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INTRO

Clips, clamps, indoor aerials and good vibrations, just some of the gadgets and widgets Rick Maybury has been playing with in this monthís accessory roundup

 

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DIGITAL IMAGES MICROVIBE, £29.90

 

Over the past year or so weíve seen several silent vibrating ringers, mostly designed for Ericsson 200/300 series phones, but none of them have been as small as this one. Itís the MicroVibe, from Digital Images. Itís one of the cheapest too, costing just £29.90. We only wish more phones had this sort of facility; silent ringers are a great idea, especially when you need to be able to receive incoming calls, but donít want to attract attention, or annoy those around you.

 

In common with other Ericsson-compatible vibrators it clips on to the bottom of the handset. It is fitted with a row of spring-loaded contacts, that mates with the accessory connector on the base. The device is held in place by a couple of small clips, that are released by pressing a pair of buttons on the side. The clips are quite strong, but our sample didnít sit flat on the phone; this was due to a small rubber pad on top of the vibrator, which seemed just a millimetre or so too thick. Shaving some off with a sharp knife soon fixed that!

 

As self proclaimed seekers after the truth we took it upon ourselves to have a peek inside the device. To be honest thereís not much to see, just a microchip, and what must be one of the worldís smallest electric motors. An unbalanced weight is attached to the spindle, and this is what produces the vibrations. For its size itís amazingly powerful, the vibrations are quite intense, and can be easily felt through a couple of layers of clothing. Itís not quite silent though. The motor makes an audible buzzing noise. Itís even louder if, for example, the phone is resting on a table. Itís probably not a good idea to leave the phone on a hard surface in any case, as when it rings it moves about,  dropping onto the floor if youíre unlucky.

 

Apart from the slightly uneven fit, the MicroVibe gets a clean bill of health. Itís certainly as good, maybe even a little better than the otherís weíve tested, itís small and very good value. Definitely worth considering if youíre an Ericsson user, who needs a little discretion now and again.

 

THE FACTS

Typical Price            £29.90

Features            silent, vibrating call alert

To fit                 Ericsson 200/300 series phones

Contact Digital Images, 0171-636 7122

 

WHAT CELLPHONE VERDICT            88%

 

CTI MULTI-FUNCTION SUCKER HOLDER, £12

Just when we thought weíd seen every type of cellphone holder there was, along comes the CTI Multi-Function Sucker Holder. So why is this one different? Well, to begin with thereís the sucker, which means thereís no need to drill holes, or muck around with clamps or unreliable sticky pads. It will fix to any smooth surface, and stay there! The sucker is a real industrial-grade design, made from an unusually thick rubbery material; once itís in place it just wonít let go.

 

For such a relatively inexpensive accessory itís quite a complex design, and very well made. The sucker is attached to a simple mounting plate. Into this slides a pair of adaptor brackets, theyíre held together by a sort of double ball and socket thingamajig -- it should be clearer how it works in the photograph. This means the two adaptor brackets can freely rotate and twist around to a wide range of angles. Once set,  the two ball joints can be locked into position, using a cross-head screwdriver. The top mounting plate slots into the phone holder. This is a simple bracket, with a moulded loop for the belt clip on a soft carry case or holster. All of the cases we tried it with slipped in and out of the clip quite easily. Both sets of mounting plates lock into place and can only be released by pressing a fiendishly tight button.

 

Weíre probably the worldís leading experts on mobile phone holders, and we can say, with some conviction, that this is one of the most versatile oneís weíve seen in quite a while. Itís solidly built, versatile, and that sucker has a tenacious grip. The price is sensible and we commend it to anyone looking for a secure holder for their phone, that will attach to any flat, smooth surface, in a car, boat, caravan, desk top, filing cabinet, or indeed anything else you can think of.

 

THE FACTS

Typical Price            £12.00

Features            universal holder for cased phones with belt clips

To fit                 most makes and models

Contact AMT, (01323) 505252

 

WHAT CELLPHONE VERDICT            90%

 

DIGI 1800 INDOOR CELLPHONE ANTENNA, £29.50

It comes as a nasty shock to a lot of people, that their fancy new cellular phone either doesnít work, or performs badly inside buildings. Modern office tower blocks are often the worst offenders, the metal frames are a very effective screen for cellular radio signals. In marginal coverage areas even a couple of layers of bricks can be enough to cut you off. This can be especially galling for those who depend on their phones at home. Standing by the window, or having to go into the back garden to use the phone isnít much fun, not when youíre paying twenty or thirty quid a month for the privilege...

 

Clearly the problem lies with the squitty little antennas fitted to most mobile handsets, but the old coat-hanger trick simply doesnít work with cellphones... Ordinary car cellphone antennas arenít much use either, they depend on the metallic mass of the vehicle to act as a Ďground-planeí, that increases the antennas effectiveness. Nevertheless, they can be made to work, which is precisely what Advanced Mobile Technology (AMT) have done.

