Essential tools on the R255 include an alarm clock, a calendar, a calculator, a to-do list, and a stop watch. International travelers will appreciate the currency converter and world clock. There's also an audio recorder.
While it isn't strictly necessary for phones of this type to have Bluetooth, most of them do. It's a shame it isn't here, honestly, as the ability to talk hands-free while driving is a capability we'd expect to see on most modern phones. It would have been one more selling point in the ultrasimple R225's favor.
Texting is the communication king on the R225. You may be surprised to see downloadable services for mobile e-mail. Yahoo, AOL, Windows Live Hotmail, and Gmail, are all included, and you can set up service for other Web mail clients. A subscription will cost you $5 per month, plus data charges. Typing out e-mails on a numeric dial pad is cumbersome, even with predictive text turned on, but we still embrace the fact that AT&T made e-mail an option. There's also instant messaging with Yahoo Messenger, AIM, Windows Live Messenger, an AT&T Mobile Care app, and downloadable apps for mobile banking and the weather, to name two more of the carrier's contributions.
AT&T also included a browser. Because of the R225's display size, the mobile Web isn't a good choice for surfing heavy Web sites. It took about 15 seconds to load CNET's basic mobile-optimized site over the 2.5G data network, and navigation was difficult on such a small screen. Even so, we're glad to see the browser.
Since the R225 really is focused on making calls, you won't find a camera or a music player. That's not necessarily a problem if you're looking for an inexpensive handset for vocal communications. The 8MB internal memory should be sufficient. Those looking for a more customized experience can skip over to AT&T's online storefront to purchase wallpaper, games, and ringback tones.
We tested the dual-band (GSM 850/1900) AT&T R225 in San Francisco using AT&T's network. Call quality was impressive on our end--clear, but not crystal clear. We heard only occasional digital interruptions, and even then they were subtle. Voices sounded true and volume was fine, though perhaps on the low end. Our callers agreed with volume and voice quality. They noted we were understandable and they didn't have to strain to hear us as they have for other phones before.
Unfortunately, speakerphone volume was almost nonexistent. The R225 emitted only a whisper and squeak of sound from the external speaker. We had to hang up and try again to prove that it was on. Callers on the other end of the line assured us it was. They said they heard a large amount of white noise and voice volume decreased by half when we turned on speakerphone.
The R225 has a rated battery life of 5.3 hours talk time and up to 15 days of standby time. It has a tested talk time of 4 hours and 56 minutes. It measured a digital SAR of 0.8 watt per kilogram in FCC radiation tests.