Ora Full Car Kit

Well, here it is – the first ever Full Car Kit for the Orange SPV. I managed to get one of these and install it. You’ll see that I’m using it with my Tanager Smartphone, but this product has been designed with the Orange SPV in mind.

Anyway, I figured that to review it, it’s best to go from out-of-the-box to a completed install – so here’s my review…

Ora Full Car Kit

The car kit is available from a company called Ora. They supply a huge range of accessories for a huge range of phones, but they’ve been very active in developing and retailing all types of accessories for the Orange SPV. Check out their site below.






What’s in the box

The full car kit, which was announced exclusively on coolsmartphone.com, now retails for £99.99. For this, you’ll get an ergonomic cradle for the Orange SPV (the cradle also works with the Tanager – or SPVx which is to come soon),  a magnetic antennae, control box, remote microphone, separate speaker, power leads and all associated cabling, screws, cable ties (very useful!), in-line fuse and colour manual. Here’s a little picture of the contents of the box..



On the left is the antennae, and underneath it is the microphone. Toward the centre is the specially designed cradle – it’s worth noting here how this operates – the phone slides in, then pushed back onto the antennae connector (have a look on the back of your SPV – the rubber “grommet” hides this connector). On the top-right is the control box, which is the magic box that does all the call volume / microphone and all that jazz. Below that is the speaker, which you can position anywhere in your car – provided it’s about a metre away from the microphone. 




Installing it

It should be noted at this point that this product should be installed by an approved Orange Installation Agent, a member of the guild of craftsman, or equivalent. Installation by a person other than one of those mentioned may invalidate the warranty. You have been warned!

OK, now before I start here – you’re going to see pictures of my car – it’s not a pretty site. I don’t treat cars very well – I had to replace the engine in the last one, and in the car before that I wore out the cam-shaft.. It’s probably ‘cus I drive like a nutter and rarely service them, but hey..  :) Ohh – it’s also worth noting that I started this install at about 7PM (you can see by the tacky 1980’s-style clock on my dashboard) and I’ve got the flu – so things were a bit blurry and I kept sneezing over everything. 

It took me about an hour and a half, but it can be done quicker if..

1) It isn’t raining
2) The installer (i.e. me) hasn’t got the flu
3) It’s not going dark outside
4) You use a torch (flashlight for the US readers)
5) You don’t keep going back in the house for tea / food etc

Anyway.. enough of that, here’s my lovely dashboard…


A) Here’s my dashboard – the phone-holder is an old one I’ve had for ages. It sticks onto the top of the dash, and this is where I want to put the Ora Car Kit when it’s done.



B) First thing to do (according to the manual, which I almost used!) is to find a power source. The car-kit uses a constant power feed, an ignition power feed and an “earth”. I decided to take this power from the stereo, as I knew this had a similar setup. Here’s my car stereo, hidden under the flap.



C) Agh! Wires everywhere! :) I’ve had this car for about 4 years now, and I fitted the stereo shortly after I bought it – I almost forgot how many wires there were!



D) Highlighted below you can just see the yellow, red and black cable coming from the left-side of the picture (this is to be the power feed for the Car Kit). 

The yellow “constant power” cable has been fed into the same plug as the stereo, whilst I’ve fitted the red “ignition” power cable into the same plug as the stereo, with the provided in-line fuse to prevent any nasty power surges. The black “earth” cable goes to the connector with the red insulation tape around it. I’m not the best electrician around, but insulation tape is a must if you’re using connectors.



E) It’s essential to check you’ve got power coming through the connector block that’ll go into the “black box” for the Car Kit, so I had a look around the garage and found this old meter so I could do a power test. With one end in the “earth” (black cable) and the other in the “constant power” (yellow) – it showed 12 Volts DC. I did the same for the red cable after turning on the ignition to check this too.

If you don’t do this now, you could well end up taking everything apart again later.



F) Next, I threaded the power cable down to the footwell, where I plan to put the “black box” that controls everything. The stereo went back in too. If you’ve read this far and you’re thinking “ooo.. this all sounds a bit tricky” – it’s not, believe me – these first few steps are probably a bit fiddly, but it’s only because you have to find power for your Car Kit – everything else after this is a breeze.