 

Theyíve developed a modified car cellphone aerial, for indoor use, called the Digi 1800. Itís an update of an old idea, much favoured by amateur radio and CB enthusiasts. They found they could use their magnetic-mount mobile antennas indoors, by attaching them to biscuit tins and metal trays, to provide the essential ground-plane effect. The ground plane on the Digi 1800 is formed by a 240 mm square sheet of thin galvanised steel, with a car antenna mount in the middle. It comes supplied with a 5-metre length of cable, outdoor mounting bracket and fixing bolts. The outfit also includes a whip antenna, and a handset antenna coupler, both chosen to suit the phone the outfit is going to be used with. Most makes and models are covered,  and  networks as well, including GSM and PCN, (which operate on different frequency bands). AMT can also supply an optional desktop phone holder and a 12-volt mains adaptor, with an integral cigarette lighter socket, that can be used with a car cord, to keep the phoneís battery on charge.

 

Itís simple to set up and use; the manufacturers advise trying the antenna in a number of locations in, around and outside the building, whilst checking the phoneís signal strength meter. Extra lengths of connecting cable can be supplied, so the handset can be sited in the most convenient location. The brief instruction sheet contains some useful hints and tips for DIY installation, but itís all self explanatory, and thereís very little to go wrong.

 

Performance is excellent. We tried it in several difficult building, and on a number of phones; in all cases there was a noticeable improvement in the quality and reliability of the connection, when compared with just the handset on its own. Typically it boosted a one or two-bar signal to three, four or even five bars, which in practice means all the difference between a clear call and a dropped or unstable connection. It works even better when the antenna is outside, in some cases providing a stronger, cleaner signal than the handsetís own antenna.  It canít perform miracles, though, and it will only work in an area where thereís at least a vestige of coverage. Itís also worth pointing out that attaching wires to your mobile handset limits its mobility, itís also somewhat ironical, especially if there is a BT phone or line nearby...

 

If youíre in the habit of using your mobile indoors, or you would like to, but canít then the Digi 1800 is certainly worth thinking about. Do make sure thereís a signal to begin with; if you can get at least a bar or two on the phoneís signal strength display whilst hanging out of the window, then it should work for you too.

 

THE FACTS

Typical Price            £29.50

Features            indoor cellphone antenna

To fit                 most popular makes and models

Contact AMT telephone (01323) 505252

 

WHAT CELLPHONE VERDICT            90%

 

VOCALL UNIVERSAL PHONE CLIP AND BRACKET, £6.99

It seems an odd thing to say, but one of the problems with owning a cellphone, is that theyíre a bit too mobile! You can use them in the car, pop them in a jacket pocket or holster and wear them on a belt. However, that involves fitting or removing cases, inserting and unplugging connectors, detaching cradles and fumbling about with press-studs or Velcro straps. Add up how much time each of these operations takes and youíll probably find that in the course of a lifetime youíre going to spend the equivalent of a couple of days, messing about moving your phone from one type of holder to another...

 

Get a life, get a Universal Phone Clip and Bracket, like this one from Vocall. Itís a simple two-piece design. A spring-steel clip fits onto the back of the phone -- usually on the battery pack -- using a pad of double-sided adhesive. This acts as a belt clip, and it also slips over a dash-mount bracket, which is supplied as part of the outfit. This is a V-shaped piece of spring steel; one end has screw holes, on the other thereís a shaped moulding, to lock the belt clip into position. The beauty of this bracket is that transferring the phone between your car, and your belt or pocket, takes no more than a couple of seconds, think of all the time youíre going to save!

 

Itís simply and sturdily made, about the only thing we can see that might go wrong is the bonding of the clip to the phone battery. The instructions warn that the adhesive takes 24 hours to cure, and not to use the phone during that time.  We suspect a lot of people wonít wait that long, and risk weakening the joint, in which case theyíll be putting their phone at risk. We would also have liked to have seen a second belt clip, assuming that most cellphone users will eventually acquire at least one spare battery pack. Otherwise it works well, and the price is fair.

 

THE FACTS

Typical Price            £6.99

Features            belt-clip and car bracket

To fit                 most makes and models

Contact Vocall, telephone (01707) 266222 

 

WHAT CELLPHONE VERDICT            80%

 

PHONEY OF THE MONTH

WOTOROLA ACRIPTOR DZ2, £7.50

This will amuse the chaps at Motorola... Itís a blatant rip-off of one of their digital message pagers, right down to the cunningly inverted ĎMí logo, belt clip and chain. Itís actually a fag lighter, one of those wind-proof types. Thereís also a built-in a digital clock, but our one refused to tell the time, and we couldnít figure out how to set it, or change the battery. Tacky crap, but it might get you a few laughs down the pub. A couple of words of warning. The flame is so fierce you could weld with it, and it comes perilously close to your thumb. If that doesnít get it, the lid will. It comes down with an almighty thwack, if you try to use the lighter whilst it in the belt clip.

 

THE FACTS

Typical Price            £7.50

Features            combined fire, time and finger whacker

To fit                 most trouser belts

Contact the novelty stall in your local street market

 

WHAT CELLPHONE VERDICT            40%

 

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R. Maybury 1997 1202

 


 

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