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Cool cases, blockbuster batteries and messages from personal computers -- Rick Maybury looks at some more essential accessories

 

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WESTAR WONDERBAGS, £10 - £40

In addition to the range of wacky cases we looked at last month, Westar have introduced an equally diverse range of cellphone bags. The simplest ones are basically large pouches, with a shoulder strap, that have room for a phone plus a few other bits and bobs. There’s a variety of styles and finishes, from clear transparent plastic to fake animal skins and wonderfully kitsch quilted material, in some quite outrageous colours.

 

However, the most interesting ones are in the Wonderbag range. They’re quite a bit larger, with lots of zippered pockets and sections. The front opens to reveal a wallet containing a section for credit cards, address and memo pads, plus a small solar-powered calculator. The phone slots into a pocket on the back, next to a couple of pen holders. Inside the main section -- covered by a security flap -- there’s another zip pocket, a key holder that’s held in place by a press-stud, and a small mirror on the end of a thin strap, so it can’t be lost. It comes with a detachable shoulder strap, with brass-plated fixings. A slimmed down version, without the memo pad and calculator is also available.

 

Wonderbags come in a simple nylon finish, or a selection of more exotic materials, including black patent, imitation crocodile, snakeskin, various unspecified reptiles and real leather. Quality of manufacture, stitching  and finish are generally good, the aesthetics you’ll have to judge for yourself. They’re just the job if you’re looking for something to carry your phone safely, plus all the other odds and ends we seem to accumulate these days.

 

THE FACTS

Typical Price     £10 to £40

Features           basic coloured cases to multi-compartment organisers with memo and address pads, calculators and mirror

To fit                 all phones

Contact Westar Connections, telephone 0181-903 3903

WHAT CELLPHONE VERDICT   87%

 

ORA VIBRARING, £60

A clear etiquette is evolving regarding the use of cellphones. There are times when a ringing cellphone is regarded as a major social faux-pas, not to mention a downright nuisance, if you’re in the middle of an important meeting. You can turn the ringer volume down on most phones, but if it’s so quiet that you can’t hear it, what’s the point.? Silent, vibrating ringers are the answer, only you know there’s an incoming call, and you can discretely withdraw to answer the phone, without any embarrassment. A couple of phones have built-in vibrators, but now for some cellphone users there’s another option, vibrating batteries, like this one from Ora.

 

At the moment the Ora Vibraring is only available for the Nokia 2110 and Orange 5.1 models, others will doubtless follow. The battery pack in question is a high-capacity design, using nickel metal hydride cells rated at 1100 mAh. That’s sufficient to keep the phone running on standby for up to 40 hours, with more than 2 hours talk-time. The pack is quite bulky though, and the bulge on the back makes it just over twice as thick as the standard battery, which might make it a tight fit in some cases.

 

It has a good strong throb, that can be clearly felt through a couple of layers of clothing. The capacity checked out on our test sample and the use of NiMh cells should prevent the build-up of any memory effects. Given that batteries of similar type and capacity sell for only £20 or so less, this seems like quite fair value, particularly if you need to stay in touch, without annoying others.

 

THE FACTS

Typical Price     £60

Features           1100mAh NiMh cellphone battery with built-in silent-ringer

To fit                 Nokia 2110I and Orange 5.1

Contact Ora Electronics, telephone (01296) 415445

WHAT CELLPHONE VERDICT   90%

 

OPTRONIX UPB 3000 and UPB 5000 BATTERY PACKS, £47 and £65

If doesn’t matter how many gadgets and widgets your phone has, if the battery expires halfway through an important call, it’s no use at all. The standard battery packs supplied with most recent phones will usually get you through the working day -- at least when they’re new -- providing you don’t make too many calls. However, that’s simply not good enough for a lot of heavy users, who depend on their phone being ready for action all the time. High capacity clip-on battery packs can help in a lot of cases, but even the largest ones cannot cope with more than an hour or two’s worth of calls in a day. Of course, you could carry spare packs but that involves swapping them over, re-entering PIN codes, and possibly missing a call whist the battery is being changed. The alternative is a separate battery pack, like this pair from Optronix.

 

The UPB 3000 and UBP 5000 are rated at 3Ah and 5Ah respectively, that’s between 6 and 10 times the capacity of many standard cellphone packs, giving the equivalent increase in running times. In most cases that’s enough power to keep the phone running for at least a couple of days, and probably a lot longer on some models. The battery packs are fitted inside leather pouches that clip onto the wearer’s belt. They’re not excessively heavy (500 and 800 grams), though you might need to use extra notch on your belt, to stop your trousers falling down... The batteries connect to the phone using a dedicated connecting lead, which is extra, they’re around £11 for most phones. The phone’s own charger can be used to charge the battery in most  cases; some models may require a separate mains adaptor, they cost a further £14.00.

