This month two new hands-free kits, a carry
case for gymnasts and a data card for surfing the net from your mobile...
GRM PORTABLE HANDS FREE KIT, £30
Walk and talk hands-free kits got off to a fairly
slow start but they seem to be gaining ground, judging by the number of new
products appearing on the market. This latest one comes from GRM, it should be
appearing on an accessory rack at a mobile phone dealer near you for just £30.
On the outside it doesn’t look significantly different from most of the others
we’ve seen, inside it’s a different story. The module that clips onto the
bottom of the phone (we’ve been trying a pre-production Ericsson version), is
crammed full of electronic circuitry, most of the others are full of air... The
manufacturers are being a bit cagey about how it all works, to the extent of
grinding off the numbers on the chip, but we’ve been informed that it’s a noise
cancellation and amplifier circuit.
There are two minijack sockets on the module,
one is for the mike and earphone cable, the other is for an optional car cord.
The tops of the gold plated contacts that mate with the accessory connector on the
base of the phone are rounded and lightly sprung, to ensure a more effective
The earphone and in-line microphone look
familiar, but again there are subtle differences. They’ve used a higher grade
cable with a larger than average number of thinner conductors, which both
improves audio quality, and provides better screening, to reduce the chance of
interference, from things like strip lighting and computer monitors.
All well and good, but do any of they make a
difference? The short answer is yes. Immunity to noise is clearly better than
average, comparisons with another recently tested kit showed it to be less affected
by interference, and levels of background hiss were marginally lower. However,
the most significant change was in earpiece volume, which was slightly higher
than normal, making it easier to hear the caller when there’s a lot of background
noise. There’s no such thing as a free lunch, even with cellphone accessories, and
the extra circuitry has to get its power from somewhere, in this case the phone
battery. The current consumption is actually very small, in the order of a few
milliamps. This will impact on power drain, but we suspect that at worst it’ll
knock a few minutes off the running time, so it shouldn’t be a problem. Taking
into account the price and performance this one is definitely worth
Typical Price £30
Features personal/walk-and-talk hands-free kit, full-duplex (supported
To fit selected Ericsson, Motorola and
Ltd., telephone (01253) 773177
WHAT CELLPHONE VERDICT 82%
PIVO CLIP PHONE HOLDER, from £25
Keeping a mobile phone safe but accessible when
it’s notbeing used has taxed the finest minds in the accessory industry for
years. Ordinary soft cases with belt clips protect the phone, but they’re
easily pinched. On some designs, the controls can be hard to get at, or the
case obscures the earphone and microphone holes. Pouches and holsters are one
solution but they can be expensive moreover buckles and clasps can make the
phone difficult to get at. Pivo Clip is an attempt to solve both problems. The
phone is contained within a rugged carry case, but it is fixed to the belt-clip
by a quick-release mechanism. This allows the phone to pivot, so it won’t jab
you in the thigh every time you sit down. The makers go so far as to suggest you
can safely cartwheel with it on, though we couldn’t find any volunteers in the What
Cellphone office to verify this claim...
The case is made from a mixture of tough
Cordura and composite materials, it has a definite military bearing. The controls
are protected by a transparent panel on the front. The handset is held in place
by straps top and bottom and a pair of strong press-studs, the sides are
elasticated, to accommodate fatter, heavy-duty batteries. On the back there’s a
circular lug that slides into a V-shaped groove on the belt clip. Once in place
it’s locked in position, and can only be released by pressing a pair of buttons
on the side of the clip. The clip has a strap that goes around the belt, it’s
backed with Velcro to make sure it stays put.
For an extra £9.95 Deben can also supply a
panel-mounting clip, for a car dashboard, or mounting in a boat, caravan etc.
This comes with a screw fitting, and a set of industrial-grade Velcro pads. A
cleaning swab is also included, to get rid of any greasy deposits on the
surfaces they’re going to be attached to.
All of the items are made to a high standard,
the case was a good fit on the Ericsson phone we tried it with. The clip
mechanism is very strong and despite our best efforts, it wouldn’t come away from
the belt holder. Compared with regular carry cases it seems fairly expensive
but if you’re concerned about the safety and security of your phone, it could
be money well spent.
Typical Price £25 (case and belt holder), ‘Extra’
Features phone case with fast release swivel
To fit most popular makes and models
Contact Deben Group Industries, telephone
WHAT CELLPHONE VERDICT 80%
KONDOR UNIVERSAL HANDS-FREE CAR KIT, £140
If you’re in the market for a hands-free car
kit, one of the last things you’ll be thinking about is what will happen to it,
when eventually you replace the phone. Given that the average mobile phone user
changes their handset every three to five years it’s something to bear in mind.
Normally you will have to buy another car kit, most models are dedicated to one
particular type of phone, but the Kondor Universal Kit is different.
It’s a ‘two-pack’ outfit, comprising a
control box plus ancillary components in one box, and the dedicated cradle in
the other. The control box is a standard design, but the cradle is tailored
specifically to the phone. Inside there’s a programmable micro-chip with
details of the phone, so when you change the handset, all you need to do is buy
a new cradle, costing around £45.
Included with the kit is a compact external
speaker, microphone with visor clip and power lead. Two types are available, one
is terminated with a cigarette-lighter plug; the other one is intended for a
more permanent installation and has bare wires for radio mute, ignition sense
and connection to car stereo speakers. The wiring colour codes are the same for
both types -- details are in the instructions -- so you could just chop off the
cigar lighter plug and hard wire it yourself, if you’re handy with car
electrics. Incidentally, the control box can be powered by a 12 or 24 volt
supply, making it suitable for use in lorries and vans.
The cradle is an elaborate design. The phone
fits inside an frame-type holder, that carries the accessory connector and ID
microchip; a curly lead, fitted with 15-pin D-type socket plugs into the side
of the control box. On the back of the D-socket there’s an FME aerial socket,
for an external antenna. The phone -- in its support bracket -- clips into a separate
dashboard holder. The arrangement makes it a little easier to remove the phone,
when you leave the vehicle. A mounting bracket sits between the cradle and the
dashboard, it’s articulated, so the phone can be set to the most comfortable position
for the driver. The bracket attaches to the dashboard using a sticky pad,
coated with 3M adhesive. It’s stong stuff, but we would have preferred a more
permanent alternative, though there’s nothing to stop you drilling a few holes
in the bracket or buying a ‘clamshell’ type mount. The control box and speaker
are both screwed in place, fixings are supplied. The instructions are quite
easy to follow and whilst it’s a little more complicated to install than most
other car kits, it should be well with the scope of most DIYers.
Sound quality from the speaker is very good
indeed, volumes levels should be adequate for the majority of family saloons, if
not there’s the option to route the audio output through the car stereo
speakers. Microphone sensitivity and directionality are satisfactory, you may
need to speak up a little to make sure the caller can hear you, but background
noise and road rumble were not a problem during our tests.
Overall performance and the quality of
construction are both well above average but it’s the flexiblity of the
installation that impressed us most, and the fact that changing your phone
doesn’t mean having to rip out the car kit. Worth considering.
Typical Price £140
car kit with ignition sense and radio mute, intelligent charger, full-duplex
(supported models), optional connection to car stereo speakers
To fit most popular makes and models
Ltd., (01202) 481133
WHAT CELLPHONE VERDICT 87%
Ó R. Maybury 1997 1806