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HOLD THE PHONE...

 

INTRO

If you use your phone in a car where do you put it? Rick Maybury has a few apposite suggestions (they can’t get you for it... ), and considers a selection of cups, cradles and holders in this month’s accessory roundup

 

COPY

Mobile phones have found a natural home in cars; the concept of staying in touch, being able to make a call, or summon assistance, is even more relevant when you’re on the road. The trouble is, all this has happened very quickly in the space of just a few years and neither phone nor car manufacturers have fully come to terms with the idea yet. Cars are not designed for phones -- some makers have only just got around to fitting car radios as standard --  and most hand-portable phones are not intended to be used in cars.

 

Which brings us to the nub of this month’s accessory roundup, using your phone in the car. You’ve basically got three alternatives: one, do the dumbass thing and leave it in your pocket, on the seat next to you, or on the dashboard; two, do the smart thing and get a proper hands-free car kit; or three, compromise, with a cradle or holder, and resolve not to use the phone whilst you’re driving.

 

There’s no need for us to cover old ground and reiterate the virtues of  hands-free car kits, you know they make sense, (in case you need reminding check out the accessory feature in last year’s August/September issue).  However, it is worth looking at why not making any provision at all is such a bad idea. Leaving a phone in a jacket pocket or clipped to your belt is just plain stupid. If it rings, or you get a sudden urge to make a call  you will have to fumble about, and probably end up take your eyes off the road, all it takes is a second... Of course, it may not ring at all because the phone will be lying below the vehicle’s metallic ‘waistline’, with the aerial retracted, where reception is at its worst.

 

Leaving the phone on a passengers seat is just as bad, reception will be poor and there’s the added danger that if you brake sharply it will go flying, possibly causing damage to itself, or whatever (or whoever) it hits. Leaving the phone on the dashboard might improve reception but it will probably slide around, banging into the sides; the phone will be exposed to direct sunlight, which can distort plastic mouldings and do all sorts of nasty things to electronic components, batteries and LCD displays, and it will be a highly visible target for villains. Stealing phones from cars, waiting at traffic lights is now a growth industry...

 

With luck we’ve convinced you go for a full blown car-kit, or at the very least some type of dashboard holder. The advantages are clear. They hold the phone in an upright position, for the best possible reception. They stop the phone rattling around, they offer a modicum of protection against snatch-thieves, and if the phone is mounted in your field of view, at least you won’t have to hunt around for it when it rings. (Yes we know you shouldn’t but come on, this is real life, just don’t say we didn’t warn you...).

 

We’ve been looking at a relatively small selection of dashboard holders. There’s plenty of them about, but several models turn up time and time again under slightly different guises. We estimate that the one’s we’ve featured cover more three quarters of the market. There are two broad categories: universal holders and dedicated clips or hang-up cups, the latter are normally for one type of phone. All of them can be used with charger cords or talk and charge adaptors, see last month’s accessory feature for best buys.

 

Universal type holders are by far the commonest sort, they’re widely available in most mobile phone stores or by mail order. The main feature on most of them is a pair of spring-loaded grippers, that hold the sides of the phone; we’ve also included one other very unusual universal holder, that holds the phone using a Velcro type material and sticks to glass, or any other similarly smooth surface. Clearly they’re very convenient if you use different makes of phone in your car, and on most types the phone can stay in its carry case when its in the holder, but they tend to be quite bulky; some of them are downright ugly little beggars, that can look completely out of place on the dashboard of a modern saloon.

 

Dedicated clip-type holders, that latch onto mouldings or recesses on the body of the phone, are the neatest  and most elegant solution. However, they suffer from the same problem as all model-specific accessories, namely that some makes and types of phone never sell in sufficient numbers to interest accessory manufacturers.  Even if a particular phone is an immediate success, it can take months, maybe a year or more before there’s any accessories for it, and things like dashboard holders are likely to get a low priority.

 

As far as the one-make clips and holders are concerned we’ve concentrated on ones that fit the Motorola Micro TAC family. The universal holders were tried with a range of phones, including Micro TACs, popular Nokias and anything else that came to hand.

 

In addition to build quality, ease of use and value for money we’ve looked carefully at  how easy they are to fit, and the standard of the accompanying instructions. Most of them have to be screwed to the dashboard, either directly, or using a hinged ‘clam-shell’ bracket mount -- only do this if you’re confident of your DIY skills, and don’t mind drilling holes in your car --  otherwise consider the ones that use double-sided sticky tape, or suckers, though be warned that they’re not going to be as secure.

 

SIDEBAR 1

THE OFFICIAL VIEW?

