Given the impressive line of attractive, strong-performing handsets the company has released, it's hard to believe that Siemens isn't a huge cell phone name in the United States. That said, the Siemens S66 is true to form and easily maintains the company's reputation. In many ways, this offering exceeds its predecessors in terms of the range and implementation of its features. Although the cramped keypad will keep some people from taking full advantage of what this mobile has to offer, the S66 for Cingular Wireless is a multimedia powerhouse. With an asking price of $249, it will crimp your wallet, but you should be able to find it for a discount with service. As with just about every other phone in its line, Siemens's S66 is quite attractive. Its black-and-silver casing will look equally stylish in a boardroom or a nightclub. At 4.3 by 1.9 by 0.7 inches and 3.5 ounces, this candy bar-style handset isn't as small as some other models from the company, but it won't be a burden for mobile professionals, either.
The 2-inch-diagonal screen is large and vibrant, although the 65,536-color display is a bit chintzy for a phone of this caliber. The screen occupies most of the mobile's real estate, so there's a slight trade-off in terms of the controls. Though the five-way toggle and navigation keys are well sized, little room is left for the dial-pad keys. The buttons are small even for the daintiest of fingers, though they are sufficiently raised from the unit to simplify touch dialing. Conversely, the five-way joystick, the two soft keys, the Talk and End buttons, and the dedicated camera key that sit just below the display are quite easy to use. Navigating through the animated menus is a breeze, and shortcuts are allowed to user-defined functions. Or, to back out of a submenu, simply press the joystick to the left. The menus themselves are logical, so you shouldn't spend a lot of time figuring out where everything is. Even AOL IM gets its own menu option, rather than being buried under Connectivity.
Other exterior controls are few. The infrared port is on the left spine, while a multifunction control for changing the volume, scrolling thorough menus, activating the sound recorder, and using the camera is on the right spine. The back of the handset holds the camera lens--there's no mirror or flash--and you'll find a MultiMediaCard slot in the bottom of the device. Take care not to accidentally remove the card without using the Eject Card function from the MyMedia options menu, or else you will probably wipe out all of your stored data. The only other serious complaint is that it's difficult to remove the SIM card. Instead of a sliding lock to hold the card in place, the card simply snaps into the slot. When it comes time to remove it, it helps to have fairly long fingernails to get underneath the card and slide it out with your opposite thumb.Not only is the Siemens S66's feature list extensive, but everything is well implemented. The phone book can hold 1,000 entries, each of which includes room for street addresses, birthdays, and pictures (the SIM card holds an additional 250 names). Contacts can be organized into caller groups or be paired with a picture or any of the 12 polyphonic (40-chord) ring tones. Additionally, whereas some phones require you to save the basic information first, then add details later, with the Siemens, you can instead enter all of this information at once. Other features include a vibrate mode, a calendar, text and multimedia messaging, a voice recorder, a stopwatch, a countdown timer, an alarm clock, a calculator, a currency converter, a task list, and a WAP 2.0 wireless Web browser. Business users will appreciate the S66's Bluetooth, speakerphone, infrared port, e-mail support (POP3, IMAP4, and SMTP), and USB connectivity. Also, you can use the handset as a modem, and with a free download of the Mobile Phone Manager from Siemens's Web site, you get the ability to sync with Microsoft Outlook and Lotus Notes.
The S66 is very much a multimedia phone. Pressing and holding the key on the right spine of the handset brings you to the 1.3-megapixel (1,280x960-pixel) camera, which takes pictures in five resolutions with decent color balance. It's worth adjusting the white-balance setting for indoor or outdoor use, as colors tend to be slightly richer than with the automatic setting. You can make basic adjustments without entering the menu; simply move the joystick left or right to adjust the brightness and up or down to adjust the 4X digital zoom. You can also record as much as 30 seconds of video at a time in 3GP format at 15fps. Don't worry about where you'll store all these files; the S66 comes with a 32MB MultiMediaCard, and you can always purchase a higher-capacity card.
For serious mobile shutterbugs, the S66 includes a photo editor that allows you to rotate, crop, copy, and paint, as well as add frames and effects to your snapshots. With the editor, you can save pictures as bitmap files and copy photos that are saved on the camera to the MMC, or vice versa. The editor is rather sluggish, however, so your best bet is to save pictures to the MMC and edit them on your computer. Siemens MediaNet is standard with the phone, which includes links to CNN, Yahoo News, AP, and MobiTV for a $9.99-per-month subscription fee. The S66 is also AOL IM-compatible, although typing messages on the cramped keypad will quickly grow tiresome. About the only feature this phone doesn't include is MP3 support.
You can personalize the phone with a variety of screensavers, wallpaper, colors, and sounds. You also get three Java (J2ME) games: Ocean Battle, Worms, and 3D Rally. For a broader selection of all of the above, you can download more options from Cingular.We tested the triband (GSM 850/1800/1900; GPRS) Siemens S66 in the Chicago area. Call quality was generally good, especially outdoors. A word of caution about using this phone indoors: It interferes with TV and radio broadcast signals. We sat about 10 feet away from our television and could hear a distinct hum in the background that disappeared as soon as we moved the phone a few feet further away. We also sometimes got a buzzing sound from our PC when the phone was too close. And the speakerphone isn't the loudest, so while it's sufficient for use in an office, it probably won't be loud enough to use in a car.
As for battery life, we reached just more than 4.5 hours of talk time, a bit short of the maximum rating of 5 hours, but certainly better than acceptable. Siemens claims a maximum standby time of 250 hours, or a little more than 10 days. Our unit lasted a week before the battery ran out of juice. According to the FCC, the S66 has a digital SAR rating of 0.76 watts per kilogram.