Despite what the name suggests, Mobi Headphonies are not headphones. Nor are they tipping their hat the wonderful Simpsons episode about the Apple generation. No, a headphony – which I assume is the singular of Headphonies, is around 3-inches high and in the shape of a dumpy middle aged man wearing what looks more like a pair of ear muffs than headphones. It's not dissimilar to a Telly Tubby. Our particular model came in a rather boring matte black, but looking at the website it is available in various interesting decorations with obvious scope for expansion.
The back of the head is grilled, and a dead give away as to what it actually is – a portable speaker. With it being at the back, it means to get the best sound, you'll want it facing away from you – perhaps going against the point of having a fancy design.
There is a power switch on the base of the foot with a notification LED on the front. This will apparently last for 4 hours of playback. There is no volume control – this is instead done on the input device itself. Annoyingly, it's not smart enough to detect a null input and so it's very easy to leave it switched on with nothing playing and drain the battery.
At the rear of the device, where a tail would normally be, is a 3.5mm jack. Supplied is a male-to-male cable of around 30cm for connecting to your audio device – MP3 player, laptop, etc. This port also doubles up as a charging port, using a USB cable that adapts to 3.5mm. Because the charging port is the same as playback – there is no option to charge while you play – annoying if you happen to have left it switched on.
The natural option is to leave the cable permanently plugged into the device. But this sticks out at 90 degrees from the device, so being carried in a bag it gets damaged very quickly and you'll soon find the sound cutting in and out. Disconnect it and you run the risk of losing the cable – either way, you'll get screwed in due course.
This isn't the sort of thing you'd buy if you were worried about sound quality – realistically, it's a toy. However, we were quite surprised with the sound quality, being generally quite balanced and able to produce a fair amount of volume. It was significantly better than the inbuilt speakers on the N97, which we've always been quite impressed with.
There's no denying that the sound is impressive for its size – but having to keep charging it is a real pain. We'd have sooner taken the minor hit in sound quality to have had it un-amplified, as so many external speakers are.
The Mobi Headphonies have a few design flaws, but once you get used to this – it does what it's meant to. It's a portable speaker that stands out from the crowd. But the question is – when will it get used and who will use it? We've all been on trains where people are blaring out music on their mobile phones – it's annoying and we do all we can to discourage it. We can't help but feel that this attempts to encourage exactly this, with groups of kids sat around tables, showing off their cool speakers and music taste. God help us.
At £19.99, this is about double the price we'd expect it to sell for. It's not something we'd recommend buying, but it's not a bad product and if it floats your boat – then go for it.