Dec 11, 2013

[Gadgets] Native Union Monocle

My continuing relationship with Digits Trading Corporation has exposed me to a number of interesting and unique mobile accessories. But this definitely stands out as a particularly alternative variation on the conventional external speaker design.

I wasn't quite sure what to make of the Native Union Monocle when I first received my review unit. I mean seriously, we all know monocles to be those weird single-lens glass thingies that people used to use back in the day. But this is an audio accessory - and it boasted quite a number of features.

But once I had gotten the device out of the packaging, I have to admit that I've had a lot of fun tinkering with the it. It's definitely a great external speaker with a very different concept behind it. It may not necessarily be as practical as other speakers around, but it's certainly one that has a clear identity that it wants to present.

Whether or not this concept is one that you're prepared to buy into is really up to you.

The Native Union Monocle is a combination speaker, handset, and speakerphone.It comes it four basic colors - Coral Red, Marine Blue, Mint, and Slate and two special variants - Brushed Black diamond and Brushed Copper. It retails locally for about PHP 2,250.

The Monocle comes with everything that you see in the image above. A lot it is just paper including a product catalog and various guides on warranties and stuff. Thankfully, no weird stickers this time around. The only true accessories that come with it are the USB charging cable and a weird loop accessories that you can insert into the extension port so you can hang the Monocle from a bag or something. It feels a little scary to use but I'll bite.

The best feature of this device involves the cable. I've had too many headphones and speaker units that eventually die because the plastic or rubber cable wears thin and the wire inside eventually cuts. With the design they decided to go with a nylon reinforced cable that provides both freedom of movement and stability. The cord has a nice length to it and the little insert for the microphone is innocuous enough.

In it's default setting, the Monocle operates like a headset. Imagine your classic headphones that cover your years - if you just take one of the ears and that's what you get. You can hold it up to your ear to hear your music or whatever and the area around the speaker is nicely padded for comfort.

Twist the device in a clockwise motion until you hear a click and you'll switch it to an external speaker with some pretty good power on it. Similar to the NudeAudio Move S Wired speaker, you're dependent on the volume settings of your device. The wheel that you twist when you shift from headphone to speaker is supposed to double as volume control but I don't find it very effective. The maximum output is pretty impressive and more than enough to start a little party. You can also extend your audio capabilities with additional speakers plugged into its external port. This works with any other speaker unit - you're not limited to those produced by Native Union.

MONOCLE ProductVideo from Native Union on Vimeo.

The device is a little pricey, but the fact that it has speakerphone capability is definitely a great addition to things. I still need to put the device through its paces with respect to its microphone capabilities but things seem pretty good so far. I don't know if I'm ready to walk around Metro Manila with a speaker unit hanging off my neck like in the product photo, but it may not be too alien a concept. The need to hold the speaker up to your ear sort of reminds me of really, really old telephones that we used to see in classic cartoons, which is certainly a fun and playful mechanism to employ.

The Native Union Monocle is a lot of fun and a great mobile accessory. It may not be 100% practical from a functional perspective, but some of the best devices are hardly practical either. Thus the Monocle gets a good 4 stars out of 5 - hope you enjoy it!

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