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BODYGLOVE PHONE CASES

Back in the July issue you may recall we looked at the Bodyglove range of pager cases, made from the same material as the wetsuits. Bodyglove are the Armani of the wetsuit world and probably best know for encasing the wobbly bits of the cast of Baywatch, but we digress… Now you can get them for your phone as well. The cases are made in three styles, somewhat cryptically called Joey, Flipper and Banana Peel. Joey cases are actually more like pouches (oh, now we get it…). Flipper cases are for small flip phones, like the StarTac, and Banana cases have an opening face panel, so you have to 'peel' them, to get at the keypad. 

 

All of the cases come with belt loops, and shoulder straps, and needless to say they're available in a range of bright, not to say dazzeling colours. Despite the moisture repellent properties of the Bodyglove material, the manufacturers wisely make no  claims for protecting your phone, which is just as well, though the Banana Peel style looks like it should do quite a good job of splashproofing.

 

The standard of construction is very good with neat stitching and accurately aligned holes and openings. A fun, eye-catching alternative to conventional phone cases.

 

THE FACTS

Typical Price            £19.99

Features            water resistant neoprene material

To fit                 most makes and models

Contact Kondor Ltd., telephone (01425) 474444

WHAT CELLPHONE VERDICT            88%

 

SMARTEQ HANDS-FREE CAR KIT

Our past experiences with simple DIY hands free car kits have been mixed. Almost all of them involved some sort of compromise -- compared with a proper hands-free kit (HFK) -- most of them suffered from poor audio quality, low volume or both. Judging by the size of the speaker used in the Smarteq HFK we half expected that to be the same, but this one is different.

 

For a start it’s a good bit dearer than most simple kits, retailing at around £100 it's into the bottom end of the full-fitting kits market, but don't let that put you off. The kit itself is a simple, straightforward design, no gimmicks, widgets or style statements. The main unit is split into two parts: a cradle that holds and connects with the phone, and the main electronics module and speaker. The two parts are connected together by a curly lead, the cradle hangs on a hook on the front of the main module. The power supply cable (fitted with a standard fag lighter plug) and the external microphone both plug into the main module, and there's an aerial lead coming out of the base of the unit. Installation couldn't be much simpler; the main unit has two holes, for screws or bolts that go into the car's dashboard or centre console. There's no brackets or sticky pads, just two small holes. The microphone cable should be long enough to allow for window pillar or sun visor mounting in most cars. We reckon most users will take around half an hour to fit the kit in a typical family saloon.

 

Our test sample was designed for the Nokia 2110 but they're available to fit most other makes and models. The first surprise was the volume; it's loud, so loud in fact that we actually had to turn it down when it fired up for the first time! Sound quality was unexpectedly crisp; maybe not hi-fi but speech was clear and intelligible, even at motorway speeds. The icing on the cake is the microphone, which is very directional and has good noise immunity; callers at the other end reported clear sound, confirmed by the fact that we weren't constantly being asked to 'say that again'. The only minor criticism -- which may only affect the Nokia 2110 -- is antenna switching. When the phone is in the cradle the internal antenna is bypassed, which is all well and good if you have an external antenna, but performance is severely compromised if you do not. In other words the kit practically forces you to fit an antenna as well, which may not suit some users.   

 

This is without doubt one of, if not the best simple hands-free car kit we've seen to date. It is easy to install, no special skills or tools needed, but above all, it actually works well enough to rival fully fitted kits. Recommended.

  

THE FACTS

Typical Price            £100

Features            simple to install hands-free car kit

To fit                 most popular makes and models

Contact Allcoms Ltd., telephone 01235) 811119

WHAT CELLPHONE VERDICT            95%

 

RETELL DIGITAL TELEPHONE/VOICE RECORDER

Digital voice recording systems are improving in leaps and bounds and unlike tape recorders, there's nothing to wear out. They're small too, like this 900 Series Digital Recorder from Retell, which is about the size of a tiny pocket radio, but it packs quite punch! The most unusual feature is the number of different ways it can attach to a phone, and not just normal land-line phones, it can also record two-way conversation on a mobile, without the need for any physical connections.

