With a global pandemic in full swing, it’s no wonder that we’ve got a lot of new products on the horizon targeted towards COVID-19. One of the more practical ones is the maskfone – a protective face mask with a built in (no, included) Bluetooth headphone to allow for taking calls without the need to remove your face protection.
- PM2.5 filters
- Replaceable filters
- Hidden cables & controls
- Comfort fit – forms to all face shapes
- Magnetic earbud holder
- Washable & durable twill fabric
- Adjustable neoprene ear hooks
- Stabilizer for extra secure fit
- 12 hours of playtime
- IPX5 water and sweat resistant
- Built-in microphone
- Crystal clear audio
- Voice projection technology
- Google, Alexa & Siri compatible
Included with each Maskfone purchase is:
- Face mask
- 3 PM2.5 mask filters
- Wireless headset
- 3 ear gels (small, medium & large)
- 3 ear stabilizers (small, medium & large)
- USB charging cable
- Quick start guide
- Carrying pouch
This simple yet functional product is designed with the express goal of offering the consumer the flexibility of wearing face covering while making phone calls. That’s the primary function of this product and in that regard it does the job.
If you’re able to, you can opt for the premium model which includes 3 N95 filters instead of the standard PM2.5s. Maskfone also sells both filter variants on their site for $20 a set. The N95 set includes 5 filters while the PM2.5’s contains 30. The main difference between the two being that the N95 rated filters are supposed to protect against much smaller airborne particles than the PM2.5s. Both are also disposable and shouldn’t be worn continuously for more than 16 to 24 hours.
N95 masks filter about 85% of particles smaller than 300 nm. SARS-CoV-2 (the coronavirus that causes COVID-19) is in the size range of 65-125 nm, so some virus particles could slip through these coverings. That makes the Maskfone just as effective as any other mask you’d find on the market at the time of writing. It’s most notable benefit we found in our testing was the ability to perform calls while being on the move in windy situations or in stores without having to remove the face covering.
The Maskfone also has some controls on the lower right section of the mask but those are where the biggest problem with this product arose. You see the controls are made of a textured rubber-like material which is held poorly to the mask fabric via some glue. The glue didn’t seem to be very well applied given that the play icon was hanging on by the skin of its teeth when it arrived and if not for the delicate way in which it was treated it probably would already have come loose by now. Add to that the Velcro used to hold the headset in place is not an adequate enough solution. It’s nature results in a lax fit which sees the buttons frequently shift out of position under the control textures.
Having a soft silicone or plastic inner lining would have solved the shifting controls problem as well as another related to the breathing aspect of the mask. An issue I’m sure you’ve all had at least once during your Covid life experience. That being the way in which masks tend to cling to the nose while doing any excessive breathing. This made cycling or exercising while wearing the mask quite difficult. Which leads to our final critique of the product and that is that it can be made by pretty much anyone with very little effort.
The main components are:
- Motorola VerveLoop 105 In-Ear Wireless Sport Headphones ₤14.99
- 1Above Face Masks £12.99
- Velcro £8.99 (1000pcs)
That totals to ₤36.97 while the standard Maskfone will run you $49.99 (₤36.64) MSRP. Sounds like an even cut when you don’t consider that the velcro comes in a set of 1000pcs which work out to less than 1 cent per piece. Taking that into consideration would result in a cost of $27.99 (₤20.51) per mask and it wouldn’t be too difficult to make either. Considerations like this make the Maskfone seem irrelevant when it should be innovative. Had they used an AstroAI-like Face Mask as the base it would have alleviated a lot of the functional issues.
So does it have any redeeming qualities?
It does actually have a few strengths.
First of which is the fact that the earbuds are great. The recreation of music and spoken word is clear, it has some nice base, is comfortable, boasts some great Bluetooth range and stability, along with some of the best vocal reproduction you can hope for while in windy circumstances. Of course the placement of the mic within the mask has a lot to do with it’s effectiveness in windy conditions. As such it creates a fine separation from outside sound while speaking.
Appreciate that Noise cancelling
The buds also offer a nice amount of noise cancellation depending on which ear gel tips you choose to use. The larger ones were found to be the best for hearing the outside world whilst still reducing some of the noise with the smaller ones basically placing you in your own world of silence for those long rides on a plane or bus. The buds are also magnetic and can be fully removed from the mask to either clean the mask or used individually without them. Battery life is also great, coming in at more than 24 hours on standby or about 12 during use.
The maskfone also uses Motorola’s VerveLife app. This I found to be a bit irrelevant due to the headset already having great clear audio and the ability to access google assistance independent of the app. Plus it kinda forced the installation of Alexa and as we all know, Forced installations are never a good thing.
Despite all its shortcomings the Maskfone is a good first step for smart PPE. At the time of writing it’s cheaper than the MSRP and I think worthy of consideration. That being said I wish it did a bit more. Hopefully the company takes all the feedback from reviews like this one to develop a Maskfone 2 or maybe someone else will innovate on their design. Again, it’s a first step and arguably one in the right direction.
The Maskfone used for this review was provided to us by its manufacturer.