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GWD-5F LOW PROFILE CAR ANTENNA

That cell phones work at all inside a car is a constant source of amazement. However, the fact remains that a goodly proportion of the incoming and outgoing signals are lost due to the shielding effect of the metal bodywork. The amount of signal loss varies from one car to another, and it depends where the phone is mounted, but one thing is certain, in a marginal signal area it can make the difference between a clear line, and a dropped call. That's especially true of GSM phones, which are much less tolerant of a weak signal.

 

The solution is simple, fit an external antenna, there's plenty to choose from, with prices ranging from about £15 upwards. Most types are pretty much of a muchness -- there's a lot of guff spouted about cellphone antenna performance -- but one thing they all have in common is that they can be easy damaged or vandalised. That shouldn't be a problem with this low profile antenna from Panorama. In fact it doesn't even look like an antenna, and because there's nothing sticking out, there's nothing to get knocked off in a car wash, or close encounter with the garage door. It also means you're not advertising that you have a cellphone, which could help keep your car windows intact…

 

It's a glass mount design and a fairly conventional one at that, from the end of the cable that connects to the phone or holder, to the interior coupler that sticks to the inside of a window or windscreen. The coupler is held in place by the ubiquitious pad of double-sided sticky tape, and the kit includes cleaning swabs, to make sure it gets a good grip. The outside part is a thin plastic moulding that sticks to the other side of the glass. Inside there's thin printed circuit board, etched with a coupler pad and zig-zag radiator pattern.

 

The big question is does it work, without all the usual sticking out bits? Only one way to find out, we tested it with a Nokia 2110, in a marginal signal area, where contact inside a vehicle us usually down to one bar and usually quite unreliable. We also compared it with a normal 1/4 wave glass mount aerial, with a radiating element that extends above the vehicle roofline. There was an immediate improvement in signal strength with the new antenna, to three and four bars; the existing external antenna produced a steady four bars pretty well all of the time.  

 

The results were pretty much as expected with the GWD-5F yielding a big improvement over the handset's own aerial; it's not quite as good as a standard aerial, though not by much. If you haven't yet got an external aerial for your hands-free installation, and you don't want to draw attention to the fact that there's a cellphone in your car, or you've been unlucky with regular aerials, then this one has to be worth considering.  

 

THE FACTS

Typical Price            £31.30

Features            glass-mount antenna, includes fixing kit and 6 metre cable

To fit                 most cars with glass windows

Contact TDC Ltd., telephone (01256) 332800

WHAT CELLPHONE VERDICT            88%

 

THE 'ARC', MOBILE PHONE HOLDER

It's obvious someone has put a lot of time and effort into designing the Arc mobile phone holder, and at less than ten quid it's not going to break the bank, but it's the kind of product that leaves you wondering, why?…

 

Maybe that's being a bit unfair, there are some people out there who use their mobile as a desk phone, and they might find the Arc quite useful, that's if they can figure out how to put it together. The bag of bits includes the curved base unit, which sits on top of your desk, or screws to a wall, using a clip on bracket (screws are also provided). In the desktop mode, as it were, you need to slot in an angled support arm. This has got a V-shaped moulding that slips into the back of a phone holder or cup. The outfit also includes a separate V-mount, with a double sided adhesive tape on the back, so you can hang the phone, in the cup, just about anywhere you like.

 

On the underside of the desk/wall mount there's some complicated-looking mouldings and holes, which we think have something to do with an optional car cigarette-lighter socket and in-car saver-charger.

