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MOBILE EXTRAS

 

INTRO

Improve your reception, and your street cred with this month’s selection of mobile accessories, tried and tested by as usual by Rick Maybury

 

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ALLGON BASE 2000 FOR GSM, £20

 

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We haven’t looked at many body-mount antennas in Mobile Extras, not that there’s anything wrong with them -- quite the reverse -- but we know a lot of people don’t like the idea drilling holes in their nice shiny cars. The alternative -- glass-mount

antennas  -- are reasonably cheap, plus they’re easy to fit and remove, but they do impose a small performance penalty. Body mount antennas have other advantages, they look more professional, and because they’re mounted high up, out of the way, they’re less prone to vandalism.

 

However, the key factor has to be performance. Part of the reason body mount antennas are more efficient is the direct electrical connection between the radiating element and the phone, via the cable. Glass mount antennas rely on a capacitively-coupled signal, that has to pass through a layer of glass. Inevitably there are losses, that weaken incoming signals and, to a lesser extent, transmitted signals as well. However the main reasons body mount antennas work better is that they’re normally located above the roof-line of the car and the large mass of metalwork beneath the antenna acts as an effective ground plane, that significantly improves transmission efficiency.

 

We generally recommend body mount antennas should be fitted by a professional installation engineer. They know the best place for them to go, and they’re usually pretty good at removing, and re-fitting trim. This is especially true of headlining, which can be a real swine to get back into place. If you feel confident you can do the job yourself, then the Allgon Base 2000 has to be one of the simplest body mount antennas on the market. The GSM kit we’ve been looking at has only three parts. There’s a 5 metre cable, with a female FME connector at one end, and the body mount at the other. To hold it in place there’s the ‘nut’, which is actually a small black plastic cone, with integral seals, to prevent moisture from getting to the metalwork; lastly there’s the 50mm 0dB radiator, that screws into the top of the nut. Allgon reckon the seal is extremely effective and has been tested under water, to a depth of 1 metre. This will certainly come in handy if you’re thinking of fitting a cellphone to your submarine...

 

It requires a 15mm diameter hole in the car’s metalwork, Allgon have come up with a neat way of threading the base unit into place. The outfit includes a short length of plastic tubing, that fits over then end of the radiator mounting screw, making it a whole lot easier get it into position, and hold it in place. Once it’s in, screw on the nut and tighten it. Four raised ‘teeth’ on the base dig into the metal bodywork as it is tightened up, thus ensuring a good electrical connection for the cable earth. That’s really all there is to it, apart from running the cable, and getting the trim back into place.

 

We tested our sample on a Fiat Uno with the antenna mounted just behind the tailgate. We compared it with a similarly-priced glass-mount antenna from another well-known company. Both antennas were connected to a car kit fitted with a Motorola 7500, and the phone’s own aerial. There was an immediate increase in the strength of the received signal, up from three to five bars at selected test sites. Without an external aerial calls made from inside the car were unreliable and frequently dropped when the car was moving. The glass-mount antenna performed well, especially in built-up areas, but the quality of contact changed very quickly in some areas. Repeating the test with the Allgon antenna  gave an immediate improvement, it was much more consistent with far fewer dropouts and clearer sound, particularly with a marginal signal. If you depend on your phone, and you spend a lot of time in rural areas, or places where signal strength is poor, then the Base 2000 GSM could make a big difference.

 

THE FACTS

Typical Price            £20

Features            simple to fit body mount kit with 0dB radiator and five metres of cable, terminated with a female FME plug

To fit                 most car kits with provision for an external antenna

Contact Allgon Antennas,  27 Manor Road, Didcot, Oxon OX11 7JZ.

Telephone, 01235 811119

 

WHAT CELLPHONE VERDICT            85%

 

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SAMSONITE SPORTS-LINE 3, £20

Until now the Samsonite brand has mainly been associated with top-grade leather cellphone cases but now they’re attempting to broaden their appeal, to a younger audience with the Sports Line range of holster/pouches. They’re available in a range of colours, and made from 420 denier high-density nylon. This material is extremely durable and water-repellent, though it’s not billed as either water-proof or resistant.  The sides are elasticated, so they can easily accommodate phones fitted with thicker, heavy-duty battery packs.

 

On the front there’s a small zippered pouch, just big enough to store a small bunch of keys a few coins or notes. Unfortunately the Nokia 2110 case we’ve been looking at isn’t quite wide enough to take credit cards (on the other hand, maybe that’s a good thing...). On the back there’s a wide belt loop, help in place by a Velcro fastener. We’re not totally happy about this arrangement and it will come away from the belt quite easily if tugged or snagged, moreover, if the fastening isn’t completely square, the weight of the phone can be enough to undo the loop. The phone is held in place by a top flap, also fastened by Velcro; it has a cut out for the antenna. The flap is a fairly loose fit, so it doesn’t obscure the ringer hole on the top of the case.

