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FARATECH RADIATION SHIELD

The mobile phone scare rumbles on and over the past year or so we've seen some pretty cranky gadgets that are supposed to protect the user from the allegedly harmful effects of microwave radiation but here's one that seems to actually work. It's the Faratech shield and it is based on reasonably sound scientific principles. The shield is a thin flexible plastic sheet, impregnated with a layer of material that reflects radio signals from the phone's antenna and output stages, away from the user's head. The shield is mounted on a swivel so that it can be folded down when not in use. It fits over the phone's earpiece, with an opening to allow sound to pass through.  

 

Logic suggests that the shield will create a 'shadow' behind it that could impair performance however mobile phone signals happily bounce all over the place and it is unlikely to have much impact in a good signal area. The shield fits onto the phone using a ring-shaped sticky pad and this is the one area we can see that might cause problems. The area around most phone earpieces can get really greasy and unless it is scrupulously clean it will fall off. A cleaning swab is supplied but even after following the instructions it still managed to come away quite easily on one of our test phones; it's not a happy fit on Ericsson models with oddly shaped and offset earpiece holes.

 

Does it work? Well, the manufacturers and an independent testing laboratory have carried out a range of experiments that show it drastically reduces the amount of radiation reaching the users skull, and we're prepared to believe that is so, but the proof of this particular pudding is in the using. We tried it on a Nokia 2110 and a recent Ericsson phone and the results were indeed encouraging, with no detectable reduction in contact quality or reliability in and around town. Sound passes through the hole unhindered. We suspect it might have a more noticeable effect in a marginal signal area but it should be possible to compensate by moving around, as you do naturally in any case. The manufacturers even suggest it might improve quality in a built-up area where the cell site antennas are mounted high up on the tops of buildings, the reflective shield apparently angles the signal upwards, though we have to say we didn't detect any changes. Faratech also point out that it's an ideal spot for logos and promotional messages so corporate users take note. If you're concerned about the possible health hazards of using a phone this little gadget should give you some peace of mind, it's not very pretty, but for once it does seem to offer some protection, without sacrificing performance, stretching your credulity or making a big hole in your wallet.  

 

THE FACTS

Typical Price            £19.95

Features            Swivelling Faraday shield, acoustic coupler

To fit                 most handsets (not some ultra compacts)

Contact Ecstatic Ltd, telephone 0181-783 1555  

 

WHAT CELLPHONE VERDICT            88%

 

AXESS EASY HANDS FREE KIT

If you've been holding off buying a hands-free car kit for your mobile phone because they cost too much or are difficult to install you are about to run out of excuses. This one from Alexander Batteries sells for less than £30 or a night down the pub, which is not a lot to pay to keep you safe, and legal. It's a 'simple' kit, which basically means you can fit it in around five minutes and it doesn't involve drilling any holes or mucking around with cables. The kit is based around a neat little charger/amplifier/speaker module that plugs into your vehicle's cigarette lighter socket. The plug section is hinged so the speaker can be turned to face the driving position. A curly lead emerges from the module on the end of that is a small box containing a microphone, and coming out of that is the phone accessory connector. The kit also includes a simple dashboard phone holder (it fixes with sticky pads or it can be screwed on), and there's an earpiece and microphone adaptor, for personal calls or when there's a lot of background noise. An extension microphone is available as an option extra, in the event that the phone is mounted too far away from the user for the in-line microphone to be effective.

 

What can we say about installation apart from the fact that it's an absolute doddle? Some instructions would have been useful but it's fairly obvious what everything does. The only decision you have to make is where to mount the holder, the sticky pads are rather small and not up to much so we suggest you use something more substantial or bolt it on. There are only two controls, a volume thumbwheel and a switch for selecting internal speaker or personal earpiece/microphone. Two LEDs show power on and charge in progress. The tiny speaker is just about loud enough for the average moderately well insulated family saloon and sound quality is satisfactory. The microphone isn't very directional and we reckon the optional extension visor-clip mike (part number EHF-MIC) is well worth the extra £4.00 or so. The personal earpiece and microphone work very well too and should prove a useful extra for users who do a lot of motorway driving, not that you should using your phone whilst driving, eh? All in all not a bad little kit and the price even with the extension microphone, is pretty good value.  

