What Cellphone

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MOBILE QUESTIONS

 

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If youíve got a problem with your cellphone then ICCís resident mobile medic is here to help

 

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EMERGENCY ONLY

My wife and I live in a quiet part of East Anglia, weíre both retired -- well past the first flush of youth -- and because of the lack of public transport, we rely heavily on our car to get us about. However, like us, the car is not getting any younger. In the winter it can get very wild and lonely around here, so a mobile phone would give us both peace of mind, in case of a breakdown. Funds are limited and I am reluctant to pay through the nose for something that I might only need once in a blue moon. Which is the cheapest phone, to buy or rent, and how much does it cost to use?

Jim and Ellen Garfield, Feltham

 

The absolute bargain basement option would be get to get hold of an old analogue or an unwanted digital phone. You may find one at a car boot sale for a few pounds. Providing it is still working, and even though itís not connected to a network, locked or barred, most models can still be used to make emergency calls. Thatís clearly of limited use though, and the Police would not be very happy if you called 999 if your car conked out, unless you were in immediate danger.

 

New phones cost from nothing, to several hundred pounds; however, the real expense is in the monthly subscription and call charges. There used to be several Ďemergencyí tariffs, with low month rental and high call charges, but they seem to have disappeared. If you shop around you may be able to find deals on discontinued analogue phones for as little as £12 a month, most digital monthly line rentals start £17.50, though you might come across special offers and discounts from £15 a month. Calls on this kind of tariff will usually be 50 pence a minute at peak times. The best place to look would be your local newspapers, but read the small print and be alert to hidden extras. Youíll find some very good advice about choosing tariffs and air-time providers in our sister publication What Cellphone. Oh, and by the way, do check that a mobile phone will work satisfactorily in your area, though coverage in the Norfolk flatlands is normally quite good.

 

FAX OF LIFE

Can I connect my fax machine to my mobile phone when itís in the car, and will I be able to send and receive faxes whilst driving?

Steve Willard, Canvey Island

 

The short answer is no, you canít connect a normal fax machine to a cellphone -- finding a suitable 3-pin mains socket in your vehicle would be the least of the problems... However, there are plenty of other ways of sending and receiving faxes via your cellphone, though it has to be said that none of them are as quick, cheap, easy or reliable as a fixed line.  Firstly your phone has to be a digital model, that supports data communications, connected to a network with data connectivity. You will also need a laptop, notebook or hand-held PC and a means of linking it to your cellphone, usually a PC card with a dedicated connector for the phone. Hand-held PCs and low-end laptops start at around £600, PC cards cost from £150 upwards.

 

With the appropriate software you can send and receive faxes directly, but it can be painfully slow and unreliable, and thatís when the phone is static. Itís highly unlikely it would work at all from a moving vehicle in most places. Moreover, you will only be able to receive incoming faxes when the phone and PC are switched on, and operating in an area of good coverage. There is a way around that. A company called JFAX have special e-mail boxes for mobile phone users, that store received faxes. They can be picked up at any time, via the PC with an internet connection. It costs around £10 to set up, and thereís an £8 monthly subscription. You can get more information ion http://www.jfax.co.uk 

 

SNAP, CRACKLE, PLOP!

I recently installed a car kit for my Nokia 2110 in my Rover 1000. It is made by company called LGM Car-Star. I have to say it was rather cheap -- it only cost me £25 -- it worked sort of okayish for a few days, but it was never very good and there was a loud whine on the sound coming from the speaker. The few people I managed to talk to complained that they couldnít hear me very well. Then, on about the fourth day a loud Ďplopí sound came from the speaker, and it worked no more. Unfortunately I brought the outfit from a small shop in downtown Cardiff, whilst we were on holiday in the area. Itís too far to go back and in spite of repeated attempts to contact them by phone and letter, I have had no reply. Can you give me the address of LGM or their importers, so I can contact them directly.  

Peter Holm, Newcastle on Tyne

 

I can find no record of any company or accessory manufacturer going under the name of LGM, or anything remotely like it. Iím afraid youíve been lumbered and you can kiss that £25 good bye. In fact you are incredibly lucky it didnít trash the phone, that could have cost you several hundred pounds, for a replacement, repairs or rental payments to the end of your contract. Itís easy to be wise after the event but the old adage about getting what you pay for is especially true for mobile phone accessories. Quite frankly, Iím surprised it worked at all...

 

GLASS ACT

I have rebuilt, and now drive every day, a Reliant Scimitar, (No, itís not a three wheeler!). I would like to install a hands-free car phone. Iím want to do it myself as I donít trust anyone else to work on my car.  A Ďteccyí friend has told me that normal cellphone antennas do not work on glass-fibre bodied cars. Is this true, and if so do you know of anyone who makes aerials specifically for this purpose?

