On the front flap is a 1.2-inch LCD that garnered a lot of oohs and aahs from passersby, thanks to its sharp 128x128-pixel resolution and the cool blue font, which offers a nice contrast against the phone's black casing. The screen shows off all the basic info, such as date, time, network strength, and battery life, and we really like that you can change the wallpaper and backlight time-out. When the music player is activated, the external screen will show you the track title, artist, song length, and volume. Conveniently, just below the screen, you also have music player controls, including track forward, track back, and play/stop. Above the display is the Cingular 3125's camera lens, but disappointingly, there's no flash or self-portrait mirror, though you can use the external display for the latter.
A button on the right side of the phone activates the camera. However, this sliver of a control occupies the top, thinner half of the flap, making it hard to find and press by feel. The same problem exists on the left spine, where you will find the voice recorder button and volume up/down keys. We really had a hard time adjusting the audio levels during phone calls and often had to pull the handset away from our face to find the controls; it's even worse when you hold the mobile in your right hand as you have to use your index finger to manipulate the buttons, which seems a bit unnatural when compared to using your thumbs.
There's some redemption when you open the Cingular 3125 and are presented with a beautiful internal screen and a spacious keypad. The TFT LCD measures 2.2 inches diagonally and boasts a sharp, 240x320-pixel resolution. Colors are bright, and text and images are extrasharp. Like all devices running Windows Mobile Smartphone Edition, the 3125 does not have a touch screen. Rather, you navigate the menus and enter commands via the controls below the display. You have two soft keys, talk and end buttons, a home page shortcut, a back button, a five-way navigation control, and a numerical dial pad. Like the phone itself, the style of the keypad reminds us of the Motorola Razr with its flat design and laser-cut look. The buttons were easy to press and the numerical dial pad was particularly roomy, so even users with larger fingers shouldn't have a problem. That said, the lack of a QWERTY keyboard makes the 3125 better for viewing e-mail rather than sending it.
The Cingular 3125 does have a Micro SD expansion slot, but it's inconveniently located behind the battery cover and the SIM card. We're already irked that we have to remove the battery cover, but having to go through two hoops to access the expansion slot is truly a hassle. Finishing out the 3125's design elements is a power/USB cable connector on the lower right side, as well as two small LEDs on the lower-left corner of the front cover that blink different colors for network status (green), Bluetooth (blue), and battery status (orange). Much of the buzz surrounding the Cingular 3125 centered around its design, but this phone has a solid feature set as well. However, its features are still standard fare for a smart phone and very similar to its candy-bar-style cousin, the Cingular 2125. The 3125 runs Windows Mobile 5 Smartphone Edition and comes with the complete ClearVue Suite for viewing Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and PDF files. You can't edit the documents, but given the lack of a full keyboard or touch screen, it's not the ideal device for such a thing anyway. Still, the ability to even access these files allows you to be more productive on the road, and we're happy to report that we had no problems transferring and opening all four types of documents on our test unit. Other PIM tools include a calendar, a task manager, a calculator, and a download agent.
The Cingular 3125 comes with Outlook Mobile and is compatible with the Microsoft Exchange Server with direct push e-mail solutions available through Microsoft, GoodLink, and Cingular Xpress Mail. You can also configure the 3125 to access your POP3 and IMAP4 e-mail accounts. For instant-messaging fans, only the MSN client is preloaded onto the device. Users of other popular IM apps, such as Yahoo and AOL, will have to go through the Web browser. Alternatively, text and multimedia messaging are available for quick notes.
You also get Windows Media Player 10 Mobile--after all, it can't be all about work, right? The 3125 supports MP3, WMA, AAC, and AMR-NB music files (you can also shop for music via the Cingular Music store) and MPEG-4, WMV, AVI, and H.263 video formats.
As a phone, the 3125's address book is limited only by the available memory (64MB RAM, 128MB 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 a picture for caller ID, a group category, and one of 14 ring tones. As a bonus, the phone supports MIDI, MP3, WMA, AMR-NB, and AAC ring tones. You get a vibrate mode, a speakerphone, speed dial, and voice tags. In addition, Bluetooth 1.2 is onboard for use with headsets and car kits, but like the 2125, the 3125 lacks integrated Wi-Fi, although there is EDGE support.
The Cingular 3125 is equipped with a 1.3-megapixel camera with 2X zoom and video-recording capabilities. For still images, you have a choice of four quality settings (Basic, Normal, Fine, and Super-Fine) and four resolutions (160x120, 320x240, 640x480, and 1,280x1,024). And while there's no flash, there is a Night mode under the white balance settings. You also get a self-timer, a time- and date-stamp option, and a photo counter. The 3125's camera records video with sound in MPEG-4, H.263, or Motion-JPEG AVI format, and it offers two resolutions (176x144 or 128x96). We tested the quad-band (GSM 850/900/1800/1900; EDGE) Cingular 3125 in San Francisco and Los Angeles, and overall, call quality was good. On our end, conversations were loud and clear. Our callers reported excellent audio quality and added that they couldn't tell we were on a cell phone. Unfortunately, activating the speakerphone diminished audio quality a bit. Our friends reported no problems, but they sounded garbled to us.
Aside from its phoning capabilities, the 3125 was sometimes sluggish to perform other tasks. There was a bit of lag time as we switched between screens or called up different apps. However, music sounded great on the device and Web pages and video looked amazing on the sharp screen.
The Cingular 3125 is rated for 7 hours of talk time and up to 9 days of standby time. In our tests, we were able to get a good 8 hours of talk time from the phone's lithium-ion battery.