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INTRO

A charger shaped like a sport cars with a woodgrain finish, a floating case and a phone that barks  -- never say cellphone accessories are dull!

 

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QUICK CHARGER & DISCHARGER

Here’s one way of using your mobile phone in a car, without risking life and limb, or attracting the attention of the boys in blue. Mind you, the car in question is only 9-inches long, has a top speed of zero mph and is finished in a rather unusual wood-grain effect... (Also available in black, blue, red and green). It’s a desktop charger, a sporty little number with slots for a phone and a spare battery pack. A display panel is set into the bonnet and the headlight covers double up as the discharger buttons. And yes, the wheels do go round, but they’re very stiff, so you can’t play table-top Le Mans.

 

Power is supplied by a plug-in mains module, the connector pops into a hole where the exhaust pipe should be. Operation is fully automatic; it will either start charging right away, or go through a discharge cycle, then charge from flat. It uses a range of microchip-controlled voltage and temperature sensing protocols, to determine charge state and battery condition. Maximum charge current is in the order of 500mA, which means most standard nicad and NiMh packs will be fully charged in between 2 and 3 hours, discharging a full pack takes around twice as long. Our test sample was configured for a Nokia 8110, which uses a lithium-ion battery, the charge time in that case is around 4 hours for a 1200mA pack. When charging is complete the car emits a bleeping sound.

 

The electric’s checked out okay;  the LED display is not especially informative, apparently there is an LCD version somewhere in the pipeline, which tells you how far the charge has progressed. Given a choice we’d probably go for that one. Now we come to the tricky question of naffness. It’s naff! But come on, let’s not get too precious. It would make a fun gift for a frustrated sports car owners, doubtless a few will buy one for themselves, but please, not the wood-grain finish...

 

THE FACTS

Typical Price            £40.00

Features            charger/discharger, audible warning, 500mA charge current, 250mA discharge current

To fit                 most popular makes and models

Contact Kondor Ltd., telephone (01202) 4811133

WHAT CELLPHONE VERDICT            78%

 

UNIVERSAL MAGNETIC HOLDER

Just when we thought we’d seen every type and style of phone holder there was... Cellphone accessory manufacturers continue to amaze us with their ingenuity, take this Universal Magnetic Holder for example. It’s the height of simplicity, there’s no clips, clamps or moving parts to wear out or go wrong, plus it can be fitted to most cars in a matter of minutes.

 

The holder is a thin flexible strip of plastic material, backed by an adhesive pad. If necessary it can be bent slightly, to follow the curve of the dashboard. Sandwiched between the backing pad and the front of the holder there are sixteen powerful button-shaped magnets, that exert a strong pull on the steel casings of the cells inside the phone’s rechargeable battery pack. The makers also claim that the magnetic field can help prolong battery life by aligning the ions in the cells, and strengthen signal reception. We have to admit to being completely unaware of either effect, nor was our confidence in these claims strengthened by the warning on the packaging, that placing CDs close to the holder could ‘weaken the magnetism’... Work that one out!      

 

Fitting the holder takes no time at all, though you only get one chance.  Any attempt to remove it -- once it is in place -- completely destroys the backing pad. The magnets stick together and they’re a swine to separate. Be warned also that the adhesive can be softened by heat, the interior of a car can get very hot!  

 

Despite the ‘universal’ tag we found it worked better with some phones than others. Flat backed Nokia’s, like the 2110, are very secure indeed. Ericsson phones with small curvy battery packs are not so good, and will probably slip off on a bumpy road. Motorola Flips and TACs are somewhere in between. As far as the battery life and signal strength claims are concerned, we found no noticeable improvement but it does make a very effective cassette eraser...  

 

THE FACTS

Typical Price            £20

Features            magnetic dashboard holder

To fit                 most makes and models

Contact Fone Range Accessories, telephone 0181-838 8888

WHAT CELLPHONE VERDICT 78%

 

PORTABLE HANDS-FREE KIT

Personal hands-free kits are now appearing thick and fast, this one for the Nokia 8110 is made by Axess International, and marketed in the UK by Alexander Batteries. The design follows the by now familiar pattern; the interface module fits onto the phone’s accessory connector on the base. It has two sockets, one is for the mains charger or a car power cord, the other -- a sub miniature jack -- is used by the combined earpiece microphone cable. Unlike just about every other hands-free kit for Nokia phones we’ve seen, this one actually mentions the fact that it imposes a small drain on the phone battery, in this case some 200 milliwatts. It’s enough to have an impact on running times, though probably by no more than just a few minutes.

 

The microphone on this kit is only around 12cm downstream of the earpiece, which puts it at chin height on most people. The others we’ve seen recently tend to be between 25 to 30cm or collar height. The mike isn’t especially sensitive and you can find yourself talking to your shoulder if the caller can’t hear you. The earphone works well though -- speech is crisp and there’s just enough bass to add a little weight to the sound. It is fitted with a foam muff, so it doesn’t slip out easily and is tolerably comfortable. The price of simple hands-free kits like this have been falling steadily for the past few months, so at around £30 it’s not a bad deal.   

