As a phone built with beginners in mind, the PCD CDM8635 has more features than you'd think. Unlike some cell phones aimed at seniors, it has a full complement of 500 address book entries, each with room for five phone numbers, two e-mail addresses, and a street address. A birthday reminder would further round out the features, but that's a minor point. There is, however, support for groups, and a provision to assign a ringtone and photo to each contact.
The organizer contains an alarm clock, a calculator, a tip calculator, a calendar, voice memos, a stopwatch, a world clock, and a notepad. It can text and send multimedia messages, and has speed dial memory for up to 98 numbers.
Keeping its novice audience in mind, the PCD CDM8635 contains wizards that help first-timers navigate the phone. There are the help balloons, which are switched on by default and briefly describe each menu option. Clear hearing is another unique menu option that offers three ways to help boost sound for sensitive ears. The Slow Speech option slows the incoming voice to make it easier to parse words. A noise suppressor can dampen background sounds in loud situations, and the Pitch Adjustment tool will inflate the caller's vocal pitch to sound higher, which may be easier on some callers' ears.
The CDM8635 also includes "Easyedge," an online store operated by U.S. Cellular that sells wallpaper, and sells ringtones in the Tone Room portion of the carrier's shop. Unfortunately, the Easyedge interface breaks with the rest of the phone's conscientiousness with tiny text and a harder-to-see design.
Believe it or not, the CDM8635 has a 1.3 megapixel camera. It offers three resolutions (1,280x960, 640x480, and 320x240) and three photo quality settings (high, medium, and low). Digital zoom is available for lower resolutions. After taking a photo, you can set it as your wallpaper or as a photo ID, send it as a picture message or upload the shot to an online album. The low megapixel count makes us wonder if including a camera was worth the effort, though we like the option it affords to assign a photo to a contact.
In addition to the photo album is the "sound album," which stores and plays back MP3, PMD, and SP-MIDI attachments.
We tested the PCD CDM8635 in San Francisco using U.S. Cellular's roaming network. Call quality on the dual-band (CDMA 800/1900; EV-DO) phone was impressive, with high vocal fidelity and volume. There was almost no perceptible background noise in our indoor and outdoor tests.
Callers also commented on the excellent quality, noting in one call that we sounded like we were as close as next door. In another call, a caller observed that we sounded entirely intelligible, but a little off, as though the phone were cutting off the higher frequencies.
The CDM8635 has a rated battery life of 250 minutes talk time and a 13.75-day standby time. It has a tested talk time of 5 hours and 18 minutes. FCC radiation tests measure its digital SAR at 1.39 watts per kilogram.