What Cellphone






Smarter messages, cleaner signals and cleaner phones, Rick Maybury dishes the dirt on this month’s accessory roundup...




Ask most people with a digital mobile phone, what they consider are the most important facilities on their handset and you’ll probably end up with a demonstration of twenty different ringing tones, or the confident assertion that their calls cannot be overheard. Ask them about SMS and likely as not you’ll get a blank stare. The fact is, almost all digital phones can receive SMS, or Short Message Service data -- brief text messages up to 160 characters long. Quite a few phones can send SMS as well, but comparatively few users seem to know much about it, let alone actually use the system.


Part of the problem is that sending text messages has, until recently, been fairly difficult. Composing a text message on a phone key pad -- on models with that facility -- is extremely laborious. Messages can be sent via a bureau, but the numbers are not widely advertised, and there is a cost to the sender. SMS text messages can also be sent from a PC, equipped with a modem, and most general purpose comms software, but unless you know what you’re doing it can be very time-consuming, not to say frustrating. Within the past eighteen months several companies have come up with specially written SMS software for PCs. PageMail from Dialogue Communications was one of the first, that was back in June 1995. It has been very successful, appearing in various guises as a badged or bundled product. Now it has been updated, we’ve been looking at Version  1.5, which has just gone on sale for £39.00.


In order to use it you will need a Windows PC with a modem, or a laptop with a digital phone and data card; the latter option will allow you to receive and archive messages, as well as send them. System requirements are quite modest, it needs a 386 processor or above, with 4Mb of RAM and 3 Mb of free hard disc space. The software is supplied on a single 3.5-inch floppy, it loads from within Windows, there’s a couple of check-boxes, and it needs to know a bit about the modem, but on most systems it should install fairly easily within a few minutes.



The desktop is divided into two halves; the left side contains the message entry area, with a character remaining display, and a keypad, for entering phone numbers. One of the new features on V1.5 is an auto network sensing address book, that selects the correct network as soon as the recipients prefix code is entered. The right side of the desktop is for the address book and message logs. It’s exceptionally easy to use, but in case you get into a tangle there’s a comprehensive help facility. Text messages sent using PageMail 1.5 were received without any errors. Incoming messages -- received via a cellphone and suitable data card -- are flagged by a flashing icon, or ‘post-it’ message, popping up on the screen. Messages store in the phone can be downloaded into the PC, freeing up the phone’s memory.


The relatively low price reflects the simplicity of the software. There are other SMS packages on the market, with extra bells and whistles, but if all you’re after is a quick and simple way to send a short text message to a GSM phone or digital pager, and handle incoming text messages on a laptop, PageMail does the job, and does it well.



Typical Price            £39.00

Features            SMS send and receive (receive with data card only), address book, message log, network ‘autosense’, 

To fit                 Windows PC/laptop, 386 or higher with 3Mb spare hard disc capacity, Hayes compatible modem or cellular data card

Compatible with: Cellnet, Vodaphone, Orange, One 2 One, BT Mobile Text Paging, Hutchinson Text Paging, Mercury Text Paging, Vodapage Text Paging plus GSM/PCN cellphones/text paging  systems in Australia, Ireland, New Zealand and South Africa

Contact            Dialogue Communications, telephone (0114) 281 5275





The antennas fitted to most cellphones are about as efficient as a piece of wet string, but that’s one of the penalties we willingly pay for the convenience of small pocketable handsets. Much of the time -- when a phone is used within the reception area of a cell site -- it doesn’t matter too much, but the inadequacies of most antennas starts to show when signal strength starts to fall, leading eventually to a dropped or lost call. Anything that can improve antenna efficiency clearly has to be welcomed, providing it works!


First Scene Ltd reckon they’ve got a product that can ‘improve clarity and sensitivity’. It’s called ‘Speak Easy’, the packaging describes it as a ‘Magnetic Cellphone Antenna’. Curiously there’s not a magnet in sight, just a small 3cm square pad of transparent plastic material, with an adhesive backing. Embedded in the plastic is a pattern of metallic foils. According to the instructions the pad is stuck to the back of the phone, where it can be touched, whilst the phone is in use. Our sample was accompanied by a technical report from the Oueyama Electricwave Institute of Osaka. This proclaimed. amongst other things, that it ‘increases antenna capacity from 75 to 95MHz’, and the ‘Electric Magnetic Wave 20% to 30% reducing from original’. Moreover, there is no cancer risks, ‘using high stability metals like gold and sliver’. Words like meaningless, tosh and cobblers spring immediately to mind.


