Native Union: Switch

Switch is an unassuming and hugely useful speaker system. An earlier post about an iOS app that replicates Dieter Rams’s classic T3 Radio inspired some strong opinions about whether such an app faithfully adheres to Rams’s design intent, with some arguing that a product that looks like a Rams might not act like one. The following day, simply by chance, Switch ran across my screen, and it feels very much like an antithesis to the recent debate. The tri-function speaker, which is made by California outfit Native Union, has nothing obvious to do with Rams. At $150, it’s not insanely expensive by Bluetooth speaker standards. But there’s something unassuming about this little square box that immediately reminded me of the T3, at least on a conceptual level. For one thing, Switch wasn’t designed with a particular orientation in mind--like the T3, you can stand it on its side or its end. It functions primarily as a Bluetooth speaker along the lines of Jambox, with a reductive profile that comes in three colors. The single obvious moving part (as with the Rams radio) is a rolling wheel that controls volume. Beyond playing music, it functions as a conference-call unit and a portable power bank for USB devices--you can plug in tablets or phones to charge even while you’re on a call. Switch was unveiled at CES a few weeks ago, and it’s gaining momentum since being featured in Dwell. It also doesn’t hurt that it’s $50 cheaper than its main competitor--Jawbone--and has comparatively few bells and whistles. Sometimes, a tool is a tool. Check it out here.  

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