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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. VAT)

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. VAT)

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 wheel.

 

What is it?                    Vivanco Leather Bag Car Set

Typical price:                 £19.99 (inc. VAT)

Features:                      Detachable dashboard mounting clip

Telephone                     VIVANCO UK Ltd., Telephone (01442) 231616

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. VAT)

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 your guarantee.

 

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%

 

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R. Maybury 1995 0708

 


 

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