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MOBILE EXTRAS -- MARCH/APRIL ISSUE

 

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FONE RANGE FULL SET HANDSFREE

At first glance this simple hands-free car kit looks like one of those 'spring-gripper' type dashboard holders but closer inspection reveals this one has hidden talents. For a start there's a small speaker grille on the left side plus a switch, thumbwheel and various sockets dotted around the place. The fact that it also comes with a cigar lighter power cord might also lead you to suspect there's more to it than meets the eye.

 

The phone fits between the cushioned pads and is held in place by a simple ratchet mechanism, to release the phone press a discrete button on the side. The connection between the phone and the unit is handled by a short cable, (sold separately for £10) terminated on one end with an American RJ-11 type plug, on the other end is the appropriate accessory connector for the phone you are using. In this way Fone Range can cover as wide a number of models of handset as possible. The RJ-11 plug fits into a socket on the underside of the unit, next to that is the DC socket for the power cable and on the far right is the volume thumbwheel. A microphone is built into a protrusion on the left side of the holder and next to that there's a green power-on LED.

 

On the top right side there's a three-position slider switch marked 'H.M.L Mic'. Since the kit doesn't come with any instructions we take it to be a 3-level sensitivity setting (high, medium, low?) for the on-board microphone. The only other item of interest is a 2.5mm jack socket on the left side and we suspect this is for an external microphone. The lack of instructions is a real pain and we only hope Phone Range will address this omission but as it happens it's not too difficult to work out what's what and installation is fairly straightforward. The holder comes with a detachable dashboard clip that slots into a bracket on the back of the device. The clip has sticky pad already attached and there's provision to bolt or screw it into place if required.

 

The car cord is a clever and unusual design. It doesn't actually contain any power regulation circuitry that's inside the unit, but on the back there's a removable end cap. Open it up and voila, another fag-lighter socket, so you can plug in other accessories or continue to use the lighter (presumably it is heat-proof…).

 

Our sample came with an Ericsson adaptor lead and apart from it being a very tight fit and real swine to get off, everything proceeded very smoothly indeed. The speaker is a little larger than is normal in simple car kits. Volume levels are adequate but being on the left side of the unit -- we must assume it was originally designed for left-hand-drive vehicles -- the sound is directed away from the driver, so it can be difficult to hear in noisy conditions. The other problem is the built in microphone, which isn't pointing in the right direction either. Callers reported that it sounded like you were calling from a long way away, so an external mike should be on your shopping list.

 

In spite of the unfavourable speaker and microphone placement it should be okay in quiet family saloons. Ease of installation, set up and use are all very good, though we would like to see it come with some sort of instructions.  

 

THE FACTS

Typical Price            £40 (adaptor cable £10 extra)

Features            hands-free car kit with built-in speaker & microphone, car cord and dash mounting clip

To fit                 most makes and models

Contact Fone Range UK, telephone 0181-838 8888

 

WHAT CELLPHONE VERDICT            85%

 

UNIVERSAL LEATHER POUCH

The ingenuity of phone case manufacturers and their ability to regularly re-invent the product never ceases to amaze us. The 'Universal' leather pouch from Ora is a good example, it is designed for small phones -- Ericsson models upwards. The twist this time is that the phone lies horizontally in the pouch, which means that you're less likely to do yourself a mischief when you sit down.

 

It is made from supple black leather and the elasticated sides means it can accommodate most models, even when they're fitted with fatter high capacity battery packs. The elastic is so arranged as to leave spaces either side for antennas to poke through. The top flap is held in place by a chunky 'antiqued' brass clip, so the phone is reasonably easy to get at. A fixed belt loop on the back keeps it in place bit it's only around 3cm wide, so check your belt first. The stitching and finish are up to Ora's usual high standards and once it is in place it feels very secure.

 

We wondered if the horizontal position would have any affect on performance so we tried in a variety of conditions, including areas with known poor signal strength. In the end it didn't seem to make any difference, as far as responding to incoming calls was concerned.  It's not what you would call a major breakthrough in case design technology but if you get an unwelcome poke in the ribs from your phone every time you sit down, and it's small enough to fit into the pouch, it's well worth a try.

 

THE FACTS

Typical Price            £18

Features            elasticated sides, 'antique catch, belt loop

To fit                 most small phones

Contact Ora Electronics, telephone (01296) 415445,

 

WHAT CELLPHONE VERDICT            82%

 

WIRELESS FLASHER

This has to be the biggest phone accessory bargain of all time. The Cellular Phone Wireless Flasher was found in the Croydon branch of Pound Land, where everything costs a pound; the two button cells inside must be worth more than that! It's a key chain dangler, shaped like a mobile phone (loosely based an Ericsson model we suspect…). Inside there's a little light that flashes when it is in the vicinity of a

ringing mobile phone.

 

The idea is you switch off the phone's ringer, so you won't cause annoyance if you get a call during a meeting, or when in a restaurant or the cinema. Actually it works up to a metre away from the phone, and it has no way of discriminating between your phone or anyone else's nearby, so it may be prone to false alarms.

 

It's not very well made and there's no way of switching it off, despite what the pidgin-English instructions say; 'It will light also, when it is near to the place having strong Electric Wave, like near to a person using a portable phone or near to a Auto Door'… But let's not be churlish, for a quid, who's arguing?

 

THE FACTS

Typical Price            £1

Features            visual phone ring indicator, key chain attached

To fit                 any key chain

Contact your local Pound Land

 

WHAT CELLPHONE VERDICT            90%

 

WALKING LEATHER CASE

No, we're not sure why it's called a 'Walking' case either, we can only assume Ball Ltd also market cases for sitting down and standing still…From the outside the case looks quite conventional. It's made almost entirely from leather item windows and cut outs in all the right places (our sample was styled for older Ericsson handsets). The sides are elasticated sides and the top flap is held in place with a Velcro fastener. The fit and finish are both satisfactory. So far so good.

 

On the back, instead of a belt loop or clip there's a circular stud and this slots into a largish captive belt clip. The stud is attached by sliding it into a 'V' shaped channel, which guides it in whereupon it locks into position. Once in place the case is free to rotate through 360 degrees. The locking mechanism makes sure the phone won’t fall out and there's no chance of it being snatched, at least not unless the snatcher knows how to work the lock. Actually it's quite simple, the phone is released by pressing a couple of buttons on the side of the clip, but they have to be pressed in together so here's little or no chance of it happening by accident (or by force).

 

All of the components are very well made and they are tough. The clip arrangement is convenient and quick -- once you get used to it -- and the selling price seems very reasonable indeed. Worth considering as an alternative to an ordinary case, especially if you want to keep your phone safe.

 

THE FACTS

Typical Price            £15

Features            leather case with rotating belt clip and quick action lock

To fit                 most makes and models

Contact Ball Ltd., telephone 0181-574 0003

 

WHAT CELLPHONE VERDICT            88%

 

FONEY FRANCAIS

Rot your teeth and your brain at the same time with this unusual French offering. We came across this cellphone confection whilst booze-cruisin' at the famous Auchan Hypermarket on the outskirts of Calais. The phone makes all sorts of noises though we're unable to say whether they're in French or not. Youthful testers assure us the pink sweets are okay but the choccy bar is horrible! Well, what do expect for 90.2 pence or 0.64 Euros…?

 

Typical Price             100 francs

Features                       toy phone plus 3 packets of sweets

To fit                             any 3 to 5 year olds pocket and mouth

Contact                         any Auchan hypermarket

 

WHAT CELLPHONE VERDICT            88%

 

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Ó R. Maybury 1999 0701

 

 


 

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