Weíre ranging far and wide again this month. Thereís
a gadget for getting at the data on your SIM card, a specially formulated
polish for handset displays, and a phone-shaped drinking bottle...
CHIPY PROFESSIONAL SIM MANAGER
Beyond the fact that a digital mobile phone
wonít work properly without one, subscriber identity modules or SIM cards are a
bit of a mystery to many phone users. Itís actually quite straightforward. The
card contains an embedded microchip, programmed with data and information
relating to the userís subscription and the phone network. There are also
security features, that prevent unauthorised use of the card in someone elseís
phone, and a non-volatile memory, for storing phone numbers and SMS (short
message service) text messages.
Some, though not all, digital phone make use
of the extra facilities and storage space on the SIM card, but there are other
ways to access and modify the information card, like our friend Chipy here.
Chipy Professional is a SIM card reader, it comes with PC software, that allows
information held on the card to be downloaded, and if required, modified and saved
back to the card.
Chipy is primarily aimed at mobile phone
dealers and corporate users, doubtless a few phone owners will want one too,
but its rather specialised nature does tend to limit the market. So what does
it do? The main application is for reading and transferring SIM phone books. If
youíre thinking of changing you phone and network a dealer equipped with a
Chipy can suck the phone book out of your old SIM card, and squirt it into the
new one in a matter of seconds. This is also an important facility for large
organisations, with a lot of mobile phone users on the staff and a high
turnover of handsets.
Chipy runs on almost any IBM PC or compatible
using Windows 3.x, Windows 95 and 0S/2 Warp operating system; a MAC version is under
consideration. The card reader is powered by a plug-in mains adaptor module, a captive
data cable plugs into a spare serial communication port on the PC (a 9 to 25
pin adaptor is supplied). Software is contained on one 3.5-inch diskette and
takes just a few minutes to install, after which itís ready to go. Full size
SIM cards fit into a slot on the side of the Chipy module; the outfit includes
a mini SIM adaptor that fits in place of a full-size card. An LCD on the top
panel confirms the card network and that it is readable. Data entries can be
made on the unitís keypad, or via the PC keyboard.
Meanwhile on the PC screen, the Chipy desktop
uses normal Windows conventions, with the three main options (Phone Book, Short
Messages and Preferred Networks) presented as tabbed files. As soon as the
program starts the card is read and the phone book opens to show the blank ADN
(abbreviated dialling numbers) entry field. Clicking on the card read icon
brings up a request for the userís PIN number, after which the contents of the
SIM phone book are displayed. Entries can be added, deleted or modified, before
theyíre saved back to the SIM. A second tab brings up the Multiple
Subscriber-identification Numbers (MSN) entries, which are used to store the
card holders alternative voicemail, fax and data numbers; these too can be
modified and saved.
The SMS folder allows the user to compose and
store a text message, along with the recipients phone number and network for
downloading to the SIM card. The message can be sent when the card is put back
in the phone. Received text messages stored on the SIM card can be uploaded
into the PC and filed. The Preferred Networks folder contains an extensive list
of countries and their local networks. From the list it is possible to nominate
which networks the phone should first attempt to log onto, when roaming abroad.
Options for downloading or importing the
phone book and backing up the entire contents of a SIM card are on the menu
bar, along with facilities to verify and change the cardís PIN number, print out
text messages, sort phone book entries, edit cut and paste entries and
internationalise phone numbers. Chipy can also be used to unlock a blocked SIM
card (where the incorrect PIN has been entered more than three times), though
it is necessary to know the userís PUK (personal unblocking key) number.
Chipy is a powerful tool, for getting inside
SIM cards and managing the information stored on the chip. If we had more space
we could delve deeper into facilities like reading and filing data on Phase II
cards (electronic cash cards such as Mondex and some types of telephone cards
etc.). However, we have to say that clever though it is Chipy is not the sort
of thing most mobile phone owners will ever want to own, but itís worth know mobile
phone dealers has access to such devices, which can make life a little easier if
and when the time comes to change cards.
Typical Price £150
card reader with PC interface
To fit all digital phone SIM cards
Atlantic, telephone 0171-383 4447
WHAT CELLPHONE VERDICT %
KONDOR MINI HANDS FREE KIT
Recent concerns about using mobile phones in
cars have spurred accessory manufacturers into action and simple DIY hands-free
car kits are now coming out of the woodwork. Quite frankly a lot of them are
poorly designed and not worth the bother, but occasionally one comes along --
like this model from Kondor -- thatís a
cut above the rest. Weíre still of the opinion that thereís no substitute for a
full car kit, but if you need to transfer a phone from one vehicle to another,
or cannot -- for one reason or another -- have one permanently installed, then
outfits like this one make a lot of sense.
As far as the layout and construction are
concerned, itís not radically different to a lot of other simple kits, though a
little more thought has been put into its design. The Mini Hands Free Kit is
available to fit most popular makes and model of handset. Kondor have used the
same kind of modular system seen on their car cords and adaptors. The cigar
lighter module is a separate item, the curly lead that connects it to the phone
fits into an American style phone socket on the back. Inside the module thereís
a charger circuit, and like other models in the range it operates on a 12 to 24
volt DC supply, so it can be used in trucks and lorries, even boats, as well as
cars. The module also contains a small amplifier and 25mm speaker; a 2.5mm
minijack socket is provided for an optional external speaker. An LED indicator
shows power on and charge in progress.
On phones with an antenna socket, the
connector that plugs into the base of the phone is fitted with an external
aerial lead socket. On most cars an outside aerial will make a tremendous
difference to range and reception quality, especially in rural areas. The
outfit includes an external microphone on the end of a two-metre cable.
