Reviewed April 4, 2006 by Lisa Gade, Editor
Update: Cingular announced a free AKU2 upgrade which offers Microsoft Direct Push email, available June 19, 2006. You can read more here.
If you're a clamshell fan, also check out the Cingular 3125 WM5 Smartphone.
Good things apparently come in threes (or more). The Cingular 2125, a sibling to the T-Mobile SDA and i-mate SP5m Windows Mobile MS Smartphones offers a wealth of features in a compact, reasonably priced package. The phone follows up on Cingular's successful Audiovox SMT5600 which the 2125 closely resembles. But the similarity is only skin deep: the 2125 runs the latest Windows Mobile 5 for Smartphone OS, has a stunning QVGA display, 1.3 megapixel camera and better reception. The Cingular 2125 is a quad band GSM phone that will work anywhere in the world GSM service is available.
If you're looking for a device that can sync to Outlook on the desktop as well as MS Exchange, browse full HTML web sites and send and receive e-mail but don't want to carry a large device, the 2125 should be on your short list.
The 2125's codename is the HTC Faraday. HTC in Taiwan is likely the largest ODM (original device manufacturer) of Windows Mobile devices, and while they don't sell under their own brand name, HP, Cingular, T-Mobile and even Palm sell devices made by HTC. The Faraday's internals and features are nearly identical to the HTC Tornado (T-Mobile SDA and i-mate SP5m), so you'll note some similarity in our reviews of these three devices. The 2125 does have a different casing and unlike its two competitors, lacks WiFi.
In the Box
The phone comes with a world charger, USB sync cable, leather horizontal case with belt clip, stereo earbud headset, software CD with ActiveSync and Outlook 2002 and a printed guide.
Design and Ergonomics
This is a small phone, in fact it's smaller than the Nokia 6682 smartphone also offered by Cingular. The Cingular 2125 bears a striking resemblance to the Audiovox SMT5600 which it replaces. It has the same dark gray metallic finish with contrasting silver buttons, screen bezel and side trim. The device tapers toward the bottom so it feels comfy in the hand and improves on the Audiovox's challenging directional controller. The 2125 adds a Quasimodo hump up top (the same thing happened to the T-Mobile SDA on its way to the US) which houses a larger antenna to improve reception. Though not too terrible looking from the front, it does give the device a coffin-like appearance from the back. The power button sits on the hump and is darned hard to press, which is a good thing for those who put their phones in tight quarters and worry about accidental button presses.
The number pad's backlit keys are too small but manageable, and they're domed which helped us home in on the keys. The keypad and front controls are less cramped thanks to the omission of the multimedia buttons that bedeck the SDA. Large home, back, send and end buttons surround the tiny joystick located above the number pad and two soft keys live just below the large display. A two way rocker on the phone's left side controls earpiece volume and the button just above it launches Comm Manager which allows you to quickly turn Bluetooth and the ringer on and off as well as initiate an ActiveSync. The right side is simpler, with only the camera button to be found. The mini USB sync / charge connector, as per the norm, is on the bottom as is the 2.5mm headset jack. The mini USB port is a wonderful thing: it's easy to find replacement cables, many other HTC-made devices including the SMT5600 and Cingular 8125 use the same sync cable and charger, and it supports USB charging. The camera lens and self portrait mirror are on the back just above the battery door. Sadly, the Mini SD card slot is located under the battery, so you must power down the phone to insert or remove a memory card.
The Cingular 2125 is a quad band world phone that will work anywhere in the world GSM service is available. The phone is sold locked to Cingular, so those of you who travel overseas will have to pay Cingular's international roaming rates or call up customer service to get the phone unlocked (you must be a customer in good standing for at least three months before Cingular will provide you with an unlock code). Once the phone is unlocked, you can use it with any carrier's SIM. Call volume through the handset is adequate, and is better than the sometimes faint Audiovox SMT5600 Windows Mobile Smartphone which was hard to hear in boisterous locations. Call volume through the included stereo earbud headset is very loud and quality is excellent. The phone's reception isn't as good as the Cingular 8125 or the Motorola RAZR but is good enough for those who use their phone in areas of mid to excellent signal strength. Voice quality is good, but not as good as the Cingular 8125, Nokia 6682 and Nokia 9300 on Cingular. Perhaps there's only so much RF and voice quality goodness you can pack into a small, feature-ridden phone.