G.R. Shea, Middlesborough

 

Your friend is partially right, in that many car-phone antennas are designed to operate with a ground-plane. A ground plane is effectively the second element in dipole antenna. It is vitally important, without it an antenna will operate inefficiently, range and reliability of contact will suffer as a consequence. In most vehicle installations the ground plane effect is created by the metalwork of the car body, though clearly thatís not possible in your case. However, glass-mount antennas, which may be mounted some distance from any metal, also suffer from a limited ground plane, so a lot manufacturers compensate for this by building a ground plane component into the base of the antenna. Several companies go even further, with extended elements or fins, that enhance the effect.

 

I can understand your reasons for not wanting to let anyone mess around with your newly restored car but unless you include cellphone installation in your list of skills, then a job like this is almost certainly best left to the professionals. A reputable company will know the best type of antenna to use, the most effective position for it, and how to deal with the electrical interference problems that can be encountered in glass-fibre bodied cars. Such a firm should also take the trouble to consult with you over every aspect of the job. You should be able to get some recommendations from classic car groups. You might also try contacting the Reliant Sabre and Scimitar Owners Club, at PO Box 67, Teddington, Middlesex TW11 8QR, or check out their web pages on: http://elostar-ow.de/~p/scimweb/

 

A CASE FOR TREATMENT

Two months ago, whilst bending down to pick up my key ring, my mobile phone, an Ericsson 337, dropped out of my coat pocket and crashed to the floor. Remarkably it still worked, but the fall cracked the case, and now it has to be held together with sticky tape and doesnít seat properly in the car holder. I took it to the dealer -- a well known high street chain -- who sold me the phone and they said that since it wasnít insured, and it was more than a year old, they couldnít do anything about it, apart from replace it, which would cost me more than £200. This hardly seems fair, since I only paid £50 for it in the first place. My contract still has a year to run, and Iím left with a tatty looking phone. Any suggestions, apart from another layer of insulation tape?

Mick Cunningham, London SE

 

Why not have a new case fitted? A number of accessory companies market replacement cases for the 337, and other popular makes and models of phone. You can get straightforward black jobs, but thereís also some really snazzy alternatives, including see-through, coloured and pattered designs. Case replacement is not really a DIY job, but thereís plenty of firms who will do it for you, and itíll cost a lot less than £200. Check out your local cellphone accessory shops, or contact specialist companies like BTG (01992 825825), Kondor (01425 276644), New Face Communications (0181-951 4535) or Westar Connections (0181-903 3903), all of whom produce a wide range of replacement cases for the 337. 

 

ROAMING HOLIDAY

Weíre off to Minorca for our annual holidays later this year. Iím self-employed and naturally I want to take my phone with me, so I can stay in touch with my UK clients. Can you tell me if it will work on the island? If not, can I hire one here, or should I get one locally? If the island has a mobile phone system do you know if it works in cars, we shall be hiring a Vauxhall Corsa. My phone is a Motorola 7500 GSM, connected to Cellnet.

Terry Morris, Southend, Essex.

 

Good news. Your phone should work fine in Minorca. The Islandís is served by the Spanish Telefonica system, who have a roaming agreement with Cellnet. Before you go make sure your phone account is enabled for international calls, when you get there it should automatically log on and register with the local network. If it doesnít then you may have to do it manually; network selection is a menu function and it is clearly explained in the instruction book. Coverage is said to be very good in and around the larger towns. If youíre going to be doing a lot of driving, and expect to receive or make more than a few minuteís worth of calls each day, then it might be a good idea to take a car cord or a simple car kit with you, to keep the battery topped up. A hands-free car kit is preferable. Spanish police, like our own, take a dim view of motorists trying to use their phones and drive at the same time, besides which it is dangerous. By the way, expect a big bill when you get back, using your phone abroad isnít cheap, and youíll also pay extra to have calls from the UK routed through to you!

 

CLEAN MACHINE

I drive a company car, which I have to keep spotlessly clean. I want to fit a car kit but I canít drill any holes in the body for an antenna, so itís going to have to be a glass mount type. My question is, will the adhesive used to stick the aerial be able to withstand repeated washing?

N. Cheung, Halifax

 

A lot depends on the care taken during preparation, when you fit the antenna. Both sides of the glass must be scrupulously cleaned, the slightest trace of dirt or grease will weaken the bond. Most glass mount kits come with solvent wipes, though weíd leave them until last, to be used after the glass has first been treated with a good quality glass cleaner. The adhesive on the double-sided pads used on antenna bases and couplers, are specially formulated for glass and providing you follow the instructions, to the letter, it should stay in place for as long as you want it to.

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R. Maybury 1997 1404

 

 


 

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