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It isn’t that long ago that everybody had a standard BT phone that they paid rental for. There was no choice. You either had what they told you to have, or you didn’t have one at all. They all looked more or less the same, and there were only a few boring colours to choose from with grey and phlegm green being the most popular. How times have changed. These days, phones are available in every conceivable shape ranging from hi-tech glowing transparent models to those that look like Elvis swaying his pelvis as they ring.
Up until about 6 months ago, I’d had a so-called “hardwired” phone. That’s one with a cord. However, having a long-distance relationship soon made me realise that I needed freedom of movement. You know what it’s like; you can’t end a conversation with the man of your dreams just because mundane duties call. Whether washing up, burning the toast, making the bed or taking a bath, I needed to take the phone with me.
The phone I use now is a BT Freestyle 70. I admit that I chose this phone because it was cheap. It doesn’t look as attractive as the more expensive models, but it’s cordless and that’s really all I was concerned with at the time.
It’s now about 6 months since it’s arrival in my humble home, so let’s have a good look at it and see whether it’s really been worth the money.
Both the base unit and the handset are quite clumpy for a modern phone and not something I’d describe as attractive by any stretch of the imagination. Mine’s silver, but they’re also available in white, black and midnight blue. After regular use for half a year, the silver has started to rub off revealing a pale grey plastic, something that does nothing to add to its appeal. Now you may well be thinking that a pale grey would hardly be noticeable against the silver coating, but you’d be wrong. They’re very noticeable and make the phone look decidedly tacky.
Because of the clumpy, rounded design of the handset, I sometimes find it difficult to keep “on the shoulder” if I’m doing something that requires both hands (no comments from the dirty minds please, I’m still talking washing up here!). It has a tendency to slide out of position and on more than one occasion, has barely missed landing in the sink.
~ Signal Range & Clarity
First of all, this is an analogue phone and as such, is more susceptible to interference than a digital phone would be. Mine hasn’t done too badly though, and it’s really only the boiler starting up that ever interferes with it. Just a quick “shuuush” sound, rather like somebody sucking their teeth, or so I’m told, and that’s it. Annoying at times, but it could be worse.
Cordless phones work on exclusively designated radio frequencies (knowing that makes me sound dead clever, doesn’t it?). 8 of these frequencies are available on the Freestyle 70. The phone should automatically choose the best frequency for you, but as some frequencies may become “clogged” during a call, there’s a button which allows you to search through the remaining channels to find the best alternative at any given time. This button, like all the other operating buttons, is located on the handset.
The phone has a 200 metre signal range, but that can be halved for every wall the signal needs to pass though. Admittedly, my house is really rather diddy, but I’ve had no trouble with reception in either the garden or upstairs. Sometimes I have to change position slightly, but that’s never been much of a problem. Just putting the phone in the other hand is usually enough.
The sound is very clear compared to some cordless phones I’ve experienced, even some digital models. This one has some form of built in noise reduction, which mean that it reduces the amount of background noise that’s picked up by the receiver. That explains why, when I play my MP3’s and ask “what do you think of this one?”, my friends can rarely hear them, yet they come across loud and clear if I plug in the old phone. Sometimes useful, sometimes not.
There’s also a volume control that controls the earpiece volume. It won’t help make you more audible, but you’ll hear the other person better if they happen to have a crap phone or you suffer from over production of earwax.
The base set has an extendable, multi-directional aerial for better reception. The aerial on the handset doesn’t extend and is about 2 inches long. Evidently, the higher the base unit is located, the better the signal will be. The brochure suggests putting it in an upstairs room, but I can’t see that being very practical for most people. Mine will be staying on the telly.
The phone stores 10 numbers that can be accessed at the touch of 2 buttons. As I’d lost my instructions and only just found them again today, I haven’t actually used this function much as it’s damned difficult to guess how to programme it. Once you know how though, it’s really very simple. There’s also a quickdial directory label on the phone that can be filled in with the names of those you’ve programmed in. That’s very handy; without it, I’d never remember who was where. Except for number 1 that is, and no prizes for guessing who’s in that position.
