Review

Review: Star Trek The Original Series Bluetooth Communicator

The Wand Company, which adds technological functionality to classic sci-fi props, has turned its attention to the communicator from the classic Star Trek series.

Wand has some experience in this area, having already released two universal remote controls that looks like the Sonic Screwdriver from Doctor Who and an original series Star Trek Phaser. Their new device is an altogether more ambitious project, coupling a Bluetooth receiver and speaker into the form factor of the original Star Trek communicator, allowing it to (sort of) function just like it did on the show.

First impressions are good. It looks suitably bulky and dated and a flick of the wrist lifts the gold mesh cover while producing the stuttered beeping sound that fans of the original show will be familiar with. A rotating ring underneath produces the hazy, psychedelic shimmer that forms the communicator’s centre point. While this may have once looked incredibly futuristic, it now looks dated and retro, which is exactly what’s intended. Beneath this disc, three flashing coloured LED’s respond according to the user’s actions, with the rest of the front panel consisting of a speaker grille and two buttons used to control it.

Despite its clear novelty value, the communicator actually works surprisingly well as a Bluetooth speaker/microphone. Connecting it to the handset the first time was a painless experience and, once paired, the communicator and the phone found each other again easily when in range. The speaker itself is generally pretty loud and clear and during calls my voice came through clearly to the recipient even when I was some distance from the microphone.

While the speaker volume was fine during calls, it seemed strangely quiet when using Google Now.  Holding one of the buttons triggers Google’s voice-activated assistant, allowing users to bark commands at the device such as “Call Dad”, “What’s the weather today?” or even “Beam me up, Scotty” (which elicits a response from Google Now that is spoken in probably the worst faux Scottish accent you’ll ever hear).

This feature actually allows the communicator to be used almost independently of the phone itself. However, responses from Google’s voice assistant came through fairly quietly and may struggle to be heard in a noisy room. For some reason this issue wasn’t present during phone calls, so could it have been a discrepancy with the way phone itself handled the volume of different apps.

The device can also produce canned responses from the Star Trek universe with a flick of one of the eight-way switches. While it was nice to hear familiar phrases, this is definitely the most novelty aspect of the device. You can only listen to “Scotty here, Captain” so many times before it wears thin.

Charging the communicator was a joy in itself and really shows how much attention to detail its creators have lavished upon it. It charges wirelessly via its stand and is held in place with a strong magnet. The stand would make a nice addition to a work desk and can hold the communicator, ready to make or take calls while it charges.

While using the device in public may cause embarrassment for those concerned about being labelled a nerd, a true Trekkie can attach it to their belt with the included leather pouch. The creators said that fans had emailed them as soon as it was announced, saying they intended to make it their sole means of taking and making phone calls and felt no qualms about displaying this decidedly retro bit of tech in public. For a serious Trekkie, there’s no doubting the appeal of the communicator, which more or less replicates the experience that Captain Kirk and co had on screen all those years ago.

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