Cingular's Small Achievement

The 2125 handset lacks keyboard convenience, but it makes up for that drawback with sound quality, music features, and its compact size

When most people hear the word "smartphone," they immediately think of soap bar-sized numbers like RIM's (RIMM) Blackberry, Palm's (PALM) Treo 650 or the upcoming Motorola (MOT) Q. While these tend to be great devices for reading e-mail and increasingly decent for placing phone calls, their size can be a turnoff for anyone who wants to stuff a phone in his or her pocket without unsightly bulges.

Cingular aims to grab those business customers with its first branded smartphone, the Cingular 2125, the latest in a BusinessWeek Online series of reviews of multifunction phones (see BW Online, 3/8/06, "Cingular 8125: Everything Except Phone Calls". It retails for $250.


One of a growing number of Windows Mobile devices, 2125 fits easily into the hand and most pockets, measuring 4.3 inches long by 1.8 inches wide and 0.7 inch deep. Weighing just 3.7 ounces, it's so light you'll forget it's in your pocket, sparing you the embarrassment of being called a geek by clipping it to your belt.

Grabbing hold of the 2125, my initial impression was there was no way it could replace my trusty Treo 650. Simply put, it looks too much like a phone, with keys that combine numbers and letters and a navigation joystick that looks way too tiny for most fingers.

When you turn the device on, though, the possibilities come into focus. The 2.2-inch color display offers a 320-by-240 resolution for ultra-clear pictures and text. Making a call with the 2125 feels far more natural than with other smartphones -- and the sound quality is as good or better than most of the other phones I've tried in hilly San Francisco, where poor reception comes with the territory. The phone is quad band, so you can use it in multiple areas of the country and abroad, and it's EDGE-enabled, allowing high-speed Web access.


The 2125 also is designed with multimedia in mind. It delivers crisp images with a decent 1.3 megapixel digital camera built into the back. There's also a voice recorder, though its use is limited by 64 MB of available memory.

One of the 2125's biggest advantages is the ability to trim the number of other devices many of us carry around these days. Thanks to its Windows Media Player 10 mobile support, you can listen to MPEG, Wav, non-Apple (AAPL) AAC and WMA files, as well as MPEG-4 video.

If you're a power e-mail user like me, though, the 2125 may just make you groan in agony. To its credit, the device handles corporate and personal e-mail, and it's compatible with Microsoft (MSFT) Exchange Server, GoodLink, and Cingular Xpress Mail, among others. MSN Messenger also comes preloaded, but the Web browser lets you access Yahoo! (YHOO) and AOL (TWX), too.


The unit's Achilles' heel is the lack of a Qwerty keyboard, making all but the shortest messages a pain. Like other devices in its class, the 2125 boasts Bluetooth short-range wireless access, letting you resolve typing troubles with a wireless keyboard. Though such keyboards fold into a neat, small package, you end up with a smartphone-sized device that you may have been trying to avoid.

Still, for the person who wants as much phone as anything else in a smartphone, or for the mobile exec carrying multiple devices, the 2125 is an ideal choice. It's a master of calling, e-mail, and multimedia in a very tiny package.
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