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The Novophone: 'Cell Phone Time Machine'

Tired of holding that tiny, delicate phone to your ear? The Novophone is a retro handset that looks and feels like the real deal. Too bad it doesn't sound like it.

It may seem crazy at first, but talking into the Novophone is actually a lot more comfortable--and fun--than holding your cell phone to your ear. Novophone

The first time I saw the Novophone, I laughed. Then I mocked. Then I got a little thirsty. Finally, after thinking about it for a while, I started to develop some genuine interest in the thing. Desire, even. Is it crazy, or am I?

As you can tell from the photo, the Novophone is a handset--a full-size, old-fashioned, haven't-seen-one-since-the-'80s corded handset.

Just plug it into your cell phone, then enjoy a trip down Nostalgia Lane as you cradle it comfortably on your shoulder, stretch and twirl the coiled cord, roll around on the couch, and tell your BFF how cute Greg looked on last night's "Brady Bunch."

Whoa, sorry, must've been channeling my sister, there. Anyway, the Novophone really resurrects the long-lost (and greatly missed!) tactile experience of talking on the phone. It feels great in your hand, with just the right size and heft. Seeing it, you can't help but want to pick it up and talk into it.

Now for a bit of bad news: The Novophone uses a 2.5mm plug, meaning out of the box it's incompatible with iPhones, newer BlackBerrys, and plenty of other mobile phones. The company sells a variety of adapters, most of them priced at $9 or $10, but I'm disappointed the product doesn't come with a simple 2.5mm-to-3.5mm adapter--the kind iPhone and BlackBerry owners will need. (Tip: Don't spend $8.95 on an adapter you can get from Meritline for $2.99 shipped.)

More bad news: Using the Novophone-supplied adapter with my iPhone 3GS, calls sounded a bit tinny, and at least one caller complained of echo (which disappeared completely when I unplugged the Novophone and returned when I plugged it back in). Also, I had to crank my iPhone's volume to maximum just to get a decent volume level through the earpiece.

Things improved when I plugged the handset into my wife's Palm Centro, which has a 2.5mm jack and therefore doesn't require an adapter. Both the volume and sound quality were much better, though I'd describe them as acceptable, not fantastic. Your mileage will undoubtedly vary depending on the kind of phone you have and your signal strength.

Novophone offers the handset in your choice of red or black, with or without an analog answer/end button mounted on the side of the shaft. My advice: skip the button. It's way too easy to hit by accident. Both models sell for $27.95.

I'm a little on the fence about this thing. I can't say I'd walk around the office with it, but would I use it in the home? Or even the car? I think I just might. Especially if Novophone offered a version with a 3.5mm plug, which would eliminate the need for an adapter--and probably improve audio quality at the same time.

What do you think? Is this the craziest accessory ever? The cleverest? Maybe a bit of both? Hit the comments and get talkin'.