As companies trip over themselves to get retro toys back on shelves for nostalgic adults, Fisher-Price is taking a different route. Its iconic Chatter Telephone has been enjoyed by toddlers for 60 years now, and to celebrate that anniversary, Mattel has turned the toy into a fully-functional smartphone accessory that can actually be used to place or take phone calls.
Referring to this as the Chatter Telephone 2.0 isn’t entirely accurate. Over the last 60 years the toy has undergone countless revisions and updates both to make it safer for kids to play with and also to update its appearance. The play pattern, however, has essentially stayed exactly the same over the past six decades. It rolls, its eyes move, the numbered rotary dial can spin, and traditionally it’s been powered by imagination. But this new version swaps imagination for Bluetooth and rechargeable batteries.
The upgraded Chatter Telephone connects to a smartphone over Bluetooth, so the rotary dial can actually be used to place calls by dialling the person’s phone number, digit by digit (which is something most of us will probably have to look up in our phone’s contact list). When a call comes in it can be answered by simply picking up the Chatter Telephone’s red handset and talking into it, or by pressing the speakerphone button on the toy, which is the only real indication that this version is different from the toy.
Hanging up the red handset also terminates a call, which is a satisfying experience many of us who are now smartphone-only miss out on. The Chatter Telephone doubles as a sort of fidget toy during a call, as its wheels allow it to be rolled back and forth across a desk. It’s also battery powered, with nine hours of talk time, 72 hours of standby, and charging via microUSB port.
The only downside to the toy’s upgrades are a new price tag that brings with it some potential sticker shock. You can still buy the imagination-powered Chatter Telephone for about $US10 ($13), but the Bluetooth model, which is available on BestBuy.com starting today, will sell for $US60 ($81) instead. Nostalgia doesn’t come cheap, and in this day and age when phone calls usually mean bad news, the cheaper Chatter Telephone toy that doesn’t make phone calls actually sounds more tempting.