 

It does this using an ingenious device called a Watson mike. We've seen it before, it's a small foam-rubber cylinder that pops in the ear canal, attached to the ear-piece is a thin tube that runs down to a small microphone, built into a jack plug. The ear tube picks up the sound coming from the phone earpiece, and the users voice. Simple but very effective.  Also included in the kit is an inductive coupler, that picks up voice signals from the telephone cable, the coupler wraps around the cable. The other coupler is an in-line connector that plugs into the lead going from the phone to the handset.

 

The recording device has a 60-minute capacity and is capable of making up to 128 logged recordings, individually time and date stamped for reference, or file management. It has a small but just about readable LCD readout, the record and play controls work on the same lines as a tape recorder, though being digital, there's no delay as you skip through the recordings or files. The recorder can be set to switch itself on and start recording using voice activation (vox switch), or it can be controlled manually.

 

Using a direct connection recording quality is quite good, a tad nasal perhaps, and the volume level of the other end of the conversation could do with being a bit louder but it's reasonably loud and intelligible. The Watson mike was a bit hit and miss, prformance varies according to thephone and ambient noise but on a good day it's as clear as a direct connection, on a bad day you can have trouble making out both sides of the conversation. It improves with practice. The induction coupling also needs trial and error, we found volume levels to be quite low on two out of three of our test phones, but again the clarity of the recording was good.   

 

This very complete little kit is ideal for budding secret agents and people on the move, who might want to record telephone conversations from a variety of locations. Flexible and a good performer, well worth considering if you need this sort of thing.

 

THE FACTS

Typical Price            £140

Features            60-minute digital telephone and voice recorder with time/date stamp, 128 file capacity, manual or voice-operated recording, PIN code security, alarm, Watson mike, inductive and direct connection kit included

To fit                 any mobile or land-line phone

Contact Retell, telephone (01932) 779755

WHAT CELLPHONE VERDICT            87%

 

WINDOW MOUNT ANTENNA

It never ceases to amaze us how well most cellphones work inside cars; nevertheless, they work even better when connected to an external antenna. The only trouble is, what do you do if the car's not yours or you regularly need to use your phone in different vehicles? This window mount antenna from Fone Logistics is a quick and easy solution, it can be fixed or removed from almost any car in less than a minute but it is very secure, arguably  more secure than most glass-mount aerials.

 

The whip is in two sections, the top half is encased in flexible rubber, the lower half is solid plastic, so it's tough, and weatherproof. The base of the antenna is mounted on a U-shaped metal bracket, that slips over one of the car's wind-up door windows.. On the inside of the clip there's a gripper knob, to clamp it into place. With the window wound up it's not going anywhere… Connection to the phone is via a 3-metre cable, terminated in an FME type plug.

 

We tried the antenna in a known dead spot, where contact on the phone's (Nokia 2110) own aerial is poor. Lo and behold a 1/2 bar signal strength reading increased to 4/5 bars when the aerial was connected. There was a noticeable improvement in sound quality at both ends and line echo instantly disappeared.  

 

THE FACTS

Typical Price            £30

Features            Simple clamp fit, 3-metre cable with plug

To fit                 most cars with wind-up windows

Contact Fone Logistics, telephone (01670) 717717

 

WHAT CELLPHONE VERDICT            85%

 

PHONEY OF THE MONTH

 

GUM-MOBILE

Now here's something you don't see every day. The Gum Mobile plays My Fair Lady and bleeps, dispenses bubble gum and has a secret compartment where the earpiece should be, presumably for storing gum -- beats the bedpost overnight…

 

THE FACTS

Typical Price            £1.50

Features            3 pre-loaded bubble gums, concealed secret box

To fit                 most kids pockets

Contact your local novelty sweetie shop

WHAT CELLPHONE VERDICT            80%

 

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Ó R. Maybury 1998 1108


 

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