Released around the same time as the full-featured , the Siemens CT66 for Cingular Wireless is more in step with the company's overall product line in the United States--that is, basic handsets with small, attractive designs. Although it contains such extras as a camera, a speakerphone, and support for AOL instant messaging, the CT66 is for those who want to do little more than make calls with their cell phones. The design is nothing special, but it performs its primary functions well. The price is fair at $169, but you should be able to find it at a discount. There isn't much to either gush or glower over the Siemens CT66's design. Though not as slick-looking as some , the candy bar-style CT66 follows the company's usual small form factor--4.1 by 1.8 by 0.7 inches and 3 ounces--and presents a decent face, with its silver casing and blue keypad. The 65,536-color screen, however, is duller and fuzzier than we're accustomed to seeing. It had a washed-out effect and was impossible to see when the backlighting was off or in direct light. On the upside, though, you can change the backlighting time and the font size.
The raised keypad is small, but there's enough separation between buttons, and the keys have a solid, tactile feel to them. A five-way joystick just below the screen simplifies navigation through the serviceable menus. The joystick also provides one-touch access to the phone book, the applications folder, the text-message editor, instant messaging, and the Web browser. Although it's not immediately obvious, moving the joystick to the left lets you back out of submenus, which is a feature we always like. We noticed, however, that some organizer functions are needlessly buried under submenus. You also get two soft keys, Talk and End buttons, and a dedicated camera control. There's no dedicated Back key, but the End button serves that function. Both sides of the unit are button-free, so you must use the joystick to adjust the volume during a call. The infrared port sits on the left spine of the unit, and the camera lens is on the rear.The Siemens CT66's feature list won't knock your socks off, but this phone wasn't built to slake anyone's geek thirst. The address book stores as many as 1,000 contacts with room for an additional 250 names on the SIM card. Each contact can store four phone numbers and such information as street and e-mail addresses, as well as IM screen names and pictures. You can also assign contacts to a group or pair them with any of 17 polyphonic (40-chord) ring tones. Other features include a vibrate mode, text and multimedia messaging, a calendar, a task list, a notepad, a voice recorder, an alarm clock, a calculator, a stopwatch, and a countdown timer. Mobile professionals will appreciate the speakerphone and the ability to synchronize the address book with Microsoft Outlook with a UBS cable (available from Siemens for $30) and a free download of the Mobile Phone Manager from Siemens's Web site.
If you're seeking a camera phone, however, look much further than the CT66. The phone's integrated camera is sub-VGA quality (352x288 pixels, or 0.1 megapixel, in Premium mode), so the resulting images are as abysmal as you'd expect. You get a 3X zoom and a self-timer, but other options were limited to adjusting the brightness and white balance; Siemens sells a flash attachment for $35. The phone includes a photo-editing application, allowing you to crop, flip, and resize your shots. But sub-VGA images give you so little to work with that it's hardly worth the effort to try to spruce up your photos. The phone includes 10MB of onboard storage, which provides space for more than 150 images. There's no Bluetooth, but the CT66 features an infrared port for wirelessly exchanging information, such as transferring photos from the phone to a laptop.
The CT66 also includes AOL Instant Messenger, although typing on the small keypad and constantly staring at the tiny, fuzzy screen will quickly grow tiresome for all but the most hard-core IMers. Other features include Siemens MediaNet wireless Web access via the WAP 2.0 browser and four Java (J2ME) games: Bubble Boost, Photopet, StackAttackAdvanced, and WappoJunior. You can personalize the phone with a variety of wallpaper, screensavers, color themes, and sounds. Alternatively, you can download more options, games, and ring tones from Cingular.We tested the triband (GSM 850/1800/1900; GPRS) Siemens CT66 in the Chicago area on the Cingular Wireless network. Call quality was good; we experienced no dropouts, and callers never had a difficult time hearing us. The speakerphone is most appropriate for indoor use; however, it isn't loud enough to use while driving. As with the , the CT66 often interfered with other electronic devices. We heard a fairly loud buzzing sound emanating from the TV with the phone about 10 feet away from the set.
As for battery life, we squeezed out 4 hours, 20 minutes of talk time, short of the maximum rating of 5 hours but still solid. The phone lasted only 3 days in standby mode, well short of the maximum 10-day rating and just half a day more than the minimum rating of 60 hours. According to the FCC, the CT66 has a digital SAR rating of 0.75 watts per kilogram.