Can Bluetooth handsets help the smartphone to tablet switch?


Earlier this month I made a bold prediction that within five years we’ll see people replacing their smartphone with not another handset, but a small tablet. Voice is being supplanted by data-centric activities and we’re consuming more content than ever, so a larger, but still mobile, display will appeal. The idea is highly debatable, of course, and many commenters pointed out why they don’t see this ever happening, even though the majority of our commenters thought this scenario could become a reality.

Aside from the pocketability of a smartphone, folks simply don’t want to rely on wired or wireless headsets for their voice calls. And speakerphone conversations? Sure they work, but you lose out on privacy, since anyone nearby can hear both sides of the conversation. These are totally valid concerns, but I like thinking beyond the limitations of current mobile devices.

So I recently ordered a Bluetooth handset from Hong Kong: Samsung’s HM5000, for about $45 shipped to the U.S. This type of form factor brings the portability of traditional Bluetooth headset, but doesn’t require you to wear it on your ear. Instead, it looks like a pen, so it fits in a shirt or pants pocket; it even has a pen-like clip to help carry it. A single Talk button and a volume rocker are the only items to press.

To use the HM5000, you just tap the Talk button to answer an incoming cellular or VoIP call — the device vibrates to alert you  — from a phone or tablet. The handset has a small earpiece on one end and a microphone on the other: Think of it like a very thin, small handset that looks like a gadget right out of a James Bond movie. The HM5000 supports multipoint connections so it can be paired with two different phones or tablets.

There’s no display on the HM5000, so I’ll have to look at my tablet to see who’s calling, but this is a step in the direction. Ideally, I’d like to see a small display on future handsets with this style to view caller ID information and even text messages.

Will it work effectively to allow my tablet truly replace my smartphone? On paper, I’d say yes but I’ll have to give it a solid few days of testing to see. I’ll follow up with a video look at my likes and dislikes shortly, so stay tuned.


Unzar Jones

Just bought one of these from Ebay and although I like having a pocketable device, I found the volume to be very quiet, even with it turned up on the rocker control. Using it in a busy restaurant proved difficult.


I think you are on the right track here. As a student of cognitive computational programming, I can say that there is certainly a lot of excitement and intrigue concerning voice recognition software. We are not long off from a time where we will separate the functionality of simple text/voice conversational and guidance tools from our hunger for accelerated media components. For those of us who see a future in producing top-notch media as well as consuming, there’s always the camera-phone (

Jason Berry

This is a very interesting device — thanks for the quick review. I am strongly considering picking this up. One question, do you think the mic is sensitive enough to use somewhat hands-free? So could you answer a call, then place the device back in your shirt pocket (either forwards or backwards), and carry on the conversation fairly reliably? I’m sure if the mic rubs against your shirt, there will be some noise. So perhaps pointing the clip in and the mic out would help. Kevin, do you think you could give that a quick test? Much thanks!


with shared data plans, why not have the entire phone inside something this size.

i think you have the form factor right(or pretty close) but what we will actually see is people carrying tablets for data plus a return to the very small and simple cell phone but something that can be used as a standalone device. messaging would be game for the tablet and fade away as something you do on a ‘phone’ phones will be for phone calls and nothing else.

maybe with voice dialing as the main dialpad.

Paul Singh

I think this article still misses a basic use case of the phone which is while driving and being mobile. Are you carrying your tablet and would be looking at that when an incoming call arrives while driving? Probably we don’t need data services on a smartphone if tablet is around but voice services (VoIP or not) will always be more convenient on a smaller (i.e. phone) device especially when mobile.

Kevin C. Tofel

Paul, looking at a tablet OR a phone while driving should be a no no. Apps that announce incoming calls over Bluetooth would be a preferred option in my mind.


but you wouldnt hear the annocument over BT with this unless you held it next to your ear all the time… this would be a bigger no no while driving…


There are other wireless bluetooth solutions for use while driving. They would still work whether using a phone or a tablet.

Kevin C. Tofel

Exactly. In our car, which has integrated Bluetooth, we can see the caller ID on the dash, where our eyes are already looking at for the speedometer and such. And there’s no need to have a Bluetooth headset for some in-car solutions: BT speakerphones are readily available as add-ons or as part of the car options.

Lee C.

If the problem with earbuds/headsets is that they are uncomfortable, then fix *that* problem. If I have to hold a “pen” up to my ear that doesn’t solve the problem. If the point is to replace your smartphone with a tablet, then that sounds like a cool techie solution looking for a problem to solve.

Kevin C. Tofel

I hear you Lee, but some folks don’t want to wear headphones all the time. Holding up the pen to an ear is no different than holding up a phone, TBH.


So did you end up buying that thru ebay? They seem to be cheapest there. Did you receive it with full retail packaging or was it an OEM version?

Justin Lewis

I had a conversation with a friend about this stuff a little while ago and I am adamant “Jumbophones” and tablets will eat a chunk of the smartphone market. I think this will pick up pace thanks to an accessory more than anything: the handset mentioned.

My take on it would be a little handset reminiscent of an early 2000s Nokia with a 1 1/2″ low res, cheap, screen and an alphanumeric keypad. It would be much thinner and sleeker than an old candy bar phone but very robust. It would be a dumb devices and just an interface to the tablet that would run a service or an app to present sms an call info.

Thinking of sms and calls they could come from a number of sources – Skype, cell, twitter etc. Tell the app you want to read and reply to DMs as if sms. The telcos will hate it of course.

I see one of the biggest drivers of this change being women. They tend to have handbags and often will carry a tablet and a smartphone in those handbags. A teeny tiny accessory that slips into the skinniest of fashionable pockets will be no chore to carry is it means dumping the smartphone. As long as they are within 20-30ft they can answer the call, reply to the sms. Would they hear the ring of a smartphone in their bag that far away? I think not.

Fashion can also come in to it. There’s no reason why such a handset should cost more than $50 so buying a new, cooler one every so often would be very likely. The expensive though ageing tab stays in the bag and they’d do what all fashionistas do – accessorize darling!

It’s on, it’s on like donky kong!


i’d like to see a bluetooth handset that looks like an original razr

Tim Cocciardi

I had the same idea. I’m thinking of getting the Galaxy Note II in a couple of weeks. It’s a little too large to be comfortably pocketed, so I’d leave it in my bag and keep a little bluetooth handset on my person. It may be redundant to some, but I would really like a slim (think: old Razr) handset with small screen, keyboard, mic and speaker. You could answer calls and quickly replay to the odd email or sms, without having to whip out your Note or whatever future-tablet you’ve got. The handset could be extremely thin and comfortable, without the need for any “brains” or large battery inside.



Pretty sure I’ve mentioned this here or elsewhere previously.

A future which separates the handset and possibly the display from the radios, processors and such.

I already do this to some extent. Since getting a Nexus 7, my 4G phone spends much of its time in a bag or pocket acting as little more than a hotspot.

I do everything from the 7 with a paired bluetooth headset including phone calls as Skype beats the hell out of Verizon’s horrendous voice service.

Adrian Lombard

With the arrival of smartwatches from Metawatch and Pebble, you may not need to look at your tablet or phone anymore.

Comments are closed.