Unfortunately it doesnít come with any sort of fixing. As it stands most users
will probably end up taping it to the sun-visor, which is less than ideal. Itís
a great pity Kondor didnít include a simple clip, it wouldnít add much to the
price but it would make installation, and removal, a whole lot easier. We would
also have liked to have seen the kit bundled with some kind of dashboard
holder, though we accept that even so-called universal holders wonít fit in all
It takes only a few minutes to install, most
of that time is taken up with routing the microphone lead. The charger/speaker
module was a good tight fit on three out of the four cars we tried it with. On
the fourth, a Mitsubishi Shogun, it was a bit floppy. The contacts has to be
slightly bent before the contact was secure. Our sample was designed for the
Nokia 2110; this phone automatically senses the adaptor so thereís no need for
any re-programming. The titchy speaker is surprisingly shrill, itís quite tinny
though, but thereís sufficient volume to hear the caller in most modern family
saloons. However, like a lot of simple kits, it struggles in noisy or badly soundproofed
The microphone is not very sensitive, it
needs to be within half a metre of the userís mouth, however, this means it
doesnít suffer too badly from background noise and most callers report
reasonably good voice quality.
The lack of any microphone fixings is a disappointment
and the instructions are a bit thin. We would have liked some more detailed
fitting advice and a mention of the advisability of using a dashboard holder.
Nevertheless it is well built and in undemanding situations it works well. We particularly
welcome the external aerial connection and the price is fair.
Typical Price £60
hands-free car kit, with external microphone and aerial connector
To fit most popular makes and models
telephone 01425 474444
WHAT CELLPHONE VERDICT 80%
DISPLEX DISPLAY CLEANER
The plastic windows covering the display
panels on most mobile phones quickly become covered in hundreds of tiny
scratches. Plastic is easily marked, even slipping a phone in and out of a
leather case adds to the wear and tear. Unfortunately thereís little you can do
to prevent it happening. Most of the time it doesnít matter that much, but on
heavily used phones the window can start to loose its transparency and the
display may eventually become difficult to read, especially in poor light.
Panels can be replaced though we suspect few service agents would be willing to
carry out such a job at a sensible price.
Light scratching and scuffing can be removed though,
using specialised polishing agents for plastic. Displex, distributed in the UK
by Hama is a mild abrasive cream, that literally scours the surface of the
plastic, at the same time removing ingrained dirt and debris.
All well and good, but does it work? An
ancient Nokia Technophone and 1992 vintage Motorola Micro TAC were pressed into
service as guinea pigs. Both phones have been in daily use for a number of
years and the display panels were covered in scratches, some of them quite
deep. One corner of the Technophone
display was very badly marked, where it had rubbed on the side of an
ill-fitting dashboard holder.
A little goes a long way, only a tiny amount
of cleaner is needed. Itís rubbed in using a soft cloth, with a circular
polishing motion. The first application, which took a couple of minutes
restored the shine, but deeper scratches were still visible, and it had almost
no effect on the marked Technophone display. A second attempt brought the
Motorola display back to almost showroom condition, there were still a few tiny
scratches, but only if you looked really closely. Meanwhile, the abrasion on
the Technophone had been significantly reduced, so it wasnít quite so
noticeable. Displex is a quick and easy way to smarten up your phone, we also
found it worked well on plastic watch faces and the display window on a CD
player. Well worth keeping a tube around the house.
Typical Price £TBA
cleaning paste, for removing scratches from plastic display windows
To fit all popular makes and models
UK, telephone (01256) 708110
WHAT CELLPHONE VERDICT 85%
FONE RANGE PORTABLE HANDS FREE KIT
Outwardly the Fone Range hands-free kit looks
a lot like several other models on the market, but there are a few subtle
differences. The most significant one concerns the combined earphone and
microphone. For a change the earpiece is quite comfortable, and the sound
quality isnít half bad. The microphone is also further down the cable, sitting
just below shoulder height. Thereís a sliding clip on the cable, and this can
be used to anchor the mike to a shirt or jack collar.
The earphone cable plugs into a jack socket
on the small plastic module that fits on the bottom of the phone. Thereís
another socket, probably for DC power, though the instructions make no mention
of it. The model weíve been trying was designed for a Nokia 2110, itís a good
fit and shouldnít work loose. The only point to bear in mind is that the added
depth means the phone wonít fit into a normal carry case, though thereís
nothing to prevent the use of other types of belt clip.
Microphone sensitivity is quite high, and
itís not terribly directional, so some care needs to be taken, to avoid it
scuffing on clothing. Earphone volume is adequate and itís noticeably less
tinny than many of its rivals. Reasonably priced, worth considering.
Typical Price £25
hands-free kit with external earphone and microphone
To fit most popular makes and models
Range, telephone 0181-838 8888
WHAT CELLPHONE VERDICT 83%
PHONIES OF THE MONTH
Two for the kids this month, both based on Motorola Ďbrickieí phones. One
is a cleverly disguised drinks bottle --
the ideal place for illicit alcopops -- just give the antenna a quick
suck when youíre feeling thirsty. The other one is a pencil case. It is
guaranteed to annoy teachers more than a bucketful of Tamagochi, the built-in
bleeper brings forth a succession of irritating tones and tunes whenever one of
the keys are pressed.
Typical Price £1.00
shaped containers for drinks and pencils, built-in bleeper
To fit most Christmas stockings
shops and markets everywhere
WHAT CELLPHONE VERDICT 75%
” R. Maybury 1997 0509