GOING THROUGH A BAD PATCH...
Patch Antenna is one of those irresistible
gadgets sold in home shopping catalogues, the sort you get with the Sunday
papers. Nestling between the Nasal Hair Trimmers, Trouser and Skirt Extenders
and Petís Vacuum, it promises a Ďdrasticí improvement in the performance of
your cellphone, and an end to Ďinterruptionsí. The bit about Ďno wires or
batteriesí should have set the alarm bells ringing, but our duty in the pursuit
of truth, (and being suckers for widgets), compelled us to send off for one
anyway. A couple of weeks later back came a disappointingly small and light
cardboard box, that appeared at first to be empty. Further inspection revealed
a thin rectangle of black plastic, about the size of couple of credit cards.
One side is smooth, this sticks to glass, on the front thereís a faintly discernible
outline of a series of conductor strips. And thatís it! At a rough guess it costs about 50 pence to
manufacture, add to that another pound or so to cover the packaging and post
and youíve got one helluva mark-up, so it had better work pretty damn well to
justify the £23 price tag, after all, you can get a proper cellphone aerial for
that, come to think of it, it costs more than most cellphones!
The instructions are a bit brief, to say the
least. ĎSimply press the pocket-sized Patch Antenna (TM) against any glass
surface...í ĎMake sure the Patch Antenna (TM) is within 2 to 4 feet of the
portable cellular phoneí. Sounds simple enough! Our tests were simple too, we
made and received a series of calls in a car, with and without Patch Antenna.
We even tried it with different phones, and locations, just in case it was
brand or network sensitive. Needless to say there was no Ďdrasticí improvement,
though it did make a very slight difference to marginal calls on one Vodaphone-connected
phone, reducing background hiss slightly, and the annoying Ďshsssshí sound you
get when you move the handset slightly in a weak signal area. It didnít seems
to affect our Cellnet test phone at all. Measurements taken using the built-in
digital signal strength meter on one of our tests phones showed no difference.
So, is it worth £22.95, and will it improve the performance of your phone? The
answer to the first one is easy, itís a
rip-off, no way is it worth that amount of money, a fiver maybe, but £23, do me
a favour John! It does seem to have some small effect, that may just make a
difference between a dropped or lost call in a poor signal conditions, but then
so would standing on the roof of your car, or attaching the aerial to a wire coat-hanger,
Patch Antenna is only marginally more convenient than either.
What is it? The Patch Antenna
Typical price: £22.94 (inc.
VAT and p&p)
Features: multi-polarised passive repeater,
static cling attachment to windows
Dimensions: 89 x 98 x 1 mm
Telephone: Ideal Home (01733) 890155
What Cellphone Rating 20%
SAFE AS TROUSERS
Shoulder holsters are one of the more
practical ways of carrying a mobile phone. Thereíre more secure than a
belt-worn case, and safer than a jacket pocket or handbag, itís just
unfortunate they bring out the Dirty Harry in almost everyone who wears one...
Phone Safe is no different in that respect, though itís a little more discreet
than most, and as they say, is almost undetectable in use. It comprises a
leather case attached to a nylon webbing harness, thereís five different case
sizes which the importers reckon cover almost every model of phone on the
market. The case weíve been looking at was well made, but it didnít have elasticated sides, so
phones with non-standard battery packs might be a tight fit. The harness has adjustments
at the front and back; at full stretch it just about fitted our largest
reviewer, though he wasnít very comfortable. The instructions are rather vague,
and omitted to mention another clip, which we assume attaches to the users
trousers. If youíre a clothes-conscious, regular-sized sub-six footer, or youíre
into mild bondage, itís worth a try.
What is it? Phone Safe Holster
Typical price: £39.95 (inc.
Features: adjustable harness, 5-different
sizes, leather holster
Dimensions: one size fits all...
Telephone Phone Safe Ltd., (01392) 499889
What Cellphone Rating 75%
SOMETHING FOR THE WEAK-END
Hereís a novelty, a cellphone case made entirely
of rubber. Now before you get any weird ideas itís not meant for rubber
fetishists, though there is something about the feel of rubber against your
skin, ah the smell, the... Er, yes, sorry
about that. Actually it doesnít smell much of anything, but why rubber? Rubber
has been chosen for itís protective properties, just slip it over your instrument
and... Whoops, here we go again. But seriously, a rubber case will give your
phone a fair degree of protection against knocks, bumps and maybe even save itís
life in a fall, though it probably wonít make it bounce; we didnít feel
inclined to try it out on our tests phones.
The case is made by Meliconi in Italy and
Bandridge, the importers, have a range to fit over 30 models. It comes with a
belt clip, thatís a swine to fit, but once in place it can swivel around, so
you wonít do yourself a mischief every time you sit down. Our sample, designed
for the Ericsson GH337, was a very snug fit. It was quite difficult to get it
in and out at first -- ooh-er missus -- though you soon get the knack of it. Be
warned that some Meliconi cases, like this one, will only accept phones with
standard slimline batteries. Definitely worth considering if you and your phone
lead a tough life, or you just like rubber.
