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This month Rick Maybury muses over a phone battery with a built-in mains charger, two new hands-free kits, and a 12 volt car adaptor

 

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ERICSSON PO 2000, HANDS-FREE KIT, £50

They say itís one of the first signs of madness... However, if you donít mind the odd looks you sometimes get, when people think youíre talking to yourself, the Ericsson PO 2000 hands-free kit is a very convenient way of making and taking calls. Unlike most of the accessories we see, this one is made in Sweden and marketed by the phone manufacturer themselves. That is reflected in the slightly higher than usual price, but that buys added peace of mind, at least you know itís going to work with one of their phones.

 

The kit is designed to work with any 200 or 300 series phone and comes with itís own cute little carry pouch; inside thereís an adaptor module, that clips on to the base of the phone. A set of gold-plated spring-loaded contacts mates with the phoneís accessory connector. Itís a very secure fit and shouldnít come away, even if itís knocked. On the base of the module thereís an American-style phone socket, presumably for connection to a charger, though no mention is made of it in the virtually non-existent instructions. In fact the only clue as to how to use the kit fits together, is a simple diagram on the back. Nevertheless, itís fairly clear that the earpiece, with itís in-line microphone, plugs into a jack socket on the side of the module, and the accompanying plastic clip, is to stop the cable from swinging around.

 

Thereís no set-up or installation procedures to worry about, the phone automatically switches over to the external earphone and mike, and it operates as normal. Unfortunately there doesnít seem to be any way of routing the ringer through to the earphone, at least if there is itís not explained in the instructions, nor is there any more details about the option for voice -activated answering; it appears this may only be possible on ETACS models.

 

The earphone/mike cable is a reasonable length, long enough for the phone to be worn on a belt, or kept in a jacket pocket. At first glance the microphone doesnít seem to be far enough down the cable, to be close enough to the users mouth. On most normally proportioned adult heads it remains at about cheek height. Operationally this is not a problem, it could even be an advantage as itís sensitive enough to pick up the userís voice, at normal conversational volume, but itís out of the line of fire of heavy breathing, huffing and puffing. Receive speech quality is good, and the mike is sufficiently non-directional to ignore most background noises. Earphone volume is adequate, though a little more wouldnít have gone amiss.

 

Overall performance and build quality are both good. The price is a little on the high side for what it is, but thatís to be expected on a manufacturerís own-brand accessory, thatís guaranteed to fit!

 

THE FACTS

Typical Price            £50

Features            connection module with combined earpiece and in-line microphone, supplied with carry case

To fit                 Ericsson 200 & 300 series

Contact            Ericsson Telecommunications, telephone (01483) 3033666

 

WHAT CELLPHONE VERDICT            82%

 

PAMA HASSLE-FREE HANDS-FREE, £50

The day is coming -- and it may not be too far away -- when it will be illegal to use a mobile phone in a moving vehicle, without a hands-free kit or adaptor. A good full-spec car kit will set you back in the region of £200, which puts a lot of people off buying one, but there are cheaper alternatives, like the ĎHassle Free Hands Free from Pama, costing from around £50.

 

Itís a new variation on the simple car kit theme, with an amplifier and speaker built into the charger module, that fits into the vehicleís lighter socket. However, unlike previous versions, this one is very compact, and the microphone is fitted to the cable, that runs between the charger/loudspeaker module, and the plug that connects to the phone. It also comes with an unusual dashboard mounting clip. Itís very small, about half the size of a matchbox, with a set of screws and double-sided sticky tape to keep it in place. The open-ended box-like construction is designed to fit the belt clip on a carry-case. If you donít use a case it also comes with a stud-shaped clip, that fits on the back of the phone battery. The stud is held in place by a pad of double-sided tape. 

 

Installation is simple, some phones might need to have the appropriate operating mode selected on the menu but thatís about it. Weíre not very happy about double-sided sticky tape used on the dash holder. The adhesive has a tendency to go soft in hot weather, but if you canít, or wonít drill holes in your dashboard itís probably a good idea to check it occasionally, or put a cushion underneath, to catch the phone...

