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INTRO

Wondering what to do with all that spare cash youíve got left over from Christmas? Spend it on your mobile phone of course, hereís a few more accessory ideas

 

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ORA Vibraring, £35

If you want to become an instant social pariah then try leaving  your mobile phone switched on in meetings, at the cinema, theatre or in a restaurant, it works best  with the ringer on its loudest, most raucous setting...

 

The trouble is, if you switch your phone off when you donít want to make a nuisance of yourself youíll miss potentially important calls. Of course you could sign up to a voice mail service, if your network supports one, but that will involve a delay in you getting the message. Turning the ringer off could be a solution, but youíll have to keep your eyes glued to the display panel, which might be difficult, or inconvenient. Thereís always the low volume setting. True, but that can be just as annoying as a loud ringer in quiet surroundings; on the other hand if thereís any background noise you might miss it, which once again defeats the object.

 

A handful of phones have a silent vibrating call-alert facility built-in, which is great for the owners of those models, but not much use to anyone else. Now those with a Ericsson 237, 238 or 337 can stay discreet with Oraís clip-on Vibraring module; they tell us theyíre developing them for other models as well, though they will probably be incorporated into replacement batteries.

 

Vibraring for the Ericsson is very small. It clips onto the base of the phone, it has the same cross-sectional shape, and adds a couple of centimetres to the length. It weighs next to nothing, well a maybe just a few grams, and it costs £35. Fitting one takes only a few moments, there are a pair of springy grippers on the side, that latch onto slots on the underside of the phone, a row of contacts mates with the mobileís accessory connector. All you have to do is switch off the phoneís ringer, and itís ready to go. Thereís only two small points to watch out for, first the added length will probably mean the phone wonít fit inside most carry cases, and second, the module obscures the contact panel on the underside of the phone, so it canít be used with any other accessories, or re-charged.

 

In case you were wondering how it works, inside the Vibraring thereís a tiny electric motor with a small unbalanced weight attached to the shaft. When it spins -- in response to the Ďphones ringer -- it vibrates. Itís as simple as that. For such a small motor the vibration is surprisingly intense, strong enough to be felt through several layers of clothing, though it might not make itís presence felt through a thick coat or jacket and the phone is best placed so that it is close to the users body, in a shirt pocket, for example. Trouser pockets are also very popular, so weíre told.

 

Itís a bit of a shock when it goes off the first few times, so itís well worth having a few practice runs first, before you use it in that important meeting, or your reaction to an incoming call could be every bit as embarrassing as a loud ringer...

 

THE FACTS

Typical price: £35

Features: silent vibrating Ďringerí

To fit: Ericsson 237/8 and 337

Telephone: ORA,  telephone (01296) 415445

WHAT CELLPHONE VERDICT 85%

 

Aico Turbocharger, £60

We still see more leather cases and holsters than any other cellphone accessory, but battery care products are catching up fast. This month itís the turn of the Aico Turbocharger, designed to keep your phone battery in tip-top condition by warding off the dreaded memory effect. Itís something most cellphone users will be familiar with. Sooner or later most nickel cadmium batteries (and to a much lesser extent, nickel metal hydride packs as well), suffer from reduced capacity; after just a few months batteries which used last all day, give up the ghost mid-afternoon. The most common cause is cell imbalance, where varying charge levels in the cells that make up the battery, prevent the charger from operating effectively. Fortunately it is usually curable, by carefully discharging all the cells in the battery every so often, so they all end up receiving an equal charge.