The 2125 has high end call features such as a Bluetooth Hands Free support, a speakerphone, vibrate, support for call forwarding, call waiting, call barring, and network selection (if not blocked by Cingular). The speakerphone which fires upwards from the phone's top, is loud and clear. The phone uses voice tags rather than true speech recognition so you'll need to record tags for each phone number you wish to dial (this is the same voice dialing software used by the SDA and i-mate SP5m). The upside is that voice tags are very accurate, the downside is you must take the time to record them.And while voice tags are very accurate, you must take the time to record them. To initiate voice dialing, press the center of the volume rocker until the phone tells you to speak. Voice dialing, like speed dial, isn't limited to phone numbers; you can assign a speed and/or and voice tag to programs on the Start Menu. And yes, you can voice dial using a Bluetooth headset or car kit: press the call button briefly to initiate voice dialing, then speak the tag. For those who crave true voice recognition at the expense of Bluetooth voice dialing, the CD has a link to purchase Microsoft Voice Command 1.5 for $40.
Like all Windows Mobile devices, the phone comes with Messaging (the e-mail component of Outlook Mobile). Messaging handles not only SMS and MMS messages but POP3, IMAP and Exchange email. It supports multiple accounts, secure authentication, HTML email messages and attachments.
Horsepower and Performance
Though the Cingular 2125 is a phone first and a PDA second, it has a fairly impressive processor. In fact it's the same one used in the phone's big Pocket PC phone brother, the Cingular 8125. The Smartphone runs on a Texas Instruments OMAP850 processor with a dual core: one core handles the PDA-like features and the other is basically a DSP which handles voice and phone chores. The device is responsive in most all tasks including viewing MS Office documents, browsing the web, moving from screen to screen and launching applications. Video playback using the included Windows Media Player 10 and the excellent open source TCPMP is better than previous generations of MS Smartphones with the device managing to play video encoded up to 350kbps at decent frame rates with audio in sync.
The phone has 64 megs of RAM and 64 megs of flash ROM. Approximately 27.9 megs of RAM are free to run programs (RAM functions the same way in WM5 as it does on your computer). Of the 64 megs of flash ROM (which functions similarly to the hard drive on your computer), 20.9 are available for you to store programs and data. After installing the included Westtek ClearVue suite from CDROM, the device had 11 megs free. If you're a power user intending to install several 3rd party programs, invest in a Mini SD memory card. Certainly if you want to use the MP3 player to its fullest or store videos on the 2125, you'll need a card.
Display, Sound and Multimedia
The display is a thing of beauty to behold and is identical to the also excellent SDA display. If you've owned prior generation MS Smartphones, the new Windows Mobile 5 QVGA resolution will blow you away. That's the same resolution as the Smartphone's bigger brother, the Pocket PC and is up from the 176 x 220 resolution of older generation models. Big is great but the display itself must be up to snuff and the 2125's screen is sharp, bright and color saturated. This is one of the nicest you'll find on a device with a phone rather than PDA design. The screen measures 2.2" diagonally and though that's small given the resolution, Microsoft has done a great job sizing the fonts to maintain readability. You won't need a magnifying glass by any means and you will see almost as much on screen using Internet Explorer on the 2125 as you would on the Cingular 8215 Pocket PC phone.
System sounds, MP3 and video playback are very loud though the ringer volume is of average volume by comparison. Should you play MP3s through the phone's speaker rather than the included stereo earbuds, the music will be plenty loud and about as good as you'd expect from a mono speaker. Plug in the headset to get very good music playback quality. Windows Media Player 10 Mobile which can sync to Media Player on the desktop and supports Microsoft's DRM for purchased tunes (and videos) comes with the 2125 and every Windows Mobile 5 Smartphone. You can creates playlists, loop or shuffle and play music in the background with the screen turned off. Media Player can automatically pause music playback when a call comes in and resume when the call ends. These features aren't unique to the Cingular 2125; you'll find them in all Windows Mobile devices.
Video playback was a disappointment on first and second generation MS Smartphones but the third generation Windows Mobile 5 models offer improvements including a much better screen, fast CPUs and an improved OS and media player. The phone can handle videos encoded at QVGA resolution at 300 kbps fairly well and supports Windows Media formats (ASF and WMV) out of the box. If you wish to watch DIVX, AVI, MPEG and other popular formats, get the free TCPMP video player.
The 2125 has