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Siemens cordless phone has clear advantage

Danyll Wills

In Tokyo several months ago, I bought a cordless telephone with the ability to handle voice mail.

I brought it back to Hong Kong and found to my considerable dismay that the voice-mail function does not work. When someone rings me, the phone does not know when the call ends and records to the end of the tape.

However, the cordless handset works, even if my friends think I am sitting in a tunnel with laryngitis.

Recently, however, I got hold of a Siemens Dect phone, called the Gigaset 1010. Like a standard cordless phone, it has a base which plugs into the wall. However, the Siemens phone lets you roam further - 50 to 300 metres from the base, compared with 10 to 20 metres for other cordless phones, according to Siemens officials.

Setting it up was easy. I just plugged it in as per the instructions and waited for the battery to charge, which takes about 18 hours.

After that, all I had to do was connect the phone to the line into my house.

Without having to tell anybody, I immediately was congratulated on my recovery from the throat illness.

The Siemens has worked for a few weeks with no problems. However, in some ways, it takes a little getting used to. When you pick up the handset, it is not ready to go: you must push a little green button. However, for an in-coming call, picking up the handset immediately makes the connection.

I suppose there is a logic to this, but I found it a bit confusing.

The phone has 19 keys. Ten are numeric keys, two others are the usual * and # (often called the star key and the pound key), and three at the top - the redial, memory and speed-dial keys - also are keys you find on any normal telephone.

However, four at the bottom are a little unusual. These are called Internal key, Signal key, ON/OFF/PROTECTED key and Phone key.

The Internal key is used for calling your other handsets or mobile units (six can be supported). An option lets you ring all the units so you can find one if it is missing. It also is used for transferring an external call to a handset.

The Signal key brings back an external caller. If during a call you want to consult someone else, you press the Internal key.

This immediately will send music to the external caller and he will not be able to hear while you either talk to someone nearby or call someone on your network.

When you are ready to talk to the caller on hold, you press the Signal key and the connection is re-established.

The difference between On, Off and Protected is simply that in Protected mode the phone can receive incoming calls but cannot otherwise be used.

This is rather obvious when you think about it. If you are doing something where you could unintentionally press one of the keys, you do not want the phone to redial your wife in London if you hit the redial key.

By far the greatest asset of the Siemens handset is that its clarity is considerably better than that of ordinary cordless phones. My only complaint with it is that the handset is not the easiest to hold. It is rectangular and fairly wide, which means you must use the tips of your fingers to hold it to your ear.

If you talk for more than a few minutes, this can become uncomfortable.

Another oddity is that the power attachment and the phone plug are alike. A Siemens representative said that if you connected them incorrectly by mistake, it would not matter. But the phone would not work, of course.

The standby time is said to be 60 hours and the phone can be used for up to seven hours. I could not test these, but I had no problem leaving the phone off the base station overnight.

PROS AND CONS Product: Siemens Gigaset 1010 telephone, with digital enhanced cordless technology (Dect) Price: $1,800 Pros: High-quality cordless phone with clear signal; several special functions; allows user to roam 50 to 300 metres away from its base Cons: Shape and size makes it ergonomically a little uncomfortable, and could be tiring when used for long calls