 

The finish, cut and standard of construction are all very good; the stitching is neat and it feels as though it should last. The price, for a Samsonite product, is very attractive, though bear in mind what we’ve said about the security of the belt loop

 

THE FACTS

Typical Price            £20

Features            Velcro-fixing belt-loop and top flap, zip pouch, elasticated sides

To fit                 most popular makes and models

Contact Hama, Unit 4 Cherrywood, Chineham Business Park, Basingstoke, Hants RG24 OWF, telephone (01256) 708110

 

WHAT CELLPHONE VERDICT            80%

 

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ORA CHARGE AND TALK, £45

The popularity of their hands-free phone kits has prompted ORA to upgrade the dangly microphone and earphone supplied with the outfit, with a lightweight boom mike headset. Other components in the kit have also been replaced, it now includes an air vent-mounting bracket, that attaches to the dashboard phone holder. The car charger cord remains the same though, this plugs into the car’s cigarette lighter socket, powering the phone and charging the battery at the same time.

 

We’ve been trying out a kit for the Nokia 2010/2110 and clones made for Philips and Mercury. The other end of the car cord’s curly lead plugs into the phone’s accessory socket; one side is clearly labelled, though quite why they chose the word ‘top’ when it plugs into the bottom of the phone, is a mystery. The headset plugs into a mini jack socket on the back of the charger module, the lead is around 1.5 metres long. The air vent mount is relatively easy to fit, alternatively the holder can be screwed directly to the dashboard, if you don’t mind drilling a few holes.

 

The headset can be worn on either ear. It took a couple of minutes to figure out how to wear it, a simple diagram or picture would have been helpful. Once in place it is reasonably secure. It’s light and comfortable to wear for extended periods. The microphone boom can be bent, to suit the contours of the wearer’s face. Sound quality from the earphone is okay, quite trebly but that’s all to the good with speech. Volume level is adequate on the Nokia 2110 though it could have done with a little more pressure on the earphone as there’s a fair amount of leakage. The microphone performs well too, transmitted audio is clear, sensitivity is fairly low so background noise isn’t a problem.   

 

The new headset is a great improvement over the previous arrangement, it’s far more comfortable, and speech quality is better. A quality hands-free kit, that works well and is sensibly priced.

 

THE FACTS

Typical Price                 £45 and £60

Features                       hands-free car kit with car cord, dashboard holder and air-vent mounting kits

To fit                             most popular makes and models

Contact             ORA  Electronics, 28/29 Faraday Road, Aylesbury, Bucks HP19 3RY, telephone (01296) 415445,

 

WHAT CELLPHONE VERDICT            88%

 

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UNIVERSAL BELT CLIP, £0.99

 

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Belt clips for mobile phones don’t come much simpler, or cheaper than this one. It’s sold by Tandy and bears a passing resemblance to a little holder kit we reviewed last year. There are two parts, a low-profile sleeve, that sticks to the back of the phone or battery pack, and the actual spring metal clip. The idea of the detachable clip is to allow the phone to fit into holders, cases or chargers. It’s kept in place by an adhesive pad, that the manufacturer’s recommend be allowed 24 hours to fully cure.

 

To use the clip the metal spring slides into a slot on the back of the mounting pad, it clicks into place and can only be removed with a screwdriver blade, or similar, to lift the end of the spring and release a small catch. The backside of the belt clip is hinged and opens out to form what we can only suppose is some sort of leg or foot. Presumably it’s some kind of desk stand, though not a very good one, and all of the phones we tried it with toppled over; there’s no mention of it in the brief instructions on the back of the packing.

 

The adhesive is very strong indeed and we had enormous trouble removing it, so it should be pretty secure. The steel clip is good and springy, so there’s little or no danger of the phone coming adrift, if you’re a bouncy walker or indulge in occasional hop skip or jump.  If you’re looking for a cheap and simple alternative to a conventional carry case or holder this could be it.

 

THE FACTS

Typical Price            £0.99

Features            removable belt clip

To fit                 most phones

Contact Your local Tandy store

WHAT CELLPHONE VERDICT            88%

 

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PHONEY OF THE MONTH

 

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GSM EASY LINK PHONE

 

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Motorola are the clear favourites for the phoney cloners, so this Nokia 2110 lookalike is a bit of a rarity, nay, a collectors item that can only become more valuable with the passage of time... The size, shape and button layout are almost perfect, only the stick-on dummy display gives the game away. The noises are the usual mixture of ringing tones, unrecognisable tunes and an oriental sounding voice saying things like ‘operator’ and ‘information, may I help you’. At a distance it  looks quite realistic; we can see all kinds of opportunities for gags and wheezes, if you’ve got a real 2110 some sleight of hand skills and a sense of mischief...

 

THE FACTS

Typical Price                 £1.99

Features                       five different tones, tunes and voices, retractable antenna

Looks like                     Nokia 2110

Power source                2 x AA cells    

Contact             novelty shops and market stalls    

WHAT CELLPHONE VERDICT            60%

 

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Ó R. Maybury 1997 0804

 


 

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