 

Clearly the Arc has a number of benefits, compared with leaving your phone lying around on the desktop, where it will get buried under papers. Indeed, as the publicity blurb points out, having the phone in an upright position, may even improve reception. It's a neat design, dare we say even quite stylish, and it is well put together but we still can't help thinking it's one of those accessories that you never realised you needed until you've got one, and even then you're not quite sure…

 

THE FACTS

Typical Price            £10

Features            multi-purpose wall or desk mountable mobile phone holder

To fit                 most popular makes and models

Contact Ball Ltd., telephone 0181 574 0003

WHAT CELLPHONE VERDICT            78%

 

 

BODY GLOVE BEEPSUIT  PAGER CASE

Pagers are getting snazzier by the day but what if you're stuck with one of those old black box jobbies? Worse still, you're laying on the beach and it goes off, drawing everyone's attention to the fact that you pager is about as trendy as a British Rail sandwich. But hang on a minute, what's this? It's Beepsuit, a water-resistant neoprene case, made from the same stuff as wet suits. And not just any old wet suit! It comes from Body Glove, wet suit makers since 1953 and famous for keeping the boys and girls on Baywatch warm and dry, as they bounce along the beach.

 

As a means of keeping your pager dry whilst scuba diving Beepsuit is pretty hopeless, but they'll keep your bleeper dry if you want to have a splash in the surf. But this isn't about water sports, Beepsuit is a lifestyle product, and a loud one at that, with a range of bright colours (black too, if you want it). They're designed to fit most side and top-view pagers and they come with a wrist strap and belt loop. The quality of manufacture appears to be very good indeed and you can use the pager without taking it out of the case, so that's quite handy too. They're fairly cheap, bright and breezy and by all accounts, a big hit in the 'States. Look out for Body Glove cellphone cases too, coming to a surf shop near you soon.

 

THE FACTS

Typical Price            £10

Features            made from water-resistant neoprene

To fit                 most pagers and cellphones

Contact Kondor Ltd, telephone (01425) 474444

WHAT CELLPHONE VERDICT            85%

 

RETELL 121 UNIVERSAL PHONE RECORDER

The recording of telephone conversations used to be regarded with suspicion and concern. Nowadays it's fair to assume that most calls to financial and commercial organisations or government offices are routinely recorded. It's a fact of life, and in some circumstances it can be seen as a legitimate business tool, journalists do it all the time and you could probably think of a dozen good reasons why you should do it as well… You can, it's not difficult and many answering machines have a two-way recording facility but until recently, recording equipment connected to the line had to bleep every so often, to alert the caller to the fact that their conversation is being recorded. You can also get a gadget called a coupler, it's basically a magnetic pickup, that sticks to the back of a phone handset and plugs into a ordinary tape recorder. Unfortunately they don't work with a lot of cellphones, they use piezo speakers, that the coupler can't detect.

 

That brings us to the Retell 121Universal Phone Recorder.  The kit is based around a Walkman-sized cassette recorder, it's voice activated, so it is economical with the  tape.  It has a built-in speaker and comes with a plug-in mains power adaptor, earphone and two recording devices. The first is an in-line coupler, that connects between the phone handset and the base unit. The other one is an ingenious little widget, called a Watsonmike. It is very simple, it's a thin tube, with a small piece of foam rubber at one end, and a microphone capsule at the other. This is built into a 3.5mm jack plug, that plugs into the tape recorder's microphone socket. You pop the foam rubber end of the tube into your ear and it picks up the sound from the handset speaker and your own voice. Very clever.

 

Because there's no electrical connection, and it doesn’t rely on a magnetic coupler, it works with cellphones, any cellphone in fact, so it really does qualify as 'Universal'. Recording quality using the coupler is fair to middling. Our sample picked up a hum from a nearby PC, screened versions, suitable for use near computers are available. The Watsonmike picks up a good deal more noise and the voice activation feature is a bit hit and miss, unless you're very quiet, but speech from both ends of the conversation is intelligible.

 

If you want to be a Little Brother and tape your phone calls -- maybe you have a good reason for doing so -- then the ReTell 121 does the job very well, and the fact that it can record cellphone calls as well has to be a big plus point.

 

THE FACTS

Typical Price            £60

Features            mobile and land-line telephone tape recording equipment using handset coupler 'WatsonMike' pickup device, voice activation

To fit                 any phone

Contact ReTell, telephone  (01932) 779755

WHAT CELLPHONE VERDICT            85%

 

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Ó R. Maybury 1998 1305


 

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