Having become a fashion and safety necessity in 2020, face masks are an area of intense focus at CES 2021, with companies trying various solutions to the problems they create. U.K. telecom company Binatone is breaking away from the pack, though, by making the mask an entertainment hub.
MaskFone, as it’s called, aims to do away with the headache of choosing between a muffled voice when you’re on the phone and lowering your mask, potentially exposing yourself or others to airborne viruses, like COVID-19 or the flu.
The fabric mask comes with a built-in Bluetooth headset consisting of a microphone built into the front of the fabric and wireless earbuds integrated with the earloops. A series of control buttons on the outer bottom of the mask let you manage volume and skipping songs.
To ensure user safety, the mask can also fit N95 inserts (sold separately), enhancing its droplet-stopping potential. The MaskFone carries a price tag of $50.
Let’s look beyond the cost for now, even though it’s considerably more than most people are paying for masks these days. There are a few other problems with the MaskFone to keep in mind before buying one.
A major one is it can’t be washed without some effort. (The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends washing fabric masks “at least daily.”) Binatone recommends removing the earbuds and filter to “clean” the mask, but since the speaker is built in, you won’t be able to toss it in the washing machine, as you can with other fabric masks.
It’s convenient, then, that you can enjoy a reported 12 hours of battery life for listening to music or taking calls. The mask can be recharged via a USB cable. It’s also compatible with Google, Alexa, and Siri.
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