 

We’ve been using a couple of samples with a Motorola 7500 GSM phone. The UPB3000 lasted for a total of 70 hours, with around two and a half hours worth of calls, the UPB5000 went for over four days, with over two hours worth of calls. Of course it depends on the pattern of usage, but they would certainly be capable of keeping most phones running for several days, which could be important for anyone on a camping holiday, or where they can’t easily get to a source of power, yet need to stay in contact. Considering the price of regular standard and high capacity packs, they look like pretty good value for money.   

 

THE FACTS

Typical Price     £47 (UPB 3000), £65 (UPB5000)

Features           High capacity battery packs with belt cases

To fit                 most makes and models with optional adaptor (typically £11.00)

Contact Jenoptic/CZ Scientific, telephone 0181 953 1688

WHAT CELLPHONE VERDICT   90%

 

 

VEGA MOBILE MESSENGER, £99

SMS (short message service) is a useful but under-utilised facility for relaying brief text messages to GSM and Orange digital mobile phones. Almost all GSM phones can receive SMS data, a few can send it as well. Messages can be sent to GSM phones via a bureau, though most users elect to create their messages on a personal computer, and send them to the network’s message-handling computer using standard PC communications software. The latter option is cheaper and more direct, but it does involve knowing your way around a comms package, setting up data transfer protocols, modem speeds, and having the appropriate telephone number of the network’s message handling centres.

 

Mobile Messenger from Vega simplifies the whole process. It’s a new Windows-based application, that will enable anyone with a suitable PC and modem, to send a text message to a GSM or Orange phone, plus a range of BT alphanumeric and tone pagers as well. Mobile Messenger can also communicate with Mercury pagers, but this involves the user paying an additional fee or £25, to set the system up.

 

The software is contained on three 3.5-inch discs and loads into the PC in the usual way from Windows Program Manager. The software ‘engine’, is designed to work optimally on fast PCs, preferably Pentium models. It will run on older machines but it can be quite slow to load.

 

After installation the desktop display appears. The recipient’s mobile number and network have to be entered, then the message can be composed in a text window; The Cellnet, Orange  and Vodaphone networks can handle text messages up to 160 characters long, and that includes spaces, and the user’s electronic ‘signature’, that  has to be added to the end of each message.

 

When the message has been completed simply click on the ‘send now’ button and Mobile Messenger does the rest. It dials up the message centre, deals with all the log-on procedures, and transmits the text. A transmission report then appears, to show whether it has been successfully sent, or not, as the case may be.

 

A useful facility called ‘confirm receipt’ allows the sender to check whether or not the message has actually been received by the target phone on Cellnet and Vodaphone networks. Mobile Messenger dials up the network message centre and if all’s well, displays a confirmation message, with a reference number. (Orange plan to add this facility in the near future).

 

Messages can be sent singly to individuals, or to groups, either straight away, or scheduled for transmission at a pre-defined time and date. The scheduler will re-try a number of times, if the first attempt is unsuccessful . Details of outgoing messages are stored on a transmission log, along with the first 26 characters of the text. We tried Mobile Messenger on Cellnet, Vodaphone and Orange networks, successfully in all cases.

 

Mobile Messenger has been very well thought out. It’s easy to use and has a lot of useful facilities that will appeal in particular to business and corporate users, though it’s equally applicable to individuals, and should help a lot more GSM phone owners users make use of this handy but underrated feature.   

 

It’s worth pointing out that each SMS message on Cellnet and Vodaphone networks costs the sender 10 pence, in the case of a mobile to mobile transmission, BT land-line to mobile messages also cost 10 pence, plus the M-rate charge, which is currently 28 pence a minute. Orange users have to pay a £2 subscription and £10 connection fee, senders are charged at 5 pence per message.

 

THE FACTS

Typical Price     £99

Features           SMS messaging software for GSM phone networks

System             IBM PC or compatible, 486 processor or later and MS Windows 3.1 or later, 4MB RAM, EGA or higher video adaptor, Hayes compatible modem                    

Contact Vega, telephone (01706) 44177

WHAT CELLPHONE VERDICT   85%

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Ó R. Maybury 1996 0108

 


 

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