Take My Phone, Really
My new annoying thing is bluetooth speakers. They are like tribbles multiplying everywhere. Some are nice, but the majority are battery-powered landfill-destined crap. Just another smartphone accessory that people think they need, but don’t.
I am writing about this because it relates to my ongoing frustration with the UC industry’s refusal to reinvent the desktop phone. I used to think the debate about hard phone v. softphone was silly, because everyone was only considering the current incarnation of the desktop phone. But perhaps this model is exactly why softphones continue to grow.
The basic desktop phone includes a ridiculous dialpad (3 letters per key, no special characters, no Q or Z), an enormous handset, and a curly cord. The modern IP phone is functionally and physically like the phones of 50 years. Everything else has changed. Yes, there’s been a few noble attempts, but the endpoint makers are bringing new meaning to obsolescence by design.
Which brings me back to bluetooth speakers. Clearly, people want to play audio out of their mobile devices on a larger speaker, but there’s already a large speaker on (a decreasing number of) desks. I would much rather use the large, powered, 5” speaker in my desktop phone. The key to product survival is to embrace the mobile phone.
Consider all the stuff crowding your desktop. You probably have a set of PC speakers and a webcam (or two or three). Now, let’s revisit some routine desktop activities:
Speed Dialing: I use my softphone for speed dials. I also use various bluetooth accessories for speed dials – like my car. Why can’t my mobile and desktop phone pair, so I can use it for speed dial? I would prefer my longer calls to be on this fit-for-purpose device.
URI Dialing: I also use my softphone for SIP URI dialing. A SIP URI is a phone number that looks like an email address. It’s typically only supported on softphones, and the hard phones that do support it (such as Polycom) make dialing a nightmare (sure would be nice to have keys for . and @...).
Video: I have a webcam on my computer and on my hard phone. It would be nice if my phone’s webcam could plug into a USB port on my computer. That would eliminate this clunky webcam precariously balanced on my monitor. The phone vendors want me to pay for a video-enabled endpoint, but restrict it to its own device? That’s why you don’t see that many video-enabled phones.
Music: My PC speakers are also kind of silly. Not only are they small, but they have a daisy chain wire that goes between the speakers and to the PC. Plus a power cable and a huge power brick. Worst of all, they don’t turn down when I am on a call. Why not connect the desktop phone to the PC audio out and apply some intelligence? There could also be a headphone jack on the phone in case I want to listen more privately – without the risk of missing a call.
Headsets: Speaking of headphones, why does every phone have a unique electronic headset switch cable? PCs just get by with a USB jack. Isn’t it time to add a USB jack to the phone so we can settle on one headset standard?
Charging: Often when at my desk I need to charge my mobile. Wouldn’t the desktop phone be more useful if it had a charging dock/port? That way I could keep both my phones in the same place.
The modern IP phone could be much more than it is, like a smartphone accessory. It’s an always-on IP device with a large speaker. It needs to be adapted to the modern workplace and become cell friendly (including charging, bluetooth, and more protection against interference). It also needs to become a desktop computer multimedia peripheral. We don’t need bluetooth speakers on on our desks.
I want my future IP phone to replace a lot of clutter and simplify my environment. I’m an advocate of the hard phone, but my patience is wearing.