What is it? Protective rubber phone case
Typical price: £19.95 (inc.
Features: all-in one moulded rubber case with
detachable belt clip
Dimensions: To fit 30 plus models
Telephone Bandridge Ltd., 0181-543 3633
What Cellphone Rating 90%
ITíS IN THE BAG
Now hereís a good idea, a leather cellphone
carry case that doubles up as a car cradle. The rather oddly named Vivanco ĎBag
Car Setí is a normal-looking belt-worn carry case, that comes with a detachable
metal mounting bracket which screws to a suitable spot on a carís dashboard.
So, instead of taking the phone out of the case when you get into the car, and
popping it into a cradle or holder, simply slide the belt clip onto the dashboard
bracket until the latch clicks into place. Thereís a hole in the bottom of the
case for a talk-and-charge adaptor. To remove the case just press the top of
the clip to release the catch, and slide it out. What could be simpler, or
neater? Full marks for quality of construction. Our sample case, designed for a
Motorola flip-phone, fitted perfectly, and it has elasticated sides, so it can
take phones fitted with thicker, higher capacity batteries. The metal dashboard
clip is quite thin, and wouldnít take too kindly to being bent, but itís easy
to fit and adjust.
Vivanco might have put in some simple
instructions for nervous DIYers and those wary of drilling holes in their car.
Nevertheless, itís good value -- it costs no more than many ordinary cases --
and it provides a safe and secure support for your phone when youíre behind the
What is it? Vivanco Leather Bag Car Set
Typical price: £19.99 (inc.
Features: Detachable dashboard mounting clip
Telephone VIVANCO UK Ltd., Telephone (01442)
What Cellphone Rating 90%
OUT OF HAMAS WAY
Few cellphone accessories are as useful as a
car cradle and talk-and-charge power adaptor, theyíre the next best thing to a
proper hands-free car kit. We all know itís dangerous, not to say illegal to use
a phone whilst driving, but that doesnít stop many mobile phone users. Itís
doubly dangerous when you have to muck around with complicated holders and
cables; thatís not a problem with the Hama Mobilsafe ĎActiví. Itís a two-piece
design, with the phone safely contained inside a holder. The top and bottom
halves of the holder slide apart so that the phone is locked securely inside. A
feature connector is built into the base, and this links the holder to the
second box by a curly lead. The holder hangs on a couple of hooks moulded into
the base unit/charger, and itís held there by a simple lock. The holder is
released by pressing a button on the side. Incidentally, this is on the left
side -- it was clearly designed for left hand drive car markets -- which makes it a little more awkward to use
in a right-hand drive car.
The base unit houses the charger circuit, and
a socket for an external antenna, in the case of the one designed to fit the
Nokia 2110. The charger unit has two LED indicators, a red one for power-on,
and a green one to show that charging is taking place. Power is supplied by a
second lead that plugs into the carís cigarette lighter socket; it could do
with being a bit longer and may limit the mounting options in some cars. A
touch pricey, but easy to install, and a whole lot safer than scrabbling around
trying to find the phone, though it behoves us to remind you that youíre really
not supposed to take and make calls whilst on the move.
What is it? Hama 38302 Mobilsafe ĎActiví
Typical price: £119.99 (inc.
Features: Car cradle with talk-and-charge
power adaptor, antenna connection, quick-release handset, fused cigarette lighter plug, charge &
power indicator LEDs
Telephone HAMA UK. Telephone (01256) 708110
What Cellphone Rating 75%
PACK ON THE BACK
Sometimes the simplest ideas are the best,
and you canít get much simpler than this one. Itís a hollow battery shell,
designed to take six AA size alkaline cells. Obviously itís not an ideal way to
run a cellphone, it would be incredibly expensive for a start, but itís handy for
emergencies -- when you need to make an important call, but the battery has
just run out -- or you simply canít wait for the regular battery pack to
charge. The one weíve been trying out fits Motorola Flip Phones, and as a
safety feature it doesnít have the usual charger contacts on the back of the
pack. Fully loaded itís quite heavy but a set of Duracells (not supplied) lasts
about as long as high-capacity nicad or nickel metal hydride battery pack. By
the way, you might have worked out that six 1.5 volt batteries gives an output
of 9 volts. The regulator circuits in a phone can handle a small increase in
supply voltage (it happens with nicad batteries, fresh off the charger), though
we suspect the manufacturers will be none too happy about it, and it may well invalidate
What is it? Chance Way MBT010204 Battery Case
Typical price: £10.99
Features: Emergency/standby battery holder
Telephone Lindex UK Ltd., 0181-776 5775
What Cellphone Rating 95%
” R. Maybury 1995 0708