The scientific principles behind the Speak Easy are somewhat vague, but we suspect it’s an attempt to enhance the ground-plane effect of the user’s body. A ground-plane is the second half of an antenna, the first half being the actual radiating element. The ground-plane plays an important role in the effectiveness of an antenna, increasing its ability to transmit and receive radio signals. On a fixed transmitter the ground-plane is the ground itself, or, in the case of a car mobile antenna, the vehicle body, but on a hand-portable phone there is no ground-plane to speak of, but -- and this is just speculation -- the foils inside Speak Easy presumably enable some sort capacitive coupling of the user’s body to the transmitter circuitry inside the phone, creating some sort of limited ground-plane effect.


Whatever, it didn’t make a blind bit of difference to three of the four phones we tried it with. The tests were conducted in a marginal signal area. We tried it with a variety of models, analogue and digital, two of which are fitted with highly accurate digital signal strength meters. We tried the pad in a variety of positions, making calls to access both the quality and the reliability of the contact. The only phone to exhibit any kind of improvement was an old Motorola Micro TAC classic analogue phone, connected to Vodaphone network. Here the patch gave a small reduction in noise level on the line, but our tests showed no significant improvement in signal strength, that would have resulted in an increase in range or contact reliability.


Sorry, we’re not convinced, and it would have to do a darn sight more than reduce the hiss on one old analogue phone to be worth twenty quid in our book.



Typical Price            £20 (plus £1.95 p&p)

Features            stick-on antenna ‘booster’

To fit                 most makes and models

Contact First Scene Ltd., telephone (01304) 832093





Since we last carried out an in-depth investigation into telephone care products (What Cellphone August 1996) our phones have started to whiff again; a good excuse to check out the phone cleaner situation.


The mouthpiece on a mobile phone can be a breeding ground for bacteria and all sorts of unpleasant microbiological organisms. Regular cleaning keeps the bugs at bay and removes sticky deposits and other gunge, that come from constant handling; it also makes the phone smell a whole lot better. We’re still waiting for some enterprising company to bring out a cleaning kit specifically aimed at cellphone users, but we did come across two phone cleaner products we’ve not seen before, at our local Byte Computer superstore.


They’re the AF Phoenclens, and Fellowes Telephone Cleaner. They’re both impregnated fabric wipes, the AF ones are individually wrapped, sold in boxes of 100, which works out at 11.15 pence each. The Fellowes wipes come in re-sealable packs of 25, they’re slightly larger and they only cost 7.8 pence each.   


The Fellowes wipes are soaked in isopropyl alcohol with a sort of lemony smell. It’s actually quite pleasant. Unfortunately they’re only slightly damp and the cloths dry out quite quickly; really stubborn deposits can be difficult to shift with just one wipe. The AF wipes are almost dripping with cleaning solution, there’s no mention of what it is on the packet, but we suspect it’s isopropyl alcohol again, this time unscented. The smaller cloth stays wetter longer consequently it’s quite good at removing really sticky gunge. Overall they both do quite a good job and leave the phone looking, and smelling a whole lot cleaner. In the end though, the cheaper, nicer-smelling Fellowes wipes just have the edge.



Typical Price            £11.15 for 100, and £1.95 for 25

Features            impregnated wipes, containing cleaning and sanitising agents

To fit                 All phones

Contact Byte Computer Superstores

WHAT CELLPHONE VERDICT            80% & 85%



All cellphones come supplied with some sort of charger. Most people keep theirs at home, so the battery can be given an overnight charge. However, if the phone gets a lot of use throughout the day the battery could be on its last legs by mid-afternoon, so there’s a good case for having a second charger, at work or in the office. It also saves having to carry a spare battery.


Normally you wouldn’t expect to get much change from around £35 to £40 for a half-decent desktop charger, but the Multi-Max from GRM costs just £25, which is a good deal less than the price of a second battery pack for most phones. It’s a simple design, a basic constant-current fast-charger, that takes around an hour to re-charge a standard battery; it’s powered by a plug-in adaptor module. Our sample, for the Nokia 2110, has a single slot for a phone and battery, with plenty of room for fatter, high-capacity types.


The holder has a fold-out foot on the base, which provides extra stability. The lead from the power supply module plugs into a socket on the back. On the front there’s two LED indicators, a green one for power, and a multi-colour (red, orange, green) LED, that shows the state of charge. When the battery is fully charged, or the unit times out, it automatically switches to trickle-charge mode. The phone can be safely left switched on and ready for use, whilst it’s on charge.


MultiMax has no discharge facilities, though we didn’t really expect to find any on a charger in this price bracket. You’ll have to make other arrangements if you want to get the most out of your nicad packs. Everything checked out okay; voltage and current are within recommended limits and the short-circuit protection works satisfactorily. The phone fits comfortably in the holder and it’s fairly well made. It’s functional and sensibly priced, and might just get you out of a hole one day.



Typical Price            £25

Features            nicad/NiMh compatible, auto trickle charge, LED charge progress indicator

To fit                 Nokia 2110 etc.          

Contact GRM Ltd., (01253) 773177




Ó R. Maybury 1996 1111



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