PCD CDM8635 (U.S. Cellular) review: PCD CDM8635 (U.S. Cellular)

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MSRP: $159.95

The Good The PCD CDM8635 has large dialpad keys, handy shortcut buttons, hearing assistance features, and strong call quality.

The Bad Its 1.3 megapixel camera produces blurry photos, too, and U.S. Cellular's Easyedge store is anything but easy on the eyes.

The Bottom Line The PCD CDM8635's clean design, excellent call quality, useful shortcut keys, and usability wizards help make it a prime entry-level phone for seniors.

7.3 Overall
  • Design 7
  • Features 7
  • Performance 8

With cell-phone-makers cramming ever more sophisticated features into their phones, it's easy to forget that for some people, e-mail, GPS, and videos are overkill, and call quality and usability are what matter most. PCD's rather clumsily named CDM8635 for U.S. Cellular is such a phone. It combines the elegant simplicity of a classic flip phone with a few design perks and excellent call quality to create a satisfactory handset for entry-level users. As with the Verizon Wireless Coupe, the CDM8635's convenience buttons mapped to 911 and emergency contacts gear it toward seniors and those with medical concerns. Also see our list of other phones for seniors, including the well-known Jitterbug J.

With its sleek lines and modern touches, the CDM8635's classic clamshell body is certainly no eyesore. At 3.85 inches high by 1.96 inches wide by 0.79 inch thick, it's a fairly compact little number that makes for easy toting, though it could get lost in a cavernous handbag. Its 3.52-ounce weight feels solid in the hand, but it isn't overly heavy.

Though the CDM8635 looks black at first glance, a careful sunlit look reveals dark blue specks set within the glossy, plastic body. A black border with wavy blue pattern surrounds the 1.5-inch grayscale external display. It shows the time, date, battery level, and reception bars. Pressing in on the phone's volume keys illuminates the external display, which is typical for this type of phone.

The PCD CDM8635 is a classic flip phone with handy shortcut buttons just below the internal display.

On the right spine is a 2.5mm headset jack (we always prefer the 3.5mm standard), and buttons to trigger both voice dialing and the camera. The left spine houses the volume rocker and a Micro-USB charging port. A bare-bones 1.3 megapixel camera takes up residence on the back next to the phone's external speaker.

The 2.2-inch internal display supports 260,000 colors. The screen looks bright, and all text, from the time and date to the menu options, are in a large font that's easy on the eyes. Additional settings let you adjust the duration of the backlight on the screen and keys, though the font size isn't flexible.

Below the CDM8635's screen are four dedicated shortcut keys that respectively zoom in and out when you're entering text, initiate the speakerphone, open the alarm clock, and activate the photo gallery. The navigation array includes a familiar four-way toggle with a central OK button. On either side are the two soft keys, and below that are two more shortcut keys that are mapped to an emergency contact list, and to 911. While that 911 button is in prime territory for accidental pressing, rest assured that the CDM8635 will ask you again before dialing for help.

Above the dialpad keys are the Send, Clear, and End buttons. The backlit keys are large and separated. While not raised from the surface, we had no problems typing, though we've had better experiences on other phones.

As a phone built with beginners in mind, the PCD CDM8635 has more features than you'd think. Unlike some cell phones aimed at seniors, it has a full complement of 500 address book entries, each with room for five phone numbers, two e-mail addresses, and a street address. A birthday reminder would further round out the features, but that's a minor point. There is, however, support for groups, and a provision to assign a ringtone and photo to each contact.