A redial button allows you to do exactly what the button says - redial the last number called. Handy if you get the engaged signal, not so handy if you call your lover and your partner checks the last number called.
If you’re like me and regularly misplace the handset, there’s a button on the base unit that sends a signal to the phone that makes it beep. This is one very handy function that I wouldn’t be without but I think you’ll probably find that it’s a standard feature on all cordless phones.
There’s something called an “inductive coupler” that evidently helps people with a “T-switch” hearing aid to hear better, but fortunately I haven’t needed to try that yet. I’m sure it’s very handy for those that need it though.
A one-touch button gives access to the BT call waiting service but as I’m not a subscriber, I haven’t needed that either. I’d personally prefer to have a button that takes me to 1571, because with only the one phone line and two females battling to use the net, I miss a hell of lot of calls and use the service regularly. Not that I actually call people back, I usually just pretend I didn’t listen to my messages. I’m too busy on the net to do all that calling back stuff.
The base unit’s wall mountable but I’ve lost the bracket thing that you need to use to do it. If you buy one and want it on the wall, you’ll have to drill two holes. That alone was enough to put me off!
There are two little lights on the base unit. One that tells you the phone’s in use, and the other to tell you that it’s charging. And quite pretty they are too.
One feature that I don’t like is that if the handset’s on the base unit when the phone rings, it’ll automatically connect the call when you lift it. I’m used to having to press the “talk” button to answer a call and regularly cut callers off by pressing it when I shouldn’t. I really don’t see the point in this automatic connect feature and would much rather have to push the button whenever the phone rings, regardless of whether it’s on the base unit or not.
Another drawback is the lack of a secrecy button. I’ve worked in a call centre, and I know they can hear me even when I’m on hold, and I’m buggered if I want every Tom, Dick or Harriet to hear me yelling at the kids to turn their blinkin’ stereos down!
According to the instructions, replacing the handset on the base unit at night should be enough to keep the handset charged under normal circumstances. My circumstances obviously aren’t normal, because I regularly run out of charge. Generally the handset beeps with 10-15 second intervals to let you know that you’re running low, but occasionally this fails, beeps once and then “shuuuuuuuuush”…. Gone! The handbook says that there should be 7 hours talktime available on a fully charged battery, but even though I use the phone a lot, I have difficulty believing that. I’d guess at 4 or 5. Standby time is supposed to be 72 hours, but again I’ve a strong feeling that it’s considerably lower than that.
Unlike most cordless phones available these days, you can’t have more than one handset with this one. I’d like to have two, one upstairs and one down because you can bet your life that the handset’s always where I’m not, but for £29.95 I don’t suppose you can expect too much.
As with all cordless phones, there’s a remote chance that somebody may tap into your conversations. From what I’ve been told, it isn’t difficult to do if a person has a radio that can be tuned to the frequencies used by cordless phones. In other words, if total privacy is really important to you, you’re better off with a standard hardwired phone.
So that’s it. I’m pretty much satisfied with it considering the price, but given the choice again I’d probably go for one that was a bit less rounded and easier to keep under the chin, and definitely not a silver one. What I really need is one that automatically recharges itself and instinctively knows where in the house I am and makes sure it’s never more than an arm length away. It should also know when I’ll be logging off the net and tell people to call back at that time as well as having a vibrate function that only kicks in if I have the handset on my lap when it rings. Oh well…. I can but dream.
etc. - * Also Known As: Battery Pack Power Pack Rechargeable Battery Cell * We recommend that this battery is fully charged prior to first use. By following this simple instruction you will enjoy superb performance - equivalent to that of the manufacturer's original battery. * Type: CP05UMN * With a new cordless phone battery pack it is essential that you leave it in the phone to be charged for at least 24 hours before use. The charger units built into cordless phones produce only a tiny charging current to avoid damaging the battery pack when the handset is left on the base unit for days or even weeks without use. The result is that it takes about 24 hours before a new battery pack is fully charged. You can enhance the performance and extend the life of your new battery pack with this simple procedure. * Notice: Your original battery may have only one lead and connector. This battery comes with two leads and 2 separate connectors. This is a suitable replacement and the battery will still connect to your phone.