Smart phones have come a long way in terms of design and form factor. You're no longer restricted to carrying around bricks for phones and instead have a choice of sleek, sexy numbers like the Motorola Q, the T-Mobile SDA, and the RIM BlackBerry Pearl. Yet, smart phones are limited in that they all sport a candy-bar-style form factor--that is, until now. Today, Cingular announced at the CTIA 2006 fall show the immediate availability of the Cingular 3125 (a.k.a. HTC StarTrek), the first Windows Mobile 5 smart phone to rock a sleek clamshell design. To sweeten the deal, it carries a very reasonable price tag of $149.99 with a contract. Overall, we like the new look, though there's a period of acclimation and some quirks, such as small side keys and an inconveniently located expansion slot. Feature-wise, there's nothing really new here as in the Cingular 2125 and the T-Mobile SDA. However, for flip phone fanatics who want that Windows Mobile functionality, the Cingular 3125 is a solid choice--actually, it's your only choice. We have mixed feelings about the Cingular 3125's design. While we're fans of the clamshell form factor and its slim profile (3.87 by 2.02 by 0.64 inches; 3.82 ounces), this isn't the most attractive handset we've seen, and it's a bit long in its closed and opened state. The former is not a problem if you slip it into a purse, but a couple of guys complained to us about the length of the phone as it stuck out of their jeans pocket. Also, when held up to the ear for phone calls, the mouthpiece extends down quite a bit. That said, we commend the thinness of the smart phone (à la the Motorola Razr) and to be fair, we grew to like it more as we got acclimated to the design.
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.