 

THE FACTS

Typical Price            £30

Features          

To fit                 Nokia 1610 & 8110

Contact            Alexander Batteries, telephone (01327) 301090

WHAT CELLPHONE VERDICT            80%

 

MOBIL-SAFE VARIO SYSTEM

Forget all this talk about cellphones frying your brain. There’s plenty of other ways they can damage your health, including giving a very painful poke in the stomach or thigh every time you sit down, if you wear a belt case. This neat belt holder from Hama can help prevent a nasty case of antenna jab, it’s another one of those clip-on jobbies, that allows the phone to move around; it can rotate through a full 360 degrees if necessary -- acrobats take note  --  yet it still affords a high degree of accessibility and security. Hama call it the MSV or Mobil-Safe Vario system. The system bit refers to the fact that the clip or ‘chip’ on the back of the phone can also be used to attach it to a range of other mounting devices, including dashboard holders.   

 

The chip is a small, flat, plastic moulding with a slot and V-shaped groove moulded on the back, On the other side there’s a pad of double-sided adhesive, to stick it to the phone battery. A cleaning swab is included in the kit, to makes sure the surface is free of grease or other contaminants. The instructions say it takes around 72 hours for the bond to reach full strength, and not to use it for at least 12 hours. Extra chips, designed to fit most of the phones on the market at the moment, are available for £3.00 each.

 

The actual belt holder is attached to a short leather strap; this forms a loop that goes around the user’s belt, it’s kept in place by a sturdy press-stud. The chip slides easily into the holder and once in place locks into position. It feels very secure and it’s more likely something else will give, if someone tries to snatch the phone. The phone is released by pressing a pair of buttons on the side. It’s easier said than done, and it takes quite a bit of practice -- and strong fingers -- to do it one-handed. It’s worth investigating, especially if you have, or plan to use any other compatible Hama holders

 

THE FACTS

Typical Price            £20 (extra ‘chips’ £3.00)

Features            360 degree belt holder for mobile phone using ‘system’ fixing for other types of holder, secure locking action

To fit                 most popular makes and models      

Contact Hama UK, telephone (01256) 708110

WHAT CELLPHONE VERDICT            82%

 

WATERPROOF CASE

Cellphones and water don’t mix.  Salt water is instant death, so it makes sense to take some precautions if you’re going to take your mobile on holiday. This waterproof case from Hama will keep it safe and sound, what’s more you can still use it, and as an added bonus, as long as there’s some air in the plastic envelope, it will float. The brightly coloured clip at the bottom makes it easy to spot and it comes with a fluorescent orange lanyard.

 

The phone slips into the open end of the case, there’s a sort of teat at the end, for the aerial, it’s long enough for it to be fully extended on most models. Once the phone is safely inside the end of the bag is folded over and placed between the two halves of the clip. It’s screwed tight and nothing can get in, or out.  Most regularly-sized handsets should fit without too much trouble, though we found it wasn’t quite long enough to accommodate models with flips or flaps -- try before you buy.

 

We subjected the case -- with a Nokia 2110 inside -- to a five minute soaking under a cold shower, and ten minutes in the sink, not a drop got through and it remained buoyant. Ringing tones suffered some slight attenuation, though the Nokia phone could be heard clearly from a distance of more than 3 metres. Dialling out and holding a conversation was just about possible, the bag cuts down sound from the earphone. Microphone sensitivity was hardly affected, speech at the other end of the connection remained loud and clear, apart from some extra scuffing noises

 

One drop of saltwater is enough to ruin your phone, if it’s not insured you could be looking at a replacement bill of a couple of hundred pounds, or more. If you’re going to the beach, or likely to get wet it’s fifteen quid well spent.

 

 

THE FACTS

Typical Price            £15

Features            water-proof case/floatation bag

To fit                 most non-flip models

Contact Kondor Ltd., telephone (01202) 4811133

 

WHAT CELLPHONE VERDICT            90%

 

PHONEY OF THE MONTH

This must be some kind of record. Just a few months after the Nokia 8110 appeared the cloners have brought out their own version. Attention to detail is impressive, down to the sliding cover and the layout of the keypad. In fact the only small departure from the original is the operation of the ‘C’ button, which makes a barking sound when pressed. No, we couldn’t figure it out either, but it’s there if you need it...

 

THE FACTS

Typical Price            £3.99

Features            the usual mix of tunes and voices, plus an unusual ‘bark’ mode

Contact street markets and toy stores everywhere

WHAT CELLPHONE VERDICT            80%

 

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Ó R. Maybury 1997 0807

 


 

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