Review: GoFusion Good Call iG1
The crux of a good or great Apple device accessory is its ability to improve upon the base product's functionality at a reasonable price -- if it's priced wrong or doesn't seriously enhance the initial user experience, there's no point in considering it. GoFusion's new Good Call iG1 ($80) is on the margins in both respects. Packaged in a box that suggests, unironically, that it lets you "make and receive iPhone calls in the home or office," complete with arrows showing that you can talk on it when receiving a call on an iPhone, Good Call iG1 is a "Bluetooth handset" that seeks to replace your iPhone with something closer to a traditional phone.
Good Call iG1 mightn’t be ideally executed, but the idea behind it isn’t crazy. Native Union has been selling Moshi Moshi-branded corded and Bluetooth handsets for some time now, enabling iPod, iPad, and iPhone users to make Skype/VoIP and regular phone calls using accessories that are closer in comfort to traditional handsets. Its MM03i Curve is a directly comparable model to Good Call iG1, pairing a charging base with an iPhone dock and a wireless handset. Both units can be plugged into the wall with included power adapters, or alternately connected via USB to your computer.
Where the products initially diverge are in the specifics of their designs: Native Union went with a deep, boxy base and GoFusion chose a half-pill-shaped base that’s wider (roughly 5.6”) than it is deep (3.2”), with the iPhone sitting to the left of an upright charging cradle for the phone. Some users will prefer one approach over the other based on the space on their desks, nightstands, or tables, but while we’d give the edge to MM03i’s looks, we’d generally prefer Good Call iG1’s layout, as it puts both the handset and iPhone within equally easy reach. We say “generally” only because iG1’s iPhone dock wasn’t properly designed to provide compatibility with full iPhone cases, so you may need to use your device bare or with an open-bottomed shell in order to be able to make a charging connection. This is a practical issue that significantly reduces iG1’s appeal for us, but some people may feel otherwise.
Another major difference is iG1’s handset, which initially follows MM03i’s glossy, modern design direction rather than the retro-styled traditional handsets that Native Union and some other companies have offered as options. Putting aside its nice looks, the handset isn’t bad, but it isn’t great, either: ergonomically, it’s not a lot different than putting an iPhone up to your head, and the engineering feels a step behind the times. For instance, it provides only four hours of talk or four days of standby time between charges, though the base will obviously keep it fueled up when you need it. It relies upon the fading but still respectable Bluetooth 2.1 standard for wireless connectivity, pairing with up to two devices at once, and features integrated volume, call start/end, and on/off controls. Two separate lights indicate power and pairing status, one bright white and just a little too large below the speaker, and the other blue around the on-off switch. Hitting the green phone button activates Siri or Voice Control on newer iPhones.
If iG1 provided a superior calling experience to just using the iPhone on its own, we might have been able to get excited about it, but unfortunately, the handset is nothing special. The speaker’s very comparable to listening to the iPhone 4S on its own—only a little louder at maximum—and the microphone is different thanks to a treble push, but neither more intelligible nor otherwise superior. Both we and callers noted an ever-present low static hiss during even near-distance calls, and iG1’s wireless signal was strictly within the standard 33-foot range of Bluetooth devices: the audio became worse as we approached that distance and increasingly suffered from digital drop-outs and garbling on the caller’s side as we neared and surpassed the 30-foot mark. iG1 works for calls and some other Bluetooth voice-enabled apps, such as Fring, but not with Skype.
In short, what you get with iG1 is a handset that doesn’t really deliver on the critical qualities of a great accessory: it doesn’t really improve upon the telephone calling experience unless you really hate holding your iPhone, and the only other feature it offers—iPhone charging—is only accessible to users who are willing to risk device protection. While the price would be entirely reasonable if the handset was fantastic, the reality is that we wouldn’t spend any amount of money for the level of sonic quality and device compatibility iG1 offers. It’s only okay, but with tweaks, a next-generation version could be good to great at the right price.