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REPLACEMENT ANTENNAS

 

INTRO

Lost, bent, broken or simply looking a little the worse for wear, the aerial on your mobile phone is the critical link with the outside world. Rick Maybury looks at the strange world of replacement antennas

 

COPY

You could write a book on the psychology of mobile phones. They’ve had a tremendous effect on everyone’s lives; even those who don’t yet have one exhibit a range of unusual behavioural tendencies when they’re in earshot of a ringing phone. It’s interesting to note how quickly their attitudes change when they eventually succumb... 

 

People’s reactions to mobile phones are largely understandable. Those who have them appreciate the facility to stay in contact, those without frequently regard phones and their owners with suspicion, distaste and yes, dare we say even a little envy; but try explaining this: several engineers and dealers we know have told us quite independently about a number phones they’ve seen, with teeth-marks on the aerials!

 

Old Sigmund would have a field day with this one. Of course it might just be that mobile phone owners are very busy people; when confronted with a ringing phone, and only one spare hand, they pull their retractable aerials out with their teeth. Good idea, but that doesn’t explain the marks seen on fixed ‘stubby’ aerials. It could just be the kids, they love to play with mummy or daddy’s phone. Then again it might have something to do with the shape; er, well, that’s what a bloke down the pub told us...  Engineers tell us the shape has nothing to do with deeply rooted childhood memories or fixations but is determined by the nature of the radiating element, and the need to put a knobbly bit on the end, to stop people poking theirs, and other peoples, eyes out.

 

Before we talk ourselves into some dark, disturbing corner, we’d better explain where all this is leading? A seriously chewed-up aerial tip is just one of the many and varied reasons there’s such a steady demand for replacement antennas. Other, even more plausible excuses include breakages and the inevitable bends. They’re usually caused by forgetting to retract the antenna before slipping it into a back pocket and then sitting on it. There’s nothing more unsightly than a wonky whip... It’s also surprising -- so one of our dealer friends tell us -- how many people manage to loose their aerials. Owners of mobile phones are renowned for being  fiddlers, and sooner or later everyone tries to unscrew the aerial on their mobile -- to see how it fits -- some never get it back properly and the aerial drops off...

 

REPLACE OR REPAIR?

The subject of replacement antennas arose when we discovered a crack in the retractable whip on one of our test phones, a venerable Motorola 5200. This aerial had never been straight, and the numerous attempts to try and straighten it resulted in a serious fracture. Eventually this seriously sad-looking excuse for an aerial, failed altogether and flopped over every time it was pulled out. Coincidentally a similar fate had befallen the whip on a Nokia 2110 we occasionally use for accessory testing, at some point it had been bent, and efforts to remove the kink had only made matters worse.

 

The first question that needed answering was, how easy is it to replace a mobile phone antenna, after all it’s not something they usually cover in the instruction books? We decided to confine our investigations to three popular makes and models. For fairly obvious reasons they included the Motorola 5200 and Nokia 2110 and for good measure an Ericsson 237 which has something of a track record for lost aerials.

 

REMOVAL

There’s a knack to removing the aerial on a Motorola phone. First you have to unclip the little plastic shroud. There’s probably a special tool to do this, but in the absence of one a thumbnail or penknife has to suffice. Slide it under the cover, and gently prise the cover off, taking care not to scratch the casing. Once its clear the clip that holds the aerial and helical coupler in place has to be pulled out. It’s held by a couple of small plastic latches, so the side of the case has to be eased aside, or the base of the module pressed slightly, to release the catches. The whole assembly can then be pulled out. The replacement presses in easily, the only point to watch out for is to make sure the metal contact pin is correctly aligned with the hole inside the top of the phone.

 

The aerials on Nokia 2110s are held in place by a threaded collar. They can be fiendishly tight and a lot of people resort to undoing them with screwdrivers, or scissors, which often results in a badly scratched case, and a gouged hand. The trick is to use a little tool, that is, or should be, supplied with replacements. This slots into the groove in the top of the collar, so it can be easily loosened. Fitting a new antenna is simply a reversal of the removal process.

 

The stubby little antennas on Ericsson phones are a simple push-fit, and because there’s plenty to get hold of, they’re not at all difficult to remove. That may explain why there’s such a steady demand for replacements.

 

In many cases replacement antennas are identical to the factory-fitted aerial, in fact we’ve discovered that quite a few of them are made in the same factory as the originals. There’s not a lot to go wrong, so performance shouldn’t be an issue, but it is, and we’ll come to that in a moment. On some phones there’s an alternative to the standard-issue item, this is certainly the case with Nokia and Ericsson phones, where the usual retractable or stubby aerial can be replaced by a longer fixed ‘rubber ducky’ type antenna;  we’ve discovered that in some cases they can range, directionality and consequently the reliability of contact.

 

We’ve gathered together a representative selection of replacement antennas. To judge how easy they are to fit and how well they’re made. We also carried out a  series of simple operational checks, comparing the signal strength readings of the replacement aerials with the originals. We’re not making any serious scientific claims for this method, though it did show up a few anomalies, as we’ll see in a moment.

