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UTStarcom CDM-105 (Sprint) review: UTStarcom CDM-105 (Sprint)

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5.6

UTStarcom CDM-105 (Sprint)

The Good

The UTStarcom CDM-105 has reliable performance, a speakerphone, voice dialing, and analog roaming.

The Bad

The UTStarcom CDM-105 is hampered by a poor overall design, which includes no external display, a small internal screen, and slippery keys.

The Bottom Line

If you can get over the obvious design flaws, the UTStarcom CDM-105 is a basic and well-performing cell phone for Sprint.
UTStarcom CDM-105
There will always be a market for a cell phone that just makes calls, but sometimes you can make a phone that's too basic. Take the UTStarcom CDM-105 (CDM-7000): Although this Sprint cell phone performs its primary function well, it suffers from some design flaws that impede its usability. Among them are slippery keys, no external display, and a small and washed-out internal screen. The phone is expensive if you pay full price ($149), but Sprint is offering it for free with service.

The UTStarcom CDM-105 has a dull design.

The UTStarcom CDM-105 has a classic flip phone shape with a stubby external antenna and rounded edges. It's also relatively compact at 3.3 by 1.9 by 0.9 inches and 2.8 ounces. That said, the overall design is rather boring, particularly the gray and silver color scheme. What's worse, there's no external display, so you have to open the phone to see who's calling--certainly not the definition of user-friendly. Cell phones that lack external screens are increasingly becoming a mystery to us, as even the most basic, monochrome models are well worth the few dollars they might add to a handset's cost. The only visual warning you get for an incoming call is a small LED light that blinks blue. On the plus side, the CDM-105 has a solid construction and feels comfortable in the hand. Just be careful of the extendable antenna, as it's rather flimsy.

When opening the UTStarcom CDM-105, you'll see that disappointments persist. At just 1.4 inches diagonally, the internal display is much too small for the phone's size. Plus, it supports a measly 4,096 colors, resulting in a dingy, washed-out appearance. You can change the backlighting and the contrast, but you can't alter the already small font size. Although the display is adequate for viewing the simple but animated menus, game playing isn't worth the effort.

Below the UTStarcom CDM-105's display, you'll find the decently sized navigation keys. Surrounding a five-way toggle are two soft keys, a Back button, and the Talk and End/power keys. The toggle provides shortcuts to the phone book, the messaging menu, voice dialing, and one user-defined application. The keys are tactile, but they are somewhat slick. The keypad buttons share a similar design. They're large enough and brightly backlit but also somewhat slippery. Also, since they're flat with the surface of the phone, it's difficult to dial by feel. Features on the outside of the phone are limited to a volume rocker on the left spine and a headset jack on the top of the mobile.

The UTStarcom CDM-105 has a 500-name phone book, with room in each entry for four numbers and an e-mail address. Contacts can be assigned to groups or paired with one of 27 polyphonic (32-chord) ring tones. There's no photo caller ID, but it doesn't really matter, since the phone doesn't have a camera or an external display. Other features include a vibrate mode, text messaging, a voice memo, an alarm clock, a scheduler, a countdown timer, a memo pad, a world clock, a stopwatch, a calculator, and a unit converter. A voice recorder and a speakerphone were unexpected finds, but the speakerphone can be turned on only after you make a call, and it takes two clicks to do so.

You can personalize the UTStarcom CDM-105 with a variety of wallpaper, animations, greetings, and clock styles. There are also a number of function and alert tones, which fortunately can be turned off (particularly the long and annoying power-up tone). Surprisingly, you get two Java (J2ME) games--Eggman 2 and Jungle Boy--but as previously mentioned, the small display isn't conducive to game playing. More downloads are available over the WAP 2.0 wireless web browser.

We tested the dual-band, trimode (CDMA 800/1900; AMPS 800) UTStarcom CDM-105 in San Francisco using Sprint's service. Call quality generally was good, with little interference or static. Volume was also sufficient for both regular and speakerphone calls. Although callers could tell we were using a cell phone, they didn't report any significant problems on their end.

The UTStarcom CDM-105 has a rated talk time of 3 hours and a promised standby time of 5.8 days. In our tests, we got 2.5 hours of talk time and 12 days of standby time. According to FCC radiation tests, the CDM-105 has a digital SAR rating of 1.39 watts per kilogram.