Siemens C56 (Cingular)
Weighing in at 3 ounces and measuring 4 by 1.7 by 0.8 inches, the C56 offers the small footprint that most users crave, easily slipping into a shirt or front pants pocket. The buttons have a solid feel and are raised enough to make dialing fairly easy. Though it isn't an eye-popper, the amber screen has room for five lines of text, and it gets the job done in low-light situations.
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Bite-size: At just 3 ounces, the C56 fits nicely with Siemens's other compact mobiles.
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MIA: We wish the volume-control buttons were on the side of the handset instead of the front.
You wade through the unit's simple menu structure via the four-way navigation button directly below the screen, which also doubles as the earpiece/speakerphone volume controls. We would have preferred separate controls on the side of the mobile. As it is, you have to remove the handset from your face during a call to adjust the volume.
The handset's standard black faceplate nicely complements the unit's silver accents and lends the C56 a sleek appearance. Since Siemens is targeting this handset to those who like to personalize their phones, you can choose from a variety of ClipIt faceplates.
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Mix and match: Changeable ClipIt faceplates make it easy to change the look of the C56.
The C56 requires a SIM card for operation, on which you store all your contacts; ours came with a capacity of 250 entries. You can also store up to 250 additional entries on the unit itself, but you can't view those contacts without the SIM card. The phone has all the other features you'd expect, such as two-way SMS, voice-activated dialing (for up to 20 names) and commands, wireless Web access via high-speed GRPS data networks, an alarm clock, a calculator, games (Galaxy Hero and Flowboarding), and an integrated speakerphone. You can also choose between 41 polyphonic ring tones or the vibrate mode.
The C56 is designed for the AT&T Wireless network. But like the A56, this model can be set up to automatically roam to Cingular Wireless or T-Mobile when you fall out of the network's range.
Since the mobile is also Java enabled (J2ME) and has Flexible Memory Management, you can always download more tones, games, and logos to the phone. You can also use the built-in microphone to make your own recordings and use them as ring tones assigned to specific callers.
We tested the GSM (850/1900) phone in the Chicago area using AT&T Wireless service. Call quality was outstanding; we heard rich, clear bass tones, while callers also commented on the crisp sound on their end of the conversation. The integrated speakerphone also performed well, delivering clear audio quality for us, although you'll want to hike the volume to the highest levels. Callers said the quality was very crisp for them, as well.
We matched the maximum rating of 5 hours of talk time on a single battery charge. We managed to surpass the 150 hours of standby time, with a rating of 173 hours (one week). We were able to recharge a fully drained battery in a little less than 2 hours.