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INTRO

This monthís featured accessories include two car kits, a personal hands free-kit plus a way to eliminate telephone bugs! No, not that sortÖ

 

MINI PORTABLE HANDS FREE KIT

Most simple hands-free car kits tend to be a bit of a compromise. The tiny built-in speakers are either not loud enough, or too shrill. Sometimes the microphones are not sensitive enough, so you have to shout, or theyíre too sensitive, so they pick up unwanted background noise. We would like to be able to tell you the Mini Portable Hands Free Kit bucks the trend, but we canít, though it does have fewer vices than most of its contemporaries. Itís quite a good deal too; the outfit includes an unusually versatile car mount, and all for the very reasonable price of just £40.

 

The speaker and amplifier are built into a small oval-shaped box with a fused cigarette lighter plug sticking out of one end. Itís mounted on a pivot, so the curly speaker grille can be angled to face the driver. Our sample was configured for an Ericsson 338, so it had no volume control, on some other models there's a thumbwheel set into the side of the unit. Emerging from the other end of the box thereís a curly lead, attached to the phone adaptor plug or socket. Immediately in front of the adaptor thereís the microphone. Thereís only one control, a button on the face of the module switches between hands-free and hand-portable use, so you can pick up the handset to have a private conversation. The button also doubles up as the status and charge indicator; a LED inside the button glows red during charging, steady green when full charge has been reached, and flashing red and green when itís used in hand-portable mode.

 

The handset mounting kit is a most unusual design. It comprises a metal bracket and a bag of clips that attach to the phone back or battery pack. The bracket has a slot at one end for the clip. It can be used in a variety of ways, fixed to the dashboard using screws or self-adhesive pads, or it can be bent and twisted, in order to attach it to the carís ventilator slots.

 

Sound quality is tinny, but moderately loud. It might struggle to be heard in really noisy vehicles but it should be sufficient for most family saloons. A similar sort of balance appears to have been reached with the microphone, though a lot will depend on where the handset is mounted. If itís too far from the driver, road and background noises fight an unequal battle with the userís voice and it becomes necessary to shout.

 

What really stands out is the value for money, performance is a little above average for this type of product and it is very easy to use. Well worth considering.

 

THE FACTS

Typical Price            £40

Features            built-in speaker and microphone, mode convert button, charge LED, in-car holder kit included

To fit                 most makes and models

Contact Ball Ltd., telephone 0181-574 0003

WHAT CELLPHONE VERDICT            90%

 

KONDOR PORTABLE HANDS-FREE KIT

Last year we reported that unlike our continental cousins, the British seem to be reluctant to use personal hands-free kits with their mobile phones. In France and Germany itís not at all unusual to see people walking down the street, quietly talking into a discreet microphone. We Brits like to hold our mobile phones high and talk loudly and animatedly.

 

Maybe that has begun to change, just recently we have noticed one or two people apparently talking to themselves in the street. True, they might have been mad, or foreigners, or both, but we suspect that personal hands-free kits could catch on yet. This one from Kondor is well worth a look. It overcomes one of the biggest problems with this kind of thing, and thatís battery drain. Our review sample, designed to fit Nokia 2110ís and clones, has itís own battery. Th outfit includes a tiny 12-volt pen-cell similar to the type used in key-ring car immobilisers.

 

The outfit is made up of three components. The adaptor plug, which fits into the phoneís accessory socket, is attached by a short cable to an American style phone plug. This slots into a socket on the underside of the main module, a curvy little box that clips on the userís belt or waistband. The module, which contains the battery and adaptor circuitry, has an on/off switch, an LED indicator and two more sockets. One is for an optional car cord adaptor/charger; the other is for the combined earphone and microphone lead. This is a conventional design with an in-ear phone, below which is suspended a tiny microphone and lapel clip. The mic is around 15 cm downstream of the earphone, which puts just below the chins of most wearers.

 

Itís easy to set-up and use, Nokia phones automatically switch to hands-free operation as soon as it is plugged in. The short lead separating the control unit and the phone means the two need to be close together and worn on a belt. Itís probably not a good idea to carry the phone and adaptor module loose in a pocket as itís quite likely one of the connections will work loose. The only other problem with this arrangement is that the phone has to be worn on the belt as well, but not all belt or carry-cases have a slot on the underside for an accessory connector.

 

Audio quality on the earphone is satisfactory, loud enough to be heard in a street or pub. The microphone could do with being a little closer to the userís mouth, though itís not difficult to adjust the distance, using the lapel clip.