 

Price-wise most of the antennas we’ve looked at sell for between £10 to £15. Be warned, that can easily double if you go for the phone manufacturer’s own replacement. They’re quite expensive for what they are, some of them are no more than a inch or so of wire inside a rubber cover, others are a little more elaborate. Perhaps the price will encourage owners of mobile phone users to take good care of their aerials!

 

Finally, a few words about the instructions that accompany replacement antennas. There weren’t any, at least not on the samples we tried! One company’s packaging helpfully suggested  that if the existing antenna couldn’t be readily unscrewed, without using force, they should ask their supplier for assistance, but that was about it. The lack of instructions supplied with these products -- and a lot of other accessories -- is a serious problem that the cellphone accessory industry would do well to address, but that’s another, long-running story...

 

ALLGON B3231.1

Slightly longer replacement for the standard stubby, a small increase in directionality

 

Make/model                  ALLGON B3231.1

To Fit                            Ericsson 237/337

Typical price                  £12

 

Ease of fitting                9

Performance                  9

WC Rating                    95%

Contact             Allgon Ltd, telephone (01530) 510013

                       

ALLGON B3237

Can you spot the difference? We couldn’t, a 100% replacement for the original.

 

Make/model                  ALLGON B3237

To Fit                            Motorola 200/7200

Typical price                  £15

 

Ease of fitting                7

Performance                  9

WC Rating                    95%

Contact             Allgon Ltd, telephone (01530) 510013

 

ALLGON B3230.1

‘Rubber ducky’ alternative, a very slight improvement in signal strength noted

 

Make/model                  ALLGON B3230.1

To Fit                            Nokia 2110/2010

Typical price                  £12

 

Ease of fitting                7

Performance                  10

WC Rating                    98%

Contact             Allgon Ltd, telephone (01530) 510013

 

GRM Nokia 2110

Virtually identical to the standard retractable, with performance to match. Extra points awarded for removal tool and very reasonable price

 

Make/model                  GRM

To Fit                            Nokia 2110

Typical price                  £10

 

Ease of fitting                9

Performance                  9

WC Rating                    98%

Contact             GRM Ltd., telephone (01253) 773177

 

HAMA 000109

Fairly ordinary stubby, a slightly loose fit on one of our samples. No change in performance

 

Make/model                  HAMA 000109

To Fit                            Ericsson 337

Typical price                  £12.99

 

Ease of fitting                8                     

Performance                  9

WC Rating                    93%

Contact             Hama PVAC Ltd., telephone (01256) 708110

 

HAMA 0001000

Near identical replacement for standard aerial, no change in performance

 

Make/model                  HAMA 000100

To Fit                            Motorola 5200/7200

Typical price                  £12.99 

 

Ease of fitting                7

Performance                  9

WC Rating                    94%

Contact             Hama PVAC Ltd., telephone (01256) 708110

 

HAMA 000106

Almost indistinguishable from the original, no change in performance

 

Make/model                  HAMA 000106

To Fit                            Nokia 2110

Typical price                  £12.99

 

Ease of fitting                8

Performance                  9

WC Rating                    97%

Contact             Hama PVAC Ltd., telephone (01256) 708110

 

ORA RE237

Quarter-wave whip replacement for helical original, slightly more directional

 

Make/model                  ORA RE237

To Fit                            Ericsson 237

Typical price                  £9.99

 

Ease of fitting                9

Performance                  7

WC Rating                    95%

Contact             Ora Electronics (01296) 415445

 

ORA TM52       

The whip is a slightly loose fit when retracted, performance unchanged

 

Make/model                  Ora TM52

To Fit                            Motorola 5200/7200

Typical price                  £9.99

 

Ease of fitting                7

Performance                  9

WC Rating                    90%

Contact             Ora Electronics (01296) 415445

 

ORA RNOK1

Another ‘rubber ducky’ alternative, a slight increase in signal strength noted

Make/model                  Ora RNOK1

To Fit                            Nokia 100/101/121/TP4

Typical price                  £9.99

 

Ease of fitting                8

Performance                  9

WC Rating                    96%

Contact             Ora Electronics (01296) 415445

 

TWINCHOICE EA237BR3

Standard stubby, no change in performance

Make/model                  TWINCHOICE EA237BR3

To Fit                            Ericsson 237

Typical price                  £15

 

Ease of fitting                9

Performance                  9

WC Rating                    95%

Contact             Twinchoice Ltd., telephone 0181-503 2613

 

TWINCHOICE QA2110BE

More ornate tip, tool supplied, performance unchanged. Also available with ‘wood’ finish tip, to suit replacement case

Make/model                  TWINCHOICE QA2110BE

To Fit                            Nokia 2110

Typical price                  £15

 

Ease of fitting                9

Performance                  9

WC Rating                    95%

Contact             Twinchoice Ltd., telephone 0181-503 2613

 

---end---

Ó R. Maybury 1996 2803

 


 

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