In the early 1990s, the market for mobile phones was exploding—particularly in Europe,
which (unlike the U.S.) was unburdened by multiple, competing cellular standards. If you’re
an American who has never been to Europe, it’s difficult to envision how pervasive mobile
telephony is in that region. As an example, while just 26% of Americans had cellular phones
in 1998 (according to Merrill Lynch), 48% of Swedes and 58% of Finns were talking via
cellular—and many of them were completely replacing their traditional landline phones with
When everybody and their neighbor has a cell phone, the market for mobile phone accessories
also becomes quite significant. Of these accessories, particularly popular is the portable
headset, a convenient accessory that makes it easier to carry on long conversations without
having to hold a phone to your head for extended periods of time.
The problem with using a headset with a mobile phone, however, is the connection—in order
to work, the headset has to be plugged into the handset. That means that a thin cable has to
run from your head to your phone, which is awkward and annoying and a relatively serious
impediment to increased headphone use. In addition, that darned wire rules out making your
conversation totally hands-free; you still have to hold the phone in your hand while you talk
on the headset.