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MOBILE EXTRAS

 

INTRO

Those weird, wacky and sometimes wonderful cellphone accessories just keep on coming. Rick Maybury whips out his trusty mobiles to sort the wheat from the chaff...

 

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TWINCHOICE REPLACEMENT PHONE COVERS £35-£45

To be brutally honest mobile phones are not the prettiest of things, in fact a lot of them are rather boring little black boxes.  Occasionally a manufacturer tries to liven up their model ranges with a splash of colour -- usually at a price -- but what happens if you go off the idea, or fancy a change? Then there’s all those sad-old phones out there, that have led active lives but are now looking a little the worse for wear. Here’s a way to ring the changes without going to the trouble and expense of buying a new phone. It’s a replacement outer casing, that will rejuvenate your faithful old mobile,  making it look like new again, or bring it up to date with a snazzy new image.

 

These replacement phone cases come from Twinchoice, they’ve got styles and shapes to fit most popular makes and models, including stalwarts like Motorola Flips and TACs, Ericsson 237/337 and the ever-popular Nokias. Styles range from an outrageous walnut wood finish, to transparent see-throughs, and our favourite, the Aloha Palmtree!

 

But first a few words of warning. These are not removable stick-on cover-ups or slip-ons, they completely replace all or part of the handset’s original outer casing and as such entail disassembly of the phone. There’s no quicker way to void your guarantee, and it’s really not a job you should tackle yourself, even though on some model’s it’s quite easy. On others you’ll need special tools. Even if you do manage somehow to get your phone apart, without bending or breaking the little clips and lugs, you could do untold damage to the fragile microchips and displays inside, so our advice is not to try it yourself, unless you know what you’re doing, and are prepared to accept the consequences. Of course getting your local phone merchant to do it for you is no guarantee either, so bear all that in mind if you’re considering this kind of rather drastic cosmetic surgery! By the way, make sure you hang onto the original case, you might want to change it back one day.

 

That said, the kits we’ve looked at are well made, and come complete with all the necessary gubbins, including new display windows, keypads and the necessary trims. The plastic mouldings and components feel as though they’re made to the same standard as the original, and the fit is generally very good.

 

That ‘wooden’ finish is a real eye-catcher, it’s just a shame they haven’t come up with a matching battery yet. ‘Blue Emerald’  has a translucence, that changes colour as the light hits it from different angles. Transparent cases are a lot of fun, allowing you to see all the widgets inside, but the Aloha Palmtree kit is the one that’s going to get you and your phone noticed, it’s just a shame this one only fits little Ericssons.

 

THE FACTS

Typical Price     £35-45, depending on phone and style

Features           replacement phone covers in wood, transparent and coloured finishes

To fit                 most popular models

Contact Twinchoice Ltd., telephone 0181-503 2613

 

WHAT CELLPHONE VERDICT   90%

 

HAMA SAMSONITE CASES, £40

Arguably they’re the most famous name in the luggage business; the Samsonite logo has been cropping up on a number of other places lately, including camera and camcorder gadget bags, and now carry-cases for mobile phones.  Samsonite brand cases are manufactured and distributed by German accessory company Hama, they’ve produced a range to fit a good assortment of popular phones, the one we’ve been looking at here is designed for the Nokia 2110, it’s Orange equivalent and the Philips PR747 clone. All the cases in the range have a recommended selling price of around £40.

 

They’re made entirely from leather, but not the normal soft floppy stuff, this feels like a tougher grade altogether, though it’s just as thin. It doesn’t have that slightly artificial essence-of-leather pong either, this smells more like a good quality attaché case and less like a cheap leather jacket. The finish is excellent, the front and back are made from green coloured leather, with maroon side panels. Unfortunately these are not elasticated so it will only take a phone with a standard battery pack. The phone is kept in place with a top strap that fastens on to a press-stud on the back.

 

The neatness of the contrasting blue stitching is most impressive, this is carried over onto the covered spring-steel belt clip and detachable wrist strap. The buckle is a quality item, the only trouble is,  it takes a degree of dexterity and a lot of patience to get it on or off it’s mounting loop. Something to while away a dull meeting or train journey, perhaps.

 

All of the holes and panels line up accurately with the phone. The interior finish is good, with no protrusions or metal surfaces to scratch your pride and joy. All in all one very respectable case, however good though it is, we have to say £40 is a lot for a carry case, even one bearing the Samsonite name! 

 

THE FACTS

Typical Price     £39.99

Features           two-tone leather carry case with spring-steel belt clip and detachable wrist strap

To fit                 most popular phones

Contact Hama UK Ltd., telephone (01256) 708110

           

WHAT CELLPHONE VERDICT   75%

 

UNIVERSAL VENT MOUNT

We have to admit a certain amount of scepticism when we first saw this product,  though the thinking behind the GRM Universal Vent Mount is easy to understand. It’s aimed at anyone who wants to safely install a mobile phone inside their vehicle, but not drill holes in the dash, or rely on strips of sticky tape to hold the phone-mount in place. The Vent-mount is designed to attach itself to one of the car’s air or heater/conditioner vents. On the face of it this sounds like a really bad idea. After all hot air coming out of a heater vent will cook the phone, won’t it? Actually no, on many cars it can be positioned out of the way of the airflow, on others the mount may well get warm, but it’s made from a fairly heavy grade of ABS plastic and looks as though it can take care of itself. Since the phone is held in a holder -- a Gripmatic or dedicated cup -- the heat shouldn’t ever reach the phone. In any event it’s usually possible to shut the vent off, deflect the airflow or block it with a piece of card.

