What Cellphone






This month Rick Maybury tries out a re-vamped car kit, a fast-draw case, a smart charger, and the world’s cheapest and smallest cellphones, probably...




Just when we thought we’d seen every possible type and style of cellphone case, along comes the Pocket Liberator. This one is unashamedly aimed at macho men, who like to be quick on the draw. It’s a two part design with a separate case and locking belt clip. This provides a high degree of security, and it allows the phone to swivel, so you don’t end up doing yourself, or the phone, a mischief when you sit down.


The case is made from a material called Cordura, apparently it was developed for the armed forces. It certainly looks and feels as though it can withstand plenty of rough treatment. The samples we’ve seen have flaps at the top and bottom -- secured by large press-studs -- and elasticated sides, so they can accommodate large batteries. The quality of manufacture is very good and the holes are mostly in the right position, though we had a bit of trouble with the microphone opening on an Ericsson 318, which has a rather fat battery.  


A transparent panel on the front gives good access to the buttons and display. On the back there’s a round lug, that slides into the belt holder. The holder is mounted on a loop, rather than a clip, so it stays in place, for as long as you keep your trousers on. The clip design is rather neat, it’s called the ‘WIPS’ system for some reason we have yet to fathom, but according to the publicity blurb it was supposedly designed for gun holsters. The clip on the back of the case slots into V-shaped guide groove and locks securely into place. It can’t be removed until two buttons on the side of the clip are pressed together. The same clip design is also used on a optional shoulder holster.


The combination of the WIPS clip and the Cordura material oozes a tough cop image. If that’s what you’re after, with the added benefit of being very strong and difficult to pinch, the Pocket Liberator certainly does the job, and at a reasonable price.  



Typical Price            £25-29

Features            Cordura webbing, ‘WIPS’ quick release belt clip

To fit                 most popular phones

Contact Digital Images, 0171-636 7127




Cast your minds back a couple of months, to the November issue, and our review of the Vivox stereo hands free car kit. The ink was barely dry when we heard from Vivox in Italy, who are rather excited about their new Mark 2 version. We were quite impressed by the Mark 1, but we had one or two quibbles, so it sounded like it could be worth another look. It seems they’ve taken our comments to heart, and made some useful changes.


Just in case you missed it first time around, here’s a brief recap. It’s a very neat design, based around a speaker/interface module, mounted on the end of a flexible stalk, that plugs into the car’s cigarette lighter socket. A connector lead attaches to the phone and plugs into the speaker box. The ‘stereo’ facility concerns the supplied cassette adaptor module, which routes the sound output through a car radio cassette player. Cellphone audio is mono, but heard through the car speakers, it sounds as though it’s stereo, plus, of course, you have the extra volume from the stereo, and tone controls, so it sounds a lot better than most other car kits. Other notable features include full-duplex operation for simultaneous two-way conversation -- there’s no break-up when both parties try to talk at once --  and the unit charges the phone battery whilst it’s in use.


The most significant change on the Mk 2 is the provision for an external microphone. On the first version the mike was built into the loudspeaker module. It was quite sensitive, but not very directional, so callers heard a good deal of road noise. The new outfit actually comes with two microphones, so the kit can be easily swapped between two cars. Both microphones have self adhesive pads, so they can be left in place, one has a long lead, that will easily reach the sun-visor on most cars, the other is shorter, suitable for dashboard mounting.


The other notable change is a small improvement in the audio from the loudspeaker module. On the first sample we felt the car stereo adaptor was more or less essential as the speaker wasn’t very loud. The output appears to have been beefed up a little, so it’s not quite so dependent on the adaptor, though you’ll still need it, if you drive a noisy car.


If you can’t run to a full car kit, or cannot -- for whatever reason - have one installed, then this is a useful and cost-effective alternative, and with the external microphones, it’s now even better. Recommended.



Typical Price            £90

Features            stereo sound, cassette tape interface, two external microphones

To fit                 Ericsson, Nokia, Motorola, Siemens

Contact Aerial King, 0171-483 2281/3447




This month’s battery care product comes from ORA. It’s the Dual Port Charger, with two slots, one for a phone and battery, the other a battery on its own. The front phone slot is a simple charger, the rear slot has switchable discharge and condition facilities.


