If you grow tired of sending messages to friends, you can play any of the three preloaded games: CubasisMobile, eXtreme, and JAMDAT Bowling. Looking for more? You can download additional Java (J2ME) games directly to the handset via AT&T's mLife service.
There are multiple ways to customize the M56. You can apply one of four color (copper, lead, tin, and bronze) themes to the menus or choose wallpaper and a screensaver from the collection of more than 30 images; you can even use images received via MMS. You can also designate specific ring tones for various calling groups, such as friends, family, and business. There are 17 polyphonic ring tones, and you can download more via mLife.
Budding shutterbugs can snap away with the optional IQP-500 QuickPic camera ($80). You can take images at resolutions of up to 640x480 pixels, then save and use the pictures as your wallpaper or send them to friends via MMS.
We tested the M56 (GSM 850/1900) in the New York metro area using AT&T Wireless service. Calls sounded loud and clear, and our callers couldn't tell we were talking on a cell phone. Placing calls via the built-in speakerphone was equally impressive.
Battery life was impressive as well. Siemens promises 200 minutes of talk time, which we surpassed by more than 2 hours. We also managed to eke out a little over six days of standby time. While that's still about 50 hours shy of the company's rating of 200 hours, it's still quite good.