It should not be this difficult to construct an excellent, simple voice phone. The $349 MP02 is Punkt’s second cellphone; the sooner MP01 was a 2G-only machine. This one, ostensibly, provides 4G calling and the power to behave as an web hotspot. The MP02 may match nicely on European networks, however sadly in my testing we discovered that a number of the most essential 4G options do not work within the US. And even when it was capable of make calls with nice high quality and protection, we might wish to see a bit of extra creativeness within the software program.
Punkt is a small, Swiss firm that makes great-looking electronics that evoke mid-20th-century design. The firm’s alarm clock, USB charger, and cordless cellphone are all costly, and clearly designed from the skin in, however they’re pretty to have a look at.
The MP02’s bodily design is one of the best factor concerning the cellphone. A buddy of mine jokingly referred to it as “the calculator,” with its spherical, black buttons, however we expect the buttons extra evoke Marc Newson’s work or kooky 1980s design telephones. The cellphone is made from matte polycarbonate, with a form of trapezoidal again and a rubber backside. It’s protected towards splashes, nevertheless it is not absolutely waterproof. At 4.6 by 2.0 by 0.57 inches and 3.5 ounces, it suits simply in your hand and slips effortlessly right into a pocket. The solely ports on it are a USB-C charging port and a nano SIM card slot.
The 2-inch, 320-by-240 transflective display screen is readable in daylight and has a minimalistic, text-only interface; the one time you ever see a picture is when somebody sends you an image message. By default, you see the date and time; that is it.
User Interface and Software
The cellphone takes two clicks to unlock: the facility button on the highest, after which the motion button between the navigation arrows to the left of the keypad. You can add a passcode, too, when you like. At that time, dialing is easy—simply dial. Anything else is extra difficult. If you get a brand new textual content, that is down, click on, click on. Two fast motion buttons, to leap to your texts and your deal with guide, solely work from the house display screen, not from anyplace within the UI.
There aren’t any devoted quantity keys, and altering the quantity throughout a name is a multi-click course of involving trying on the display screen. There’s additionally no persistent, and even easy-to-access battery or sign indicator. You get a low-battery indicator when the facility is beneath 20 p.c and a no-signal indicator when you’ll be able to’t make calls. That’s supposed to place you in a form of Zen state the place you assume the cellphone is working, nevertheless it went the alternative method for me; I used to be anxious that the cellphone wasn’t working quite a lot of the time.
The MP02 has a couple of restricted, built-in purposes. The deal with guide’s solely sync choice is importing VCF recordsdata or SIM contacts, by way of USB or Bluetooth. Considering the MP02 runs custom-made Android, I might have beloved to see a cloud-based contact sync. There are 10 built-in ringtones (the default is a fowl chirp) and you can not assign ringtones to particular contacts or create teams.
For texting, you get multilingual predictive textual content and the power to obtain and examine, however not ahead or ship, image messages. Emoji additionally do not present up.
Other apps embrace a clock, stopwatch, and alarm; a primary calculator; and calendar and notes apps which can be troublesome to sort into and do not sync anyplace, one other place Punkt ought to have considered some cloud connectivity.
This is not a data-free cellphone, you see: It has LTE tethering, for when it’s essential pull out your pill or PC and test these emails. With comparatively sluggish Category 4 LTE, I discovered it obtained 5-10Mbps down on AT&T and T-Mobile, which is OK for primary entry however nothing stellar. The cellphone additionally has 2.4GHz Wi-Fi, however solely to obtain software program updates, not for Wi-Fi calling.
Under the hood, the MP02 runs a stripped-down model of Android 8.1 with BlackBerry safety extensions on a Qualcomm Snapdragon 210 chipset. It’s unrecognizable as Android, and you’ll’t add apps or something like that.
Why Simple Phones Are Difficult
Simple telephones appear to be they need to be straightforward, proper? They’ve been round for many years. But it seems they’re extra complicated than they appear, due to VoLTE. All 4 of our main US networks are shifting in direction of voice-over-LTE methods, and so they’re turning off their 2G and 3G networks to make room for extra 4G and 5G. AT&T has turned off 2G and can begin scaling down 3G later in 2019. Verizon will kill 2G and 3G on the finish of 2019. T-Mobile is predominantly a 4G community.
The cheap chipsets and software program in low-cost voice telephones do not help VoLTE, to allow them to’t make calls on 4G networks. And even when they’ve the software program and OS for VoLTE, unlocked phones should be carrier-certified to be allowed to make use of the characteristic.
It appears to be like like Punkt obtained the software program, however not the certification, so VoLTE does not work on the MP02 within the US. Trying to make calls with each AT&T and T-Mobile, the cellphone dropped to 3G even with VoLTE turned on in settings. It did not make calls on Verizon in any respect. For a $350 voice cellphone, that is an absolute deal breaker—it means the MP02’s protection and name high quality will decline considerably over the subsequent two years. Punkt says it’s working with US carriers to hopefully allow the characteristic, and we’ll replace this assessment when and if it does.
The lack of VoLTE damages reception and name high quality. On T-Mobile, in contrast with a Google Pixel 3, the MP02 had considerably worse name high quality, with much less audio depth and extra wobble and dropouts. On AT&T, shedding VoLTE means shedding HD Voice and struggling withnarrowband voice quality.
The earpiece goes loud. I obtained 100dB proper up towards it, an eardrum-rattling stage. The speakerphone is not practically as loud; I obtained 69dB at six inches, which is tremendously outmatched by higher-end smartphones. The cellphone connects to voice-only Bluetooth headsets utilizing Bluetooth 4.1, or to Punkt’s proprietary USB-C headset; it did not work with my OnePlus Bullets USB-C headphones, and it does not have a headphone jack.
Coverage-wise, the cellphone has all of the globally used 2G and 3G bands, and 4G bands 1/2/4/5/7/12. Seeing this as an AT&T/T-Mobile cellphone, bands 2 and 12 provide you with fairly good protection. But T-Mobile has been extending rural protection via its 4G band 71, and a voice- and coverage-focused cellphone ought to actually have that. This one does not.
I had no downside with per week’s value of standby on the 1,280mAh non-removable battery, however there’s solely about 4 hours of speak time, based on Punkt.
Comparisons and Conclusions
As a small, artisanal European firm, Punkt has made a beautiful artwork object that is designed to work nicely on European networks. Unfortunately, it simply appears unprepared for the hoops cellphone corporations want to leap via for his or her merchandise to work nicely within the US. Without VoLTE compatibility right here, the MP02 will develop into much less helpful as time goes on, and we won’t advocate that in a cellphone.
I would additionally wish to see the corporate rethink its strategy to UI. I get not eager to bombard you with options, however on a cellphone like this, most choices needs to be one keypress away. In the identify of simplicity, Punkt usually makes issues a bit of too complicated.
So, when you’re on the lookout for a easy voice cellphone, what now? We nonetheless advocate the Kyocera Cadence LTE on Verizon. Sprint has the Kyocera DuraXTP. The Nokia 3310 3G, our former choose for AT&T, is getting much less compelling as a result of it is a 3G cellphone, and AT&T will scale back 3G service later in 2019. It continues to infuriate us that there isn’t a good easy voice cellphone for T-Mobile’s 4G community. We want there was higher information, however we’re now dwelling in a smartphone-first world.