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Hopefully You'll Never Need to Use Polycom's High-Tech Prison Phone

May 9, 2016 | Telepresence Options


Here on the outside, we like our phones with chamfered edges, wraparound OLED screens, and slim builds. In the clink, however, there's a whole different set of desired design elements.

The Polycom RealPresence Videoprotect 500 is a videoconferencing phone made for correctional facilities. As such, it needs to be able to withstand more than just your occasional sidewalk drop. It can't just have a 22-inch 1080p display with an HD camera mounted on top of it; it has to have a 22-inch 1080p display protected by a quarter-inch-thick sheet of high-impact PETG thermoplastic. That makes the screen practically smash-proof--even if you whack it with the phone's super-durable handset.

The 14-gauge steel housing for the videoconferencing box has special screws so that makeshift screwdrivers can't be used to pop it open. The Videoprotect 500 box uses Pin-Torx screws, a big and heavy-duty fastener that's similar to the pentalobe screws on the iPhone. And it should be noted that the volume buttons mounted beside the handset are "vandal-resistant."

This phone doesn't have a touchscreen or the ability to run apps, but life behind bars isn't entirely bereft of the wonders of modern technology. For example, there's a hands-free mode: The system can be programmed to work without the handset, and it one-ups your speed dial by automatically calling a number once the handset is lifted. While there's no way to check Instagram, firmware updates keep the system current.

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