Siemens is going to spoil stateside consumers. The German electronics giant's latest entry into the U.S. mobile-phone market, the S46, is a feature-rich gem that won't break the bank. Though a few minor shortcomings prevent this from being the perfect cell phone, the affordable S46 will give business users plenty to smile about.
While the S46 may not be as sleek and compact as its predecessor, the S40, it's still an attractive, well-designed, candy bar-style mobile. It features a bright, amber, backlit screen that's easy to view in all lighting conditions, and the phone is small enough--at 4.6 by 1.7 by 0.8 inches and 4.3 ounces--to fit in a front pants pocket. Furthermore, the buttons are well positioned and raised just enough to make dialing easy. Along with a 400-entry address book, voice dialing, and conference calling, the S46 comes with a host of other convenient features. The Babysitter setting, for example, lets you set the phone so that calls can be made to only one user-defined number by pressing the right soft key. Most notable is the bundled XtndConnect Sync app, which allows you to exchange information with Microsoft Outlook and Lotus Notes. You also have to install the Data Exchange software as well as XtndConnect, a point that should have been made explicit in the manual.
Once you've installed the software, you can hook up the S46 to a PC via the phone's built-in IrDA interface, or you can use an optional data cable to connect to your computer's serial port. The software is for only Windows--sorry, Mac users. And though we had no problems exchanging data when using the serial cable, we would prefer a USB connection, especially considering that many smaller notebooks have abandoned the ancient serial port. The dual-band (GSM 900/1900 and TDMA 800/1900) S46 offers worldwide roaming, so even though it won't function on analog networks, you should have little trouble getting a signal in most metropolitan areas. We tested the S46 in the Chicago region using AT&T Wireless service and found that call quality was consistently good, if not spectacular. We never had problems getting a signal, as the phone initially looks for a GSM signal, then for the TDMA network if a GSM connection is unavailable.
The S46 is also GPRS-enabled for high-speed wireless-data access. We were able to connect just fine, and browsing time was noticeably faster than that of 2G phones. Wireless features include AOL Instant Messenger, AOL e-mail, a WAP browser, and SMS text messaging. But it's the S46's battery life that impressed us the most. We squeezed every minute out of the rated 200 hours of standby time in GSM mode (the S46 is rated for 150 hours in TDMA mode). And though it was a strain on our vocal cords, we matched the 5 hours of talk time in GSM mode; you should get half that in TDMA.