 

Personal hands free kits make a lot of sense. This one is a tad more cumbersome because of the separate control module, however, if you can live with that itís worth the effort, though donít be surprised if passerís by give you some odd looksÖ

 

THE FACTS

Typical Price            £30

Features            personal hands free kit, battery powered (included with outfit) to increase phone battery life, combined earpiece and microphone

To fit                 most popular makes and models

Contact Kondor Ltd., (01202) 481133

WHAT CELLPHONE VERDICT            88%

 

 

CELL-KIT HANDS FREE CAR KIT WITH ANTENNA

You would have thought that after seeing so many weird and wonderful cellphone accessories we would have become accustomed to wacky designs and instructions written in Pidgin English? Not a bit of it, we can still be caught out! Take this car-kit marketed by Cell Kit for example, thereís no way even an averagely intelligent person could figure out how to install the thing, using the instructions supplied. Thatís a shame, because the kit is simple enough for DIY installation, the standard of construction is fine, and it is very good value for money.

 

Itís based around a small black box control unit and amplifier, which also houses the loudspeaker. It doesnít have a socket for an external speaker, which is odd as provision for one certainly exists though the socket hole has been blanked off with a sticker. Power for the unit comes from a cigarette lighter plug, which helps reduce installation time considerably. The phone sits in a sturdy-looking cradle, connected to the control unit by a curly lead, terminated with a US telephone plug. An external microphone is supplied, itís attached to a sun-visor clip and a generous length of cable, and this also plugs into the main unit. Lastly thereís a glass-mount antenna kit, fortunately the instructions for this are a little more revealing.

 

The biggest problem with the instructions Ė or rather the lack of them Ė concerns the mounting hardware for the control box. It took us quite a while to work it out. On the base of the box is what appears to be a mounting bracket, but thereís no mention of how to fit it in the instructions. It was only by sheer luck that we discovered that it had to be pushed and turned, in order to release it. Finding a suitable spot for it is difficult, it has to be mounted fairly close to the driver, because of the built-in speaker, and thereís an indicator LED on one end Ė these show power on and charge Ė so thereís only so many ways it can be fitted.

 

The mounting bracket for the phone holder is also detachable. Itís a bit basic and thereís no adjustment whatsoever, which could make it difficult to find a suitable location in some vehicles. There should be no problems fitting the antenna, though some care has to be taken when routing the aerial cable. Once youíve figured it out it goes together fairly easily but the manufacturers or importer really should do something about those instructions.

 

You probably wonít be surprised to hear that the weak link is the loudspeaker, itís not very big or loud and inevitably it will be mounted low down on the dashboard or centre console, which only adds to the problem. An external speaker would be the solution, without it you have to consider very carefully where the unit is to be located.  Actual audio quality is quite good, thereís just enough treble, without it sounding raucous but volume is on the low side, so think twice if you drive anything noisier than a typical family saloon. Received audio quality is very clear, thanks to the external microphone.

 

A bit of a mixed bagÖ Poor instructions, inflexible fittings and connections mar what should have been a simple home-fit car kit. It works reasonably well, but a simple thing like an external speaker socket would transform it into something well worth having. As it stands we can only recommend it to competent DIYers with quiet cars.

 

THE FACTS

Typical Price            £60

Features            complete hands-free car kit with antenna

To fit                 most popular makes and models

Contact Cell-Kit, telephone 01323-731100

WHAT CELLPHONE VERDICT            78%

 

SEL SAFE TELEPHONE SANITIZER

You know what itís like. You do someone a favour by lending them your mobile phone then they go and cough and sneeze all over it. In the process ten zillion germs find a nice new warm hidey-hole in the microphone and crevices on your phone. They bide their time, breeding and mutating until the next time your mouth comes closeÖ

 

Those bugs would think twice about infecting a phone cleaned with Sel Safe; the smell literally takes your breath away. Come to think of it you probably wonít get too many people wanting to borrow your phone, once they get a whiff of it. It could even help cut down your mobile bills! Unlike most other telephone sanitization products, which usually smell quite pleasant, this one has the air of a heavy-duty disinfectant, a subtle blend of public lavatory and doctorís waiting room. Still, it smells like it does the job, and does it well, we suspect. Heed the warnings on the can, spray it onto a cloth and wipe the phone, and not straight onto your instrument. We didnít read the instructions and our Nokia 2110 still reeks after two weeks!

 

THE FACTS

Typical Price            £3.90

Features            flammable Isopropanol 1219, very smelly

To fit                 all makes and models

Contact your local janitorial supplier or Selden Research (01298) 26226

 

WHAT CELLPHONE VERDICT            88%

 

CELLPHONEY OF THE MONTH

NOKIA CALCULATOR

Hereís a novel twist on the phoney-cloners, who put everything from cigarette lighters to electronic games inside cell-phone shaped cases. Nokia have got in on the act with this bright yellow cellphone calculator, shaped like a 2110. It has no special features, but the antenna is a pencil. Theyíre promotional items and as far as weíre aware not produced for sale, but you might be able to sweet-talk your local dealer into getting hold of one for you.

 

THE FACTS

Typical Price            promotional freebie

Features            add, subtract, multiply, divide and percentage 

To fit                 your coat pocket

Contact your nearest Nokia dealerÖ

WHAT CELLPHONE VERDICT            80%

 

 

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R. Maybury 1998 1504

 


 

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