Some versions of the charger -- including those for Nokia phones -- do not come with mains adaptor module. Instead they’re powered by the phone’s original adaptor. This has helped ORA keep the price down, to an affordable  £22.50 or thereabouts. Most other versions, that come with a AC adaptor -- mainly Motorola Flips and TACs -- cost around the same. Apparently there’s more gubbins inside the Nokia charger. The one for Ericsson phones must be even more complicated because it sells for around £45...


We’ve been trying out the Nokia model. There’s not a lot to it, the design is very straightforward. The phone stands upright, ready for use, the slot has room for thicker heavy duty batteries. Next to the battery slot there’s a small blue button, for the discharger/condition facility. Pressing the button for two seconds discharges the battery, once it’s drained it’s automatically re-charged. If the button is pressed and held for five seconds the unit goes into condition mode. This takes the battery pack through three complete charge/discharge cycles, which should be enough to eliminate cell-imbalance (the main cause of the nicad ‘memory’ effect). On the front of the charger  there’s a row of three LED indicators, which show slot occupied and charge state, changing colour from red to green; the one on the right indicates discharge status by changing colour, and flashing when it’s in the condition mode.


Operating times depend on the capacity of the battery (and the mains module), but we found it re-charged a standard Nokia 2110 packs in about 50 minutes.  A full discharge takes around 2 hours. Voltage and current measurements on our sample were well with recommended limits. It works well and the condition facility is a welcome extra, it’s good value too, though the Ericsson version seems a wee bit pricey.



Typical Price            £22.50

Features            Simultaneous charge and condition for phone and spare battery

To fit                 most popular phones, including Motorola and Nokia models and clones

Contact ORA Electronics Ltd., (01296) 415445




You might not have seen the Shengda 8880X before, but there’s no mistaking the styling, or the upside down ‘M’ logo. It’s a dead ringer for the old Motorola 8800X, the famous ‘builders’ phone. The Tongda 900X looks familiar too, it’s the spitting image of a Flip phone, right down to the position and labelling of the buttons and the hinged flap. They’re near perfect copies, but don’t try making a call with either of them, you’ll probably end up with a singed ear. They’re miniature cellphone-shaped cigarette lighters. We stumbled across them on a stall in Brighton Sunday market where they cost £4.00 each. Mind you, one leaks and the other one burns your finger; a gift idea maybe for a cellphone bore, trying to give up smoking...


The Kar Lok has to be the cheapest cellphone around, and there’s no line rental to pay, ever! It cost just £1, from the Croydon branch of Pound Land, and that included two AA sized batteries. It’s based on the Ericsson 337, the detail is impressive, right down to the removable battery pack. In fact the rubber keypad is a near perfect copy of the real thing. It might make a cheap replacement if yours is getting tatty? The Stubby aerial lights up and pressing the keys produce a variety of tones and an ultra-fast rendition of London Bridge is Falling Down. Best of all is the SIM card that slides into a slot in the base, but be warned, it won’t work without it...


At last, a pretend phone you can really communicate with, even though the range of the Digi-Tech Flip is only around 25 metres. This pair of phone-shape walkie-talkies, is loosely based on a Motorola Flip but only costs around £10 and talk-time is unlimited, or at least, it lasts as long as the PP3 batteries that power the two units.


Our last mock mobile is the smallest in this roundup. It belongs to Action Man, and it measures just 5cm from the tip of the aerial to the bottom of its Motorola style flip-flap. This is part of Action Man’s Stealth Surveillance outfit, which also includes a tiny laptop computer -- smaller than a Psion, but not as fast  --  a bizarre-looking gun and a radio gizmo, all for just £5.99. It seems Action Man’s pockets are as empty as his underpants; he obviously hasn’t paid his bill lately, we couldn’t get a peep out of it...



Typical Price            £1 to £10

Features            fire phones, fun phones and tiny phones

Contact your local market and toy stores

WHAT CELLPHONE VERDICT            50-70%, depending how sad or old you are...



Ó R. Maybury 1996 2911



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