 

THE FACTS

Typical Price            £29.40

Features            simple hands-free car kit, dashboard holder and external mike/earphone

To fit                 popular models from Alcatel, Ericsson, Motorola, Nokia, Panasonic Philips & Siemens

Contact            Alexander Batteries, (01327) 301090 

WHAT CELLPHONE VERDICT            90%

 

SMS CENTRE

SMS or the Short Message Service is an integral feature of most digital phone networks and virtually all phones have an SMS facility, but how many of us actually use it? SMS can be used to send a text message, up to 160 characters long, the trouble is composing and sending a message on a mobile phone is very tedious. There is an easier way, if you have a PC or laptop with a modem, and that's to use a program like SMS Centre from DeSoft. It's a 32-bit program, designed to run on Windows 95/98 machines and it is ready configured for all of the UK phone and pager networks and several overseas phone companies that support SMS. The program is also Phoneday ready, which basically means stored mobile numbers those for the message centres can be edited and will accommodate longer numbers, (prefixed with 07), when the changes ate made some time in 2001 (apparently not all SMS programs have this facility.

 

The program comes on two 3.5-inch floppy discs and it loads easily in a couple of minutes from the Run command on the Windows Start menu. We encountered a slight glitch during the installation in that the software said it was creating a program group (it didn't), and the first time it was run it froze solid. SMS Centre opens with a small window that includes a space for typing the message, fields for telephone numbers and a simple phone number book. Messages can be queued and sent in sequence, even if they're intended for different networks. In theory all you have to do is key in the message -- a counter tells you how many characters you have used -- enter the number or use one from the phone book, select the network and click the Send button. Our evaluation duly dialled up the Cellnet message centre and appeared to send a sequence of test messages but not one got through, despite the display saying that all messages had been sent. We had much better luck with One2One and Vodaphone and messages went through without a hitch. We subsequently discovered some revisions had been made to the program to take into account changes to the Cellnet message server and once loaded the new version worked smoothly.

 

SMS Centre is quick and easy to use, it works well and has a number of useful facilities. If you have an Internet connection you can download a 30-day evaluation copy from: http://www.ttp.co.uk

 

THE FACTS

Typical Price            £23.44

Features            SMS messaging software

To fit                 all Windows 95/98 PCs

Contact DeSoft, telephone (01506) 4623732

 

WHAT CELLPHONE VERDICT            85%

 

 

MAXI MAG MOUNT

Here's a quick, simple and surprisingly effective means of holding your mobile phone on your vehicle's dashboard. Maxi Mag Mount is a small but surprisingly powerful magnet that sticks like glue to your phone's battery pack. At least it should, we suspect some phones and batteries may not work as well as others, so give it a try before you buy. On the back of the magnet there's a pad of double-sided sticky tape, to attach it to the dashboard, take the usual precautions and clean the surface well otherwise it may well drop off. The front of the magnet is faced with rubber, so it wonít scratch the surface of your phone.

 

We chose a particularly well rutted stretch of road (not difficult to find in South London) to test the magnet's sticking power and we're please to report that our Nokia and Motorola handsets didn't budge, the Ericsson phone twisted a little but didn't drop off. We found the magnet would also work on some types of phone cases, those with spring steel belt clips, but it wasn't that reliable and once or twice the phone and case gave way to gravity. It's a neat little gadget and a very easy way of keeping your phone accessible and off the floor when you're on the move.  

 

THE FACTS

Typical Price            £4.99

Features            magnetic dashboard holder

To fit                 most phones and cars

Contact Switch Electronics, telephone (01865) 400500

 

WHAT CELLPHONE VERDICT            90%

 

 

 

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R. Maybury 1999 2004

 


 

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