the price of the prop-like handset I bought on eBay, you can get a similarly styled desktop phone (complete with faux rotary buttons) made with real wood and copper. It allows you to switch between landlines and mobile phones.
(Images: Rachel Rosmarin; as linked above)