 

Aicoís Turbocharger has this useful facility. Weíve been looking at the version designed to work with Motorola Micro TAC battery packs. First some vital statistics: it costs £50, itís roughly two-thirds the size of a VHS video tape, and it comes with a mains power supply and car power cord. As soon  as the battery is attached it starts charging. The state of the battery is shown by four LEDs, indicating 25%, 50%, 75% and 100% charge. It works fast, with a charge current of 1 amp it only takes forty minutes or so to zap a standard capacity (600mA) battery pack. When the battery reaches full charge the unit starts bleeping, flashes the Ď100%í LED and switches to a gentle trickle charge. The discharger circuit is engaged by pressing the button next to the display panel; it will drain a 600mA battery to a safe level in around 3-hours, after which it switches automatically to the fast charge mode. The instructions recommended running batteries through a complete, charge/discharge cycle every couple of weeks. That sounds like harsh treatment but cell imbalance can build up quickly in packs that are subjected to frequent top-up charges.

 

The measured voltages and current on our sample were all within spec and safe limits for nicads. The capacity level indicators were a bit optimistic, however, we suspect this has more to do with the characteristics of  nicad batteries, than any inherent design flaws. This is one of the few charger/dischargers to come with a car power cord, the price seems fair, it could easily pay for itself by reclaiming a couple of tired packs, or prolonging their useful lives.  Recommended .

 

THE FACTS

Typical price: £60

Features: automatic fast charger/discharger, capacity indicator, audible alarm, car cord and mains adaptor supplied

To fit: Most popular makes/models

Telephone: AICO INTERNATIONAL, telephone  (01635) 49797

 

WHAT CELLPHONE VERDICT 85%

 

Ora Facelift Fun Collection, £13

Fed up with the appearance of your phone, maybe itís had a few scrapes and is now looking a bit the worse for wear? For just £13 you can smarten it up with the Ora Facelift Fun Collection. Itís a pack of three brightly coloured self-adhesive covers, designed to fit over the front panel and keyboard of your phone. Simply peel the covers from the backing sheet and stick them into position, all the cut-outs for the display and buttons stay behind, so itís very easy to fit. Easy to remove too, and it doesnít leave any gungy deposits behind, though once a cover has been peeled off it canít be re-used.  The covers come in three colours, turquoise, magenta and a sort of pinky red. Itís a clever idea, they look good, theyíre easy to use and they should last for a few months, before the corners start curling, but thirteen quid seems an awful lot to pay for just three small stickers

 

THE FACTS

Typical price: £13

Features: mobile phone decoration

To fit: Motorola Flare, Ericsson 237,237, 337, Nokia 2110, Nokia Orange, others to follow

Telephone: ORA,  telephone (01296) 415445

WHAT CELLPHONE VERDICT 65%

 

Vivanco Hands-Free Set, £200

If you use your mobile phone in the car without a hands-free adaptor you really are asking for trouble. Apart from being extremely dangerous to drive one-handed, and trying to hold a telephone conversation, it is illegal. If youíre caught at it the best you can hope for is a ticking off and a roadside MOT, and you could be fined and receive penalty points for driving without due care and attention, and woe betide anyone involved in an accident whilst theyíre on the phone!

 

Okay, safety lecture over, youíve probably guessed by now that this is leading up to a review of a hands-free car kit, and youíre right. It comes from Vivanco, and one of the key features is that itís DIY installable.

 

The kit is the TKN-2110, designed to fit the Nokia 2110, it costs just under £200, and most people who can tell one end of a screwdriver from the other should be able to fit it in an hour or two. The outfit contains a dashboard bracket and phone holder, amplifier box, microphone, speaker, cables and fixing kit. It can be permanently wired in to the carís electrical system, or powered from the cigar lighter socket, both types of supply cable are included. The first job is to fit the bracket to the dashboard, it comes with a set of screws. If you donít fancy drilling holes in your car it can be held in place using one of Vivancoís Fixmount angle brackets. Next fit the amplifier box. Itís quite small, about the size of a pack of cigarettes, so it can be easily tucked away, behind panelling, under seats or consoles, just make sure the phone holder, which plugs into the box, is in easy reach of the cradle. Finally mount the loudspeaker and clip the microphone to the sun visor, or door surround; routing the cables out of sight is probably the most time consuming job of all. You can use the phoneís own aerial, though thereís provision for an external antenna, which should improve range and performance considerably.

