It's easy enough to believe in many things mouse-related. A mouse that roars? No problem. A mouse that runs a billion dollar entertainment empire? Not a worry. Even an invisible mouse is conceivable, albeit a little hard to see. But a mouse that talks? That's a tough sell, but its the exact marketing pitch that Yappernut, makers of the Yappermouse, have taken with their combination optical mouse and Skype phone. It's pitched clearly at the travelling Skype user who doesn't wish to carry around a separate headset for Skype calls -- although quite how many of them would want to use an external mouse and not just a notebook glidepad or touchpad is open to debate.
The Yappermouse itself most clearly resembles Apple's line of mice, in that it's a mostly oval mouse with no real concessions to ergonomic usage. In most mousy respects it's a very ordinary two button mouse with a scroll wheel and an optical sensor on the base, connected via USB cable only. Then again, nobody in their right mind is going to buy the Yappermouse purely as an optical mouse.
The first thing you'll notice about the Yappermouse when you remove it from its plastic packaging is that there's no driver disc of any kind. That's fine if (for your own peculiar reasons) you did just want it to work as an optical mouse. Any modern operating system can handle the Yappermouse's mousing functions out of the box, but when you want to get vocal, you'll have to head to Yappernut's site and download the drivers. Except that they're not drivers that are just drivers; they're bundled with a Skype answering machine software called Amy, available free from the Yappernut site. It somewhat makes sense for a product designed for online telephony to offer downloadable drivers, but at the same time it'd be nice to have a physical driver disk for when the site's unavailable, or simply if you're on a capped download plan.
Running Amy will automatically launch Skype, as well as enabling the Yappermouse's talk features. Both will run in the background until you receive or initiate a Skype call, at which point the mouse will "ring" softly and vibrate, although both features can be switched off in the Yappermouse control panel. The Yappermouse works as either a hands-free speakerphone or as a handheld phone, and switching between the two modes is managed by holding in the scroll wheel button for a number of seconds.
As previously mentioned, the Yappermouse is an average optical mouse; in our testing it worked well enough for everyday PC applications, although gamers would no doubt be better served with a higher precision laser mouse such as the Logitech MX610. That's not the main selling point of the Yappermouse however. In the voice stakes the Yappermouse came up surprisingly well. That's not to say that it doesn't have its quirks, however.
If you're primarily interested in the Yappermouse as a speakerphone, you'll be well served. In our testing of voice quality, both incoming and outgoing were excellent, or at least as good as you can expect from a Skype call. This is admittedly surprising for a mouse-based speakerphone. It's not quite as loud -- or as multi-purpose -- as Netcomm's V35 speakerphone, but then it's not as expensive, and the V35 isn't a mouse, either.
It's when you switch into the handheld mode that the Yappermouse is a touch less appealing, for two primary reasons. Firstly, in our testing, the toggle between handheld and speakerphone modes didn't always switch to handheld mode, leading to excessive audio output and an ear temporarily illuminated in scarlet optical light. The second problem is more of a social one, but it's one you can thankfully test prior to purchasing a Yappermouse. If you're using a mouse to read this, pick it up and put it to your ear, and start talking. Do you feel a touch silly or self-conscious? We certainly did when testing the Yappermouse in public places, and given the pitch to travellers, it's something you'd either have to overcome or just grin and bear when using the mouse for calling purposes. Naturally, those amongst you who are exhibitionists or simply have a very low public embarrasment threshold won't see this as a problem at all.
It's also worth noting that the Yappernut site lists the Yappermouse at US$24.95; at current exchange rates that equates out to around AU$35. This makes the asking price of AU$89.95 a rather pricey alternative; if you're keen on the Yappermouse it'd be well worth shopping around in our opinion.