G) Now the external speaker goes in. I decided to plonk this near the front, by the heater. Be careful not to get it too close, because it’ll get very hot if you’ve got the “blowers” on your feet. The speaker can screw into the dash should you wish instead. Again, the cable for this was dumped in the passenger footwell ready for the box.



G) Another shot.. 



H) Next I put the microphone in. I have to say at this point that this is NOT the place to put it, as when you put your sun-visor down, the microphone goes with it. I did move it after, but this is the only pic I have. The cable was tucked down the rubber-trim around the door. This took about 2 minutes tops and was really easy to do. I must mention here that the cable on the mic. could do with being a tiny bit longer, as it only just reached the box.



I) Here’s the mic cable, shown on the right of the pic below.



J) Next is the cradle itself. I wanted to mount this on a horizontal platform, but the bracket is designed to swing from a horizontal fixture – say if you mounted it on the side of your dashboard. Because of this, I unscrewed the bracket and turned it 90 degrees so that it would swing up and down, instead of side-to-side. It’s great that the bracket lets you do this – and that they didn’t mould it on. A lot of thought has obviously gone into the cradle. 



K) This is the cradle after I spun the bracket around – you can also see the “black box” here.



L) I removed the old cradle at this point, which was stuck onto the dashboard. This left a bit of a mess, but it cleaned up after. The new bracket (which I removed from the cradle temporarily) screws into the dashboard – you can also use double-sided-stick here if you wish, but – as mentioned earlier – I’m not too fussed about my car. If you have an approved installer to do this, he’ll probably install it better than me!

The yellow bar sticking out of the side locks the tilt into place.



M) Almost done ! Now all I needed to do was put the cradle back on and plug the magic “black box” into everything. Doing this is pretty simple – each plug is different so you can’t go wrong. The box was then stashed above the footwell on the passenger side, and I used the provided cable-ties to tidy everything up. You can’t see the black box here because of that, but click here if you want to see what it looks like. Below is the finished install – I’m using my Tanager here, but the system was designed with the Orange SPV in mind, so it works well with both!



N) Another picture, this time with the “flap” on my stereo closed. If you look carefully you can see that there’s two cables coming from the cradle. One goes to the black box, whilst the other is a plug which goes to the external antennae.



O) I wasn’t going to bother with the external antennae – it’s optional for you to put this on, but I did because the signal around my house is a bit pants. I tucked the cable into the rubber seal around the wind-screen, then threaded it down to the door seal. If you’ve got a bit more time, you could probably fit it to your boot. The cable from the antennae could do with being slightly longer – I found that I couldn’t reach the back of my car with it, but it goes into a plug – so you can probably buy an extension kit easily. I presume most good radio-shack type shops would do this, or those specialising in CB radio’s etc.

I stuck this on the front temporarily as it was getting dark! However, it’s since been moved to a better place now and mounted properly! The antennae is magnetic and holds very well – I’ve been up and down the M6 quite a bit since this picture and it hasn’t budged.





Using it

The system – once installed, works flawlessly. The speaker volume is perfect – bear in mind I drive a old noisy diesel (when diesels WERE noisy) – and even when I’m doing 9… errmm.. 70MPH up the M6 I can still hear my missus on the other end. :) The microphone works excellently too, and – because it’s full-duplex (you can both hear each other and talk at the same time) – you don’t have to wait for the other person to stop talking before you can get a word in.

If you want to get one of these excellent kits, it sells for £99.99 – and you can purchase it here. 
It might sound like a lot if you’ve never had one before, but here’s my list of advantages and disadvantages…


Advantages:

Much improved signal response

Charged constantly whilst driving – no plugs to fiddle with

No fiddly personal-hands-free kids to mess around with (with wires and headphones everywhere)

The ringing sounds come through the external speaker – no more missed calls!

The text-message / alarm / reminder / voice-mail sounds come through the speaker too.

Easy-to-follow instructions

Easy to alter speaker volume – just adjust your phones volume control!
 


Disadvantages:


No auto cut-off (mute / attenuate) function for your car-stereo.

Bracket for cradle does not tilt more than 90 ° – could pose a problem for those installing in passenger area.





More images:


 



 


T-Mobile SDA - A First Look
HTC Tanager - Review 2