UTStarcom (Audiovox) CDM-180
If most burly cell phones can be represented by, say, Harrison Ford and sexy phones by Brad Pitt, then the UTStarcom (formerly known as Audiovox) CDM-180 for Verizon Wireless is Danny DeVito--or, if you're from an earlier generation, Stubby Kaye. Short and squat but not wholly unattractive, the CDM-180 gets its unusual shape from its equally unusual landscape display. Yet despite its distinctive design, the CDM-180 offers an average feature set and a mixed performance. It's also worth noting that the phone doesn't take full advantage of the wide body conceit. Still, it may satiate anyone with a taste for a simple yet odd-looking cell phone. At $119 with a one-year contract or $69.99 with a two-year contract, it's also fairly priced. Strictly speaking, it's not its width that makes the UTStarcom CDM-180 fascinating; it's the lack of height. At 3.0 by 2.1 by 1 inches, the CDM-180 is just as wide as the Motorola Razr V3, but since it's an inch shorter, it almost looks square when viewed straight on. What's more, the short and squat form factor not only gives it a snug fit in small pockets but conversely can also be difficult to locate in a large purse or bag. The CDM-180 is a bit hefty at 3.7 ounces, and the external antenna measures a full inch high. Criticisms aside, the phone does have a solid feel, and despite its shape, it is relatively comfortable to hold while talking. Just remember that if you're a right-hander, your index finger will end up resting on top of the external color screen during calls. If you're a southpaw, however, the antenna stub makes an excellent index-finger balance point.
The UTStarcom CDM-180's black and silver color scheme is simple--neither attractive nor repellent. The postage stamp-size external display shows a bright 262,000 colors and displays all the usual information, such as the date, the time, battery life, signal strength, and caller ID (where available). On the left spine is a volume rocker and a camera button, while the rear-facing VGA camera is mounted on the top of the phone near the hinge, just where your finger will go as you open the flip. Below the lens is the battery latch, but since it's exposed on the right side, it's far too easy to remove.
The UTStarcom CDM-180's design is marred by some annoyances inside the flip. First off, you'll notice the 1.8-inch-diagonal display has a landscape orientation--not something you see every day on a cell phone. With support for 262,000 colors, it does its job well, but we were divided over the usefulness of the landscape design. While it's useful for typing long text messages, the only other applications that take advantage of the 1.6-inch landscape LCD are the camera photos and the games, which were designed specifically for it. Other images such as wallpaper, however, are simply stretched to fit, and Web pages have a white vertical strip to the right when no graphics fill. Any long menus also require more scrolling since not as many choices fit on a screen.
You would think the UTStarcom's wider body would result in larger dial and navigation keys, but strangely, that's not the case. Dial-pad keys are widely spaced, which will help those with large fingers, but the navigation array is shockingly small, as are the dual Back and Speakerphone keys. On a different note, the Send-key backlight is closer to turquoise than traffic-light green, and the End-key backlight hues skew nearer to purple than red. The rest of the dial pad and the soft menu keys are poorly illuminated with a bright but splotchy cool-blue backlight that actually makes it harder to read the keys in the dark.