 

It looks a bit Heath Robinson but the design has been quite well thought out. The outfit includes the mounting plate, a pair of stabilising pillars and two clips, that attach themselves to the vanes in the ventilator grille. The pillars and clips slide into slots moulded in the mounting plate, they’re a tight fit, presumably to take account of any heating or cooling effects. Once in place the mounting plate feels quite secure, it’s certainly not going to fall off of it’s own accord and it takes quite a bit of effort to remove it again. On the front of the plate there’s a small hook, this is designed to fit into a slot on the back of the Gripmatic (we wondered what it was for...), and all of GRM’s other dedicated phone mounts and hang-up cups. The fit is quite good but on our sample the Gripmatic was slightly loose. It felt as though it might come off if the car hit a bump at speed. If this mount was going to be a permanent fitting we’d probably glue or screw the two items together.

 

It might not look very pretty, and you might loose or reduce the output from one of your air vents but provided you have a suitable place to put it -- bearing in mind the usual advice about positioning a mobile phone in a car -- it’s a practical alternative to drilling holes in your dashboard, and a lot more secure than double-sided tape.  

 

THE FACTS

Typical Price     £10.00

Features           ‘no-holes’ phone mounting bracket

To fit                 most cars, vans etc.      

Contact GRM Ltd., telephone (01253) 773177

 

WHAT CELLPHONE VERDICT   95%

 

DEXTRA IN-CAR CHARGER

One of the most stringent tests we’ve yet devised for in-car charger leads is the cigar-lighter socket in an F-reg Fiat Uno. Fiat, for reasons best known to themselves, have designed a socket that spits out a good proportion of charger plugs, on those that stay in the contact is often intermittent, which plays havoc with the phone.  It can usually be remedied by bending the spring clips, or inserting a matchstick, to keep it in place, but we’re happy to report that the Dextra lead passed the Uno test with flying colours.

 

It did pretty well with the other tests too, though on the Motorola-fit lead we’ve been trying, it lost a couple of points by not having an identifying mark or moulding on the accessory plug, so you can easily see which way round it goes. Full marks for the instructions though, printed on the insert card inside the plastic carton. This has a clear warning about not plugging the phone in until after the engine has started (voltage spikes produced by the starter motor can destroy phones), and there’s no ambiguity about what the red LED indicator means. It’s also one of the few chargers we’ve seen that comes with a proper manufacturers guarantee, in fact Dextra tell us they’re so confident they’re about their chargers, they’re thinking of giving them lifetime warranties.

 

The electronics inside the module operates on a 12 to 24 volt DC supply and delivers a variable charge current, it managed to take a standard Motorola pack from flat to full in just under an hour. When the battery is fully charged it reverts to trickle mode. There’s no fuse, instead it has an electronic safety cut out. Our sample survived a direct short circuit for five minutes without any ill effects or overheating. Definitely one for frustrated Fiat Uno owners, and just about anyone else, looking for a fast, effective and sensibly priced charger lead.

 

THE FACTS

Typical Price     £20.00

Features           12/24 volt operation, built-in electronic fuse, lifetime guarantee

To fit                 most makes and models

Contact Dextra, telephone (01782) 600720

WHAT CELLPHONE VERDICT   93%

 

TWINCHOICE EV237 ERICSSON VIBRATOR £49

Heard the buzz? Here’s another one of those neat little gadgets that get you all a-tremble when your mobile phone rings, without rattling those close to you... This one comes from Twinchoice, it’s the EV237, a clip-on attachment for Ericsson 237 and 337 handsets. It fits snugly onto the base of the phone, mating with the feature connector via a set of spring-loaded contacts. It’s held in place with a couple of retractable hooks; for added security there’s also a pad of double-sided sticky tape. Inside the little box there’s a control chip, a few components and one of the tiniest electric motors you’ve ever seen. On the end of the motor shaft there’s a small unbalanced weight, when it spins it vibrates, it’s as simple as that. The motor is activated by an incoming call -- don’t forget to turn off the phone’s ringer -- the vibrations are quite strong and you should be able to feel them through clothing, alternatively leave it on a hard table top and watch the phone start to move around.

 

The upside is that it works well, it’s easy to fit and simple to use. Minus points include the price -- it’s not especially cheap -- and it adds an extra 1.5 centimetres to the length of the phone, making it difficult to get it into a carry case. It also covers up the phone’s accessory connector, bear in mind also that if you use the sticky tape fixing it’ll be even harder to remove, if you need to get at those contacts.

 

THE FACTS

Typical Price     £49.00

Features           ‘silent call’ vibrating module

To fit                 Ericsson 237/337

Contact Twinchoice Ltd., telephone 0181-503 2613

 

WHAT CELLPHONE VERDICT   80%

 

 

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Ó R. Maybury 1996 2103

 


 

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