According to Scotland Yard, The Association of Chief Police Officers, ROSPA and the Department of Transport --  we do our homework here -- no figures are available regarding how many road accidents can be attributed in whole or part to the use (or mis-use) of mobile telephones. Nevertheless spokespersons for all of those organisations said that it was a problem, and the growing number of mobile phones means it can only get worse. Perhaps it’s about time someone carried out a study, ROSPA told us they are very keen for police forces around the country to start keeping records. We wish them luck. We would guess that few who survive to tell the tale will ever admit they lost concentration, or control of their vehicle, whilst they were on the phone, at least not if they want to stay out of court and hang on to their no-claims bonuses.

 

REVIEWS

 

ALLGON PASSIVE HOLDER £8

This one-piece clip makes use of a pair of notches in the sides of battery packs for Micro TAC (family and clone) phones, there’s sufficient room for phones with high capacity batteries.  It comes with a pair of sticky pads, so it can be transferred to another vehicle, or it can be screwed to the dash. The holes on the back also line-up with most standard hinged brackets, so it could be used with one of those as well. The adhesive pads are a good size, but they don’t feel especially sticky, and you would have to make very sure the surface is spotlessly clean, otherwise it’ll fall off in no time flat; that’s something the non-existent instructions should have pointed out.

 

The phone simply presses or slides into the holder, very little pressure is needed, but aim is critical, and it could involve a bit of fumbling in the dark, trying to get it back into the holder. Easy to fit, reasonably easy to use, and almost nothing to go wrong, this one should be high on any Micro TAC owners list.

 

Make/model                  ALLGON PASSIVE HOLDER/10.800

Type                             Micro TAC ‘clip’ holder

Features                       double-sided tape or screw-fitting            

Instructions                   none

Build quality                  *****

Ease of use                   *****

WC Rating                    95%

 

Contact                         ALLGON ANTENNAS, Unit 11, The Courtyard Whitwick Business Park, Stenson Road, Coalville, Leicester LE67 3JP. Telephone (01530) 510013

 

ALLGON TELEWING £18

This has to be the ultimate universal quick-fix holder, no holes, no messy sticky pads (well, that’s not strictly true, but we’ll get to that in  a moment...), and it only takes ten seconds to fit. Telewing has a pair of articulated suckers at either end, that will attach themselves to any smooth surface, including glass, metal and plastic. The pads are activated by a pair of small levers, that give a really good suck.  One of the pads is on a telescopic arm, so it can even fit around curved or bent surfaces. On the back of the mounting bracket there’s two long strips of Velcro-type material, and it comes with a pair of round pads that stick to the back of the phone. It’s not your normal Velcro though, both sides of this stuff is covered with what looks like lots of tiny little balls on sticks, that mesh with one another. It gives a really good grip, but the two parts have to be pressed together quite firmly, and they’re separated with a slight twisting motion.

 

It’s a great idea but we can foresee a couple of problems. It may be difficult to find a convenient mounting position in some cars;  windows are the obvious choice as most dashboards are made of textured plastic, that won’t give the suckers enough grip. But which window? For obvious reasons you can’t mount it on one that opens, and the windscreen is out because of the angle of rake, restricted accessibility and visibility, moreover it would makes the phone highly vulnerable. It could do with spare set (or two) of Velcro pads for the phone, for models where they have to be stuck to the battery pack. Apart from that we rather like it, just make sure you’ve got somewhere to put it.

 

Make/model                  ALLGON TELEWING/11.500

Type                             universal

Features                       adjustable mounting bracket with suckers           

Instructions                   ****

Build quality                  *****

Ease of use                   *****

WC Rating                    85%

 

Contact                         ALLGON ANTENNAS, Unit 11, The Courtyard Whitwick Business Park, Stenson Road, Coalville, Leicester LE67 3JP. Telephone (01530) 510013

 

ANDREW HOLDER CUP, £11

Similar in concept to the Allgon Passive Holder, but this one has a extra security feature in the form of a clip that latches onto a notch at the top of body on Micro TAC phones. It’s a very positive fit, but a fair amount of pressure is needed to release the phone, which rules out the use of sticky-pad type fixings. It can be screwed directly to the dashboard, or better still, bolted to a clam-shell bracket. Andrew do a lightweight plastic one that’s ideal for the job.

 

There’s a bit of a knack to releasing the phone one-handed -- it might be too tight for those with any disability in their hands -- moreover we suspect the catch will claim quite a few long fingernails. Like the Allgon clip there’s plenty of room for fatter high-capacity batteries.

