Review: Native Union MM02t Curve Twin
Company: Native Union
Compatible: iPod touch 2G/3G/4G, iPad/iPad 2, All iPhones
In mid-2010, Native Union released Moshi Moshi 02 - MM02, a designer telephone handset created to bridge the gap between traditional phones and modern Skype-ready alternatives. Launched only months after the original iPad, MM02 was clearly designed before Apple's tablet was announced, and included four parts: a hard plastic base, modern curved handset, connecting cables, and a small rubber mat. The latter piece was included instead of a dock, enabling your device to lay alongside the phone and base on the surface of a table. Now that the iPad is a known quantity, Native Union has released MM02t ($60, now also known as Curve Twin), an updated version that adds two new tablet-friendly features for the same price.
The three core parts of MM02t are very similar to those in MM02: a telephone handset connected with a coiled cable to a weighted desktop base. You can choose from soft touch black or glossy white finishes, each with benefits and consequences we’ve discussed in prior Native Union reviews, though both are attractive and contemporary. Conspicuously new in the MM02t is a large passive resting area for a portrait-orientation tablet, plus enough spare room to accommodate an iPhone or iPod touch; an iPad in landscape orientation also fits, leaving no room for a second device. Because of this rubber-padded, slightly recessed nook in the back, MM02t is now around 4.7” deep, roughly a third more than its predecessor, with a similar 9.55” width and 1.5” height.
Hidden underneath the base below the resting area are two flat-cabled, spring-retracted headphone plugs: one comes from a green-striped opening, while the other’s unmarked. You pull one or both of the plugs out, connect your iPad and/or iPhone/iPod, then use a button on the top front of the base to switch the handset between devices. This button has a very subtle green ring that’s only obvious in one position, matching the aforementioned stripe to let you know which device is currently using the handset. In practice, the modest markings for both the button and the cable make it a little hard to know for sure which device is using the phone at a given moment—expect “hello, are you there?” questions if you’re using two devices—so a slightly more conspicuous marking of the headphone plug connector could help. (Note that another version of this accessory has been announced as MM02u; it will have only a single cable in its base, and sell for $10 less.)
While it’s tempting to suggest that Native Union add an illuminated toggle button within the base, MM02t doesn’t have any powered electronics inside, and that’s this accessory’s single most glaring omission. Put an iPad, iPhone, or iPod on top of it and you effectively block off its Dock Connector port, unless you want to turn it upside down or on a side. This means that a tablet and second device can rest on MM02t, recline for easier screen access, and stay connected for audio purposes, but their power, speaker, and some microphone access may be inhibited.
The value of MM02t is thus very specific: like the original MM02, it’s here for traditional handset-assisted phone and VoIP calls, and for those purposes, it’s hard to fault. Callers said that the microphone sounded as good as the one on the iPhone 4S we tested during phone calls, and better than the iPad 2 we used for Skype calling, the latter due as much to the MM02t handset’s greater proximity to our mouths as anything else. While the MM02t handset speaker depends upon the connected device for power, it’s entirely acceptable for calling purposes, and can be made roughly as loud when held to your ear as an iPhone 4S placed at a comparable distance on a table. A button in the center of the handset lets you stop calls, activate Voice Control/Siri, or play/pause music should you want to hear it. But you probably won’t; the speakers built into the iPhone 4S and iPads are clearer for music, and far more convenient.
Overall, MM02t is as good by 2012 standards as its predecessor was in 2010: thanks to its new features, it’s worthy of the same $60 asking price despite major changes that have come to Apple’s devices since then. Having said that, however, MM02t remains quite narrowly tailored to one use—voice telephony—at a time when all of Apple’s compatible devices have grown FaceTime cameras for video calling, just one of a number of features that would benefit from greater support for a dock with proper integrated charging and audio pass-through features. It’s surely not easy to make a dock that can accommodate any random two Apple devices at once, but we’d be interested to see what Native Union’s great designers could accomplish if they tried.