 

Although the loudspeaker is tiny -- just over an inch across -- it is surprisingly loud, loud enough in fact to make itself heard over a moderate amount of road and engine noise. Obviously itís not going to be as loud as a purpose-designed car kit with a separate loudspeaker, but in most family saloons it should be adequate. The microphone, on the other hand is a bit variable. Part of the problem is the distance between the mike and the userís mouth, which could be anything up to a couple of feet, moreover the microphone is moderately sensitive and quite directional. It cannot be easily aimed or positioned as itís part of the cable. The caller on the other end hears a cocktail of sounds, that may or may not contain the userís voice, depending which direction the microphone happens to be facing. In a reasonably quiet car thatís not a problem, but in a noisy vehicle, van or truck, it may involve a lot of shouting.

 

This kit gets a qualified thumbs-up for the price, neatness of the design, the dash mount kit, and the gutsy little speaker. The microphone on the other hand is a bit of a compromise. It should be just about okay in most moderately well-insulated saloon, but you may struggle to make yourself heard.

 

THE FACTS

Typical Price            £50

Features            external microphone and loudspeaker, battery charger, dash-mount clip

To fit                 most popular makes and models                  

Contact Pama and Co., (0161) 248 5555

WHAT CELLPHONE VERDICT            85%

 

 

GSM CHARGER-FREE BATTERIES, £50

Genuine innovations in phone battery design are few and far between, but hereís one. It comes from GSM Inter-Rent, and the key feature is a built-in mains battery charger. Clearly thatís a major benefit to anyone who prefers to travel light, or simply wants to re-charge their phone battery in the office, or when theyíre away from home.

 

The pack has a fold-away mains plug, that simply slots into a mains outlet, charging the cells inside, in between 6 to 12 hours, depending on the supply voltage. They can be used on any mains voltage, between 110 to 240 VAC, the pack comes with an adaptor plug, designed to accept the flat two-pin connectors. A pair of LED indicators on the back of the pack show power-on and charging in progress. Inside the pack thereís a set of memory-free nickel metal hydride or nicad cells, stated capacities are 580 or 900 mAh for NiMh batteries, and 1000, 900 and 700 mAh for nicad types.

 

A sequence of three charge/discharge cycles is recommended, to get the cells up to full capacity. We put our samples through the standard What Cellphone test routine; the Motorola pack came out best, managing a creditable 860 mAh; the Ericsson batteryís best effort was 520 mAh, which isnít brilliant, but about what weíd expect from the Chinese-made cells. In view of the mains voltages floating around inside the case we thought it prudent to carry out some voltage checks on exposed terminals;  weíre happy to report they passed all our tests. Perhaps the most impressive feature though, is the small size. Despite of the charger circuitry and plug, theyíre only marginally larger than normal packs of equivalent capacity. The price is fair too -- weíre told they could be even cheaper on the street, in which case they stack up very well against the competition. Recommended.

 

THE FACTS

Typical Price            £50

Features            phone batteries with built-in mains charger

To fit                 Ericsson, Motorola and Nokia phones

Contact GSM Inter-Rent Ltd, (07020) 987848

WHAT CELLPHONE VERDICT            88%

 

AMT CAR MAINS ADAPTOR, £15

Should you want to charge your phone battery when youíre away from home, or in the office, you have several choices. You could take the battery charger with you, buy a second one, for work, or use your car charger cord, though finding a suitable car lighter socket in most offices might be a bit difficult... Hereís a solution, itís a  mains adaptor, fitted with a standard lighter socket.

 

The supply is rated at 13.5 volts, 1 amp DC, which is more than adequate for most phone charger cords. It might conceivably come in handy for a range of other devices, that use the same sort of connector, though we canít imagine too many people will want to use car vacuum cleaners or map reading lights in the office.

 

Itís quite compact -- roughly the same size as a normal mains adaptor, with a captive lead and moulded three-pin mains plug. We recommend the latter be chopped off and replaced -- if itís the same as the one fitted to our sample --  itís an unapproved type, that doesnít have a built-in fuse.

 

The output is well regulated, and stable, moreover it only gets slightly warm on full load. A simple, problem-solving gadget thatís bound to be precisely the sort of thing a lot of people have been looking for.

 

THE FACTS

Typical Price            £15

Features            12-volt DC mains power adaptor, with car lighter socket

To fit                 any standard car power cord

Contact AMT, telephone (01323) 505252

WHAT CELLPHONE VERDICT            85%

 

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R. Maybury 1997 1103

 


 

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