 

The simplest way to get it up and running is to use the cigar-lighter power plug option, which is fine, unless you happen to need it, in which case it makes sense to wire it in permanently.  This takes a little longer but it is worth the effort as it can be wired into the ignition circuit, and your radioís mute switch, if it has one.

 

If everything is wired up properly when the phone is connected the LED indicator on the phone holder lights up, showing the system is working, and the battery is being charged. Incidentally, the instructions say the power light is green, the one on our sample was red. If the unit is wired into the ignition circuit it only comes on when the ignition is on. The phone operates normally, dialling and answering are the same, except you donít have to pick it up, just talk, You can still hand-hold the phone if you want to, removing it from its mounting bracket switches off the hands-free facility. This works using a tiny reed-relay, built into the phone holder, and is triggered by a small but powerful magnet in the dashboard holder.

 

Sound quality from the speaker is okay, a bit tinny maybe but thereís a fair amount of volume and it should be able to make itself heard, even in a noisy car. The microphone is quite directional, and sensitivity is just about right, so it doesnít pick up too much road noise, and you donít have to shout. Unusually the treble response is not as sharp as we would have expected but it handles speech well and received audio quality is good. This car kit is generally well designed, and very easy to install, the instructions are rather brief though, and could have been a lot more helpful. We would have liked to have seen a few more diagrams,  with some advice about where to locate the various components, and a few safety tips wouldnít have gone amiss. Whilst itís not quite a beginners project most averagely competent DIYers shouldnít have any problems with it. It works well and although the price is a little steep the components are tough, quality items.

 

Typical price: £200

Features: hands-free car kit with separate amplifier, speaker and microphone. Optional car ignition or cigar-lighter power supply, automatic radio mute (where applicable).

To fit: Nokia 2110

Telephone: VIVANCO, telephone (01442) 231616

WHAT CELLPHONE VERDICT 85%

 

ANDREW SIMPLE CAR KIT

The popularity of the little Ericsson 237/337 is clearly evident from the number of new accessories specifically designed for that phone. The Andrew Simple Car Kit is a case in point. The name says it all, it comes in two parts, a dashboard mounting bracket and clip, and the phone holder with its power cord. The phone slips into the holder, a set of spring-loaded connectors on the underside supply power to the phone and battery. A small RF plug near the top of the holder carries the aerial connection. This emerges on a flying socket at the end of the curly lead, near the cigar-lighter plug/voltage regulator module.

 

The charger module is the same type as that used on their regular car power cords. Itís an unusual design, the actual plug has a clever gripper mechanism that ensures it stays firmly attached to the cigar lighter socket, by expanding once itís inside. The charger circuit is remarkably sophisticated, it supplies a relatively large current and will charge the battery on the phone to around 85% capacity in one hour, after which it switches to a trickle charge. The charger circuit closely monitors and controls power consumption, preventing the battery from over charging, and when necessary switching to high current mode, when the phone is in use.

 

The kit is very easy to fit, the dashboard bracket fits on a hinged mounting plate that screws to the fascia -- screws are supplied -- other forms of mouting hardware could also be used, if you donít want to make any holes in the dash. The phone holder simply clips to the bracket, it is released by pressing a button on the left side of the cradle; thatís the right side for right-hand drive vehicles, if you see what we mean. The aerial lead connection means it can be used with an external antenna, that will definitely yield improvments in reception and range, and reduce the number of dropped calls. All in all it is a very well designed kit, that more than lives up to its name. Itís sturdy and simple to fit, the only small dissapointment is that itís only available for the Ericsson models at the moment.

 

Typical price: £tba

Features: car kit, including dash-mount cradle, phone holder and charger cord

To fit: Ericsson 237/337

Telephone: ANDREW Ltd., telephone (01734)776886

WHAT CELLPHONE VERDICT 95%

 

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R. Maybury 1995 0612

 


 

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