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Native Union Moshi Moshi 04i Review

Pros

  • Heavily styled design
  • wireless speaker functionality

Cons

  • Uncomfortable receiver design
  • poor speaker battery life
  • overly expensive

Key Specifications

  • Review Price: £179.90
  • Bluetooth iPhone handset
  • Portable speaker dock
  • Dock charges & syncs with iTunes

The ‘Moshi Moshi 04i’ is the big daddy of the 03i we reviewed at the beginning of April. Like the 03i it makes the same basic assumption: for all its merits, the iPhone isn’t the best phone. Furthermore when speaking on the phone you aren’t able to look at the screen without using the dodgy external speaker or rushing to get your headphones. So why not make an elegant receiver with better call quality and supply it with a base that doubles as a charge/sync dock? Yes, it actually makes a kooky kind of sense.

Consequently the 04i shares a number of similarities with the 03i. For a start both pair to your iPhone using Bluetooth and both receivers have volume up/down and a multi-function button with the same combination of controls:  answer (press once), reject (hold for 1.5 seconds), redial numbers (double press) or switch calls (hold in calls). Pressing both volume keys simultaneously mutes a call. To answer a call just pick up the Moshi, to make a call redial using the Moshi’s MFB or dial on the iPhone and pick up the 04i receiver. There is even voice dialling: add voice tags to any contact on your handset then hold the multi-function button for 1.5 seconds and when you hear the beep speak the tag into the receiver. Clever.


 

From this point onwards, however, things couldn’t be more different. For a start, while the concept and basic functionality remain the same the two products look nothing alike. Whereas the 03i is designed to be simple and full of curves, the 04i has numerous flat surfaces and rigid angles. The 04i also ditches the uniform look of the 03i to mix aluminium and plastic finishes, looking less like a discrete office accessory and more like a 1980s ghetto blaster. The 03i vanishes in the background, the 04i demands your attention.

There is good reason for this: the 04i’s aforementioned party trick is that it also works as a Bluetooth speaker and conference call unit. Even better is the fact this functionality works through the handset independently of the base unit, making it portable. To ensure decent sound quality the 04i uses Bluetooth’s A2DP profile , NXT engineered acoustics and 2x 2W speakers – the latter of which is inline with dedicated mini speaker docks like the Jawbone Jambox.


All of which sets the stage for the Moshi Moshi 04i to be a flexible, powerful and practical device. The trouble is it doesn’t work out that way.

For all its bold ambition the 04i has problems, the most prominent of which is it has forgotten its primary purpose. The beauty of the Moshi Moshi 03i is that however ludicrous its idea sounds at first, on closer inspection it actually makes sense: the iPhone is a rubbish phone that is uncomfortable to hold and has iffy sound quality. The 03i is comfortable to hold and has excellent sound quality. Job done.

When we come to the 04i, however, it is fundamentally uncomfortable to hold. Style has triumphed over function and the aluminium front may look good (personally not a fan), but the angular corners make it impossible to wrap your fingers round and the fascia fits your face little better than the iPhone. Worse still the aluminium finish actually amplifies the feeling of contact with your face, particularly hair or stubble. This means you detect every slight movement the handset makes.

Another beauty of the 03i is how it docks. It simply sits both ends of the receiver down into rubber wells and feels secure.  By contrast the 04i is ‘perched’ and feels wobbly. Bizarrely if you pick it up with your right hand and place it to your right ear (as I suspect the majority will) you will also find the indistinguishable ends of the earpiece and mic are the wrong way round. If you mime this movement and try picking up the receiver with your left hand and place it to your left ear (which results in the correct alignment) you’ll see what we mean.


 

We haven’t finished here either because the speaker functionality, while welcome, is nothing to write home about. Audio reproduction is clear and it is nice being able to switch your playback source and control it on the iPhone (much like Airplay), but there is little volume and minimal bass. Of course for such a small unit this could be expected, yet it cannot hold a candle to the similarly powered Jawbone Jambox. Furthermore the Jambox also works as a conference unit and will playback music for over eight hours on a single charge. Try the same with the 04i and it will run flat in two hours, not enough to take it far from the proprietary charger on the base.

The 04i also continues a quirk of the 03i: it takes over your call if your Bluetooth connection is lost then reconnected. This means should you leave the room talking on your iPhone and then stroll back into the room – or just within range of the Bluetooth signal – the call will jump back to the receiver and you will have to manually switch it back on the iPhone screen. You’d be surprised how often this happens and given the 04i has an external speaker it is easy to accidentally broadcast snippets of your call to the room.


Of course there are things the 04i gets right. Like the 03i, build quality is good and it does improve iPhone call quality (though we found an echo with low charge). When sat at a desk the 04i also largely achieves its goals: it allows you to look at your iPhone screen while in a call, the speaker is just about loud enough and the dock is a convenient charger than can also sync directly with iTunes via USB. Then again it costs £179.90 and with that it’s back to the drawing board.

”’Verdict”’

It is a well known fact that more isn’t always better and in trying to add major new functionality the Moshi Moshi 04i has forgotten its primary role and lost its way. The receiver must be more comfortable to hold, speaker battery life needs to improve dramatically and the cost has to come down. Should these shortcomings be fixed a future version of the 04i would prove a useful addition to any desk. As it stands you’d be better off using your PC speakers and buying the 03i…

Trusted Score


Score in detail

  • Performance 5
  • Value 4
  • Features 7
  • Usability 5

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