A little more than a year ago, a small wonder called the took the smart-phone world by storm with its powerful features and ultracompact form factor. Even today, it continues to be one of CNET readers' favorite smart phones. Now, a worthy successor has come along to let the SMT5600 retire: the Cingular 2125. The 2125 is Cingular's first company-branded B2B device and offers many of the same great qualities of the SMT5600, but it adds some upgrades, such as the latest Windows Mobile 5 OS and a better camera. Unfortunately, the 2125 falls a bit behind some of its competition--the --with its lack of Wi-Fi and its average call quality. That said, the 2125's pros outweigh the cons, and it's still a powerful smart phone that will help mobile professionals be more productive on the road. The Cingular 2125 is available now for $299.99, but you should be able to get it for less with service. Unless you're a smart-phone fanatic, you may not have heard of a Taiwanese company called HTC. Alhough not a household name, the company quietly has built some of the hottest Windows Mobile smart phones in the market today, including the Cingular 2125. At a compact 4.3 by 1.8 by 0.7 inches and a light 3.7 ounces, this candy bar-style phone is a boon for mobile professionals; it won't weigh you down, and it eliminates the need to carry multiple devices. Plus, it doesn't hurt that it's a good-looking device, sporting a sleek metallic blue and silver finish. Overall, it's very reminiscent of the Audiovox SMT5600, with the exception of an additional 0.25-inch overhang on top of the device that houses the power on/off button and the infrared port. We should mention the tricky power control at this point, which already has garnered some reader complaints. It's marked by a small circular button, so the natural tendency is to simply push it in, but you actually have to push and pull it down. It's not particularly annoying, but it's definitely a weird design quirk.
The Cingular 2125's 2.2-inch-diagonal display is a sight to behold. Although it's not a touch screen, it displays 64,000 hues with a sharp 320x240-pixel resolution, making colors pop out and producing crisp text and images. Viewing photos and Web sites on the device was a treat. Just below the display are two soft keys that are well spaced and easy to press. The cramped layout of these keys, as well as the numerical dial pad, is a sticking point for us on the T-Mobile SDA, but we're glad to see the Cingular 2125 goes a different route. The Today shortcut, the Back button, and the Talk and End keys surround the navigation joystick. Unfortunately, it's the same tiny toggle that plagues the SDA, so you have to pay attention to the direction you're moving and firmly press the joystick in the middle to select an item. The dial pad is roomy and backlit, and since the keys are raised above the phone's surface, it's easy to dial by feel.
On the left spine, there are three unmarked buttons. The top button launches the Communication Manager, where you can turn on/off Bluetooth, the speakerphone, and ActiveSync; if you hold down the key, it will launch the voice recorder, though we didn't find this out until we read the user manual. Just below that is the volume rocker, which can't be used to navigate the menus. There's a lone camera-activation button on the right side, while the camera lens and the self-portrait mirror are on the back. You can find a 2.5mm headset jack and a port for the USB sync cable and AC adapter on the bottom of the device. The Cingular 2125 ships with a soft protective case/belt holster, an AC charger, a USB cable, and a wired stereo headset.
Now, we have some good news and bad news. First, the good: The Cingular 2125 is equipped with an expansion card slot. The bad news, however, is that it's located behind the battery, so you have to remove the cell pack each time you want to access it, and it accepts only Mini SD cards. That said, we understand that concessions have to be made for size, and we appreciate the inclusion of expandable memory.The Cingular 2125 is chock-full of goodies but falls behind its competitor, the T-Mobile SDA, with its lack of integrated Wi-Fi. We'll touch on this a bit later, but first, a few of the basics: The 2125's phone book is limited only by the available memory (64MB of SDRAM, 64MB of flash ROM), while the SIM card holds an additional 250 contacts. For each entry, you can store up to 12 numbers, three e-mail and instant-messaging addresses, birthdays, anniversaries, and more. You can also pair them with one of 12 ring tones and a picture for caller ID. Other treats include a vibrate mode, speed dial, text and multimedia messaging, a voice recorder, and yes, a speakerphone.
The Cingular 2125 runs Windows Mobile 5 Smartphone Edition, which means you won't get the full Mobile Office suite found on the Pocket PC Edition, just Outlook Mobile. Don't be alarmed, though; you can still view Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and PDF files by installing the ClearVue Suite from the included CD-ROM. We were able to transfer and open all four formats on the 2125 successfully. You can't edit said files, but given the 2125's smaller form factor and lack of a keyboard, it's not the best device to do such a thing anyway; it's just nice to be able to review your work and be more productive on the road.
Can't stand to be away from your e-mail? You don't have to be with the Cingular 2125. The device handles corporate and personal e-mail, and it's compatible with Microsoft Exchange Server, GoodLink, and Cingular Xpress Mail. The phone is also upgradable to Microsoft's Messaging and Security Feature Pack, which will allow for direct push e-mail. You can set up the 2125 to retrieve messages from personal accounts, such as EarthLink, BellSouth, and Yahoo. MSN Messenger is the only instant-messaging client preloaded on the handset, but you can access other popular services, such as Yahoo and AOL, via the Web browser.