 

Make/model                  ANDREW HOLDER CUP/OH G 100N

Type                             Micro TAC ‘clip’ holder

Features                       screw or hinge mount (clam shell)

Instructions                   none

Build quality                  *****

Ease of use                   ****

WC Rating                    83%

 

Contact                         ANDREW Ltd, Ilex Building, Mulberry Business Park,

Fishponds Road, Wokingham RG11 2GY. Telephone (01734) 776886

 

HAMA PASSIVE HOLDER £20.00 (universal bracket £10.00)

It’s amazing how many different ways there are of accomplishing the same basic task, in this case, supporting a Micro TAC phone. This holder from Hama has a pair of arms that extend outwards to grasp the bottom corners of the phone body. The top end has a button-operated latch, that clips into the recess at the top of the phone. The design is such that there’s bags of room in between the phone and the bracket for thick heavy-duty battery packs.

 

The  bracket can be screwed directly to the dashboard, or bolted to a hinged mount. Hama’s universal bracket (part no 41303, £10)  is ideal, and unlike an ordinary clam shell, this one is ‘z’ shaped, giving it a much greater degree of articulation. The phone holder is easy to use, the phone slips in without any trouble, though a little pressure is needed to engage the latch. The release button on our sample was a bit stiff and didn’t always return to the open position, a dab of Vaseline should cure that.  Incidentally, Hama also do their own version of the ‘Gripmatic’ (see Vivanco), theirs costs £20.

 

Make/model                  HAMA PASSIVE HOLDER/4301

Type                             Micro TAC holder

Features                       push-button release

Instructions                   none

Build quality                  *****

Ease of use                   ***

WC Rating                    83%

 

Contact HAMA Unit 4 Cherrywood, Chineham Business Park, Basingstoke, Hants RG24 OWF. Telephone (01256) 708110   

 

ORA IN-CAR HOLDER, £6.00

Needless to say Ora have got more phone holders than you could shake a stick at, the one featured here is just a representative sample of their more basic models. This particular one is designed for the popular Nokias, and Orange equivalents. Similar styles of holder are also available for Ericsson handsets, Micro TACs, Flare and Elite phones; Ora tell us that other models will follow. It’s another simple one-piece design, basically a cup that the phone sits in, with cut-outs on the underside for charge cords or accessory cables. It comes with a big double-sided sticky pad, and for once some good advice on how to fit it. It can also be screwed directly to the dash, or bolted to a bracket, the holes will line up with most universal types. The adhesive pad is good and sticky, it’s thinner than most, so it shouldn’t tear easily. It’s simple, well-made and the price is very reasonable.

 

Make/model                  ORA IN-CAR HOLDER/NOK2CR

Type                             clip holder for Nokia 2110/Orange 2140

Features                       double-sided tape or screw fitting

Instructions                   *****

Build quality                  ****

Ease of use                   ****

WC Rating                    95%

 

Contact                         ORA  28/29 Faraday Road, Aylesbury, Bucks HP19 3RY. Telephone (01296) 415445

 

VIVANCO UNIVERSAL HOLDER £15.00

It’s called the ‘Gripmatic’, and this model turns up all over the place. It’s a truly universal design that will hold almost any type of phone, though it only just manages to grip slim jobbies like the Sony CM-H333. There’s a trick to it, and people with small hands might find it a bit of a stretch. The phone has to be inserted between the pads, and then closed, so they grip the sides of the phone, it can be difficult to use one-handed. All this has to be done in one movement as there’s nothing to keep the phone in place until the grippers are tightened. This needs a fair amount of pressure,  to make sure the phone doesn’t fall out as soon as you let go. The release button is on the left side of the holder, it was clearly designed  for left-hand drive cars, though in this case it doesn’t matter too much. When the button is pressed the grippers fly apart and the phone falls into the hand.

 

The holder is meant to be used with a standard hinged mounting bracket, so don’t forget to add that to the cost. There’s a slotted screw hole on the back so it could be hung from a single screw, though this might not be enough to keep the holder steady. It works well and it’s the only holder we’ve looked at that can accommodate a phone in its carry case. It’s okay, but bear in mind what we have said about grippers and people with small hands.

 

Make/model                  VIVANCO UNIVERSAL HOLDER/TGC-3

Type                             universal

Features                       spring-loaded grippers

Instructions                   none

Build quality                  ****

Ease of use                   ***

WC Rating                    87%

 

Contact                         VIVANCO, Unit C, ATA House, Boundary  Way, Hemel Hempstead HP2 7SS. Telephone (01442) 231616

 

---end---

Ó R. Maybury 1996 1501

 


 

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