Novelty telephones are nothing new, when I was a kid we had a Mickey Mouse one (both in physical form and metaphorically speaking) and more recently my daughter inherited a handset in the shape of "Tigger" who jumps up and down when a call comes in. Novelty USB items are also getting long in the tooth, who can forget the rubber duck USB memory stick or Nabaztag the Wi-Fi rabbit that read the news and, err, flashed different colours for some reason that escapes me?
The Verballs combine both these genres into one, frankly, mind-boggling device: a USB powered novelty telephone handset for the VoIP generation. Featuring a hidden speaker and hands-free microphone, not only can they be used with pretty much any messaging or VoIP application (although they are certified for, and seem to work best with Skype) but will also function as a playback speaker for MP3’s or just about any audio output. The trouble is, that audio output isn’t the greatest quality you are likely to ever hear, and the 0.5W speaker unit really does struggle with anything more than speech.
Incoming calls show off the other main attraction of your Verball character, of which there are five to choose from: animation. Receive a call and the Verball’s horns light up and flash, while its stumpy little arms wave frantically. I tested Britney who, like its pop-starlet namesake, quickly become rather annoying. The novelty of seeing something plastic mouthing vaguely in time to some tinny audio, and I am talking about the Verballs again now in case you wondered, soon wears off. The promised lip sync isn’t that synchronised at all, rather the "mouth" just sort of flaps around a bit.
But it’s the audio quality that’s the most important flaw here, it really isn’t that great. I found myself using the headphone socket more often than not as the quality was more acceptable this way. If, however, you can live with this then you’ll probably enjoy the fact that you can visit the verballs.com website and download ringtones to further personalise the experience.
With Xmas fast approaching, it’s obvious that Evesham can see Verballs slipping into the geekier stockings this year. However, at £30 each you’ll need to be sold more on the form than the function to buy one of these.