Not one CES goes by without the announcement of at least a dozen wacky tech products. Well, CES 2021 even in its all-digital format is no exception. Which is precisely why Monday, January 11th, saw the announcement of perhaps the whackiest product of recent times. Dubbed the MaskFone, this device is supposed to combine the protection of an N95 mask while also integrating true wireless headphones.
The MaskFone is developed by British telecom company Binatone, and select British media were given access to the MaskFone last autumn. The reaction to the product was, well, mixed. As far as the concept goes, it is simple. It is a Facemask that can also serve as your headphone.
The product is based on a patented technology called Hubble Connected. Personally, I have a little trouble seeing the need that this product is supposed to fill. How does wearing a face mask prevent the wearing of earphones and their use as a hands-free accessory?
Is the MaskFone really THAT revolutionary?
The MaskPhone is IPX5 certified for water- and dust-resistance. The manufacturer guarantees up to 12 hours of battery life and specifies that the earphones offer a transparent mode to amplify ambient noise and an active noise cancellation function. However, the manufacturer continues to remain mum when it comes to the technical details of the product. As expected of a facemask that comes with integrated earphones, you can wash the product safely.
Meanwhile, folks over at Engadget who tested the products in the last few days of October 2020 revealed quite a bit about the MaskFone. We learned, for example, that the headphones are not so much integrated but rather, have been simply "stuffed" into the lining of the mask. Logically, in order to wash it, you will be able to remove the earphones rather easily.
But when someone sells you a mask for $50, you do wonder whether a simple pocket with a velcro closure really justifies its price and its supposedly "revolutionary" nature, especially since Engadget specified that the integrated earphones themselves are nothing special.
"The Maskfone comes with Motorola brand earphones that are very similar to the Verveloop105 fitness headphones, although the exact model is not known here. You can even hear the famous "Hello Moto" when you turn on the device."
The "+" and "-" buttons on the front side of the mask are allegedly fake buttons and "actually look more like iron-on patches that do nothing", the tech website claimed. In fact, the headphones are equipped with a classic remote control like any other pair of headphones that come with a neckband. Furthermore, you have to align the buttons on the remote control with the fake buttons stuck on the front of the mask that does nothing.
The audio clarity promised by MaskFone happens to be wrapped in the mask's lining, making it seem rather questionable. No matter how well the product performs, however, it is the basic concept that raises the most questions.
Why pay $50 for a mask that is effective at protecting micro-particles but has generic or even entry-level true wireless headphones? I have contacted MaskFone for a review unit in order to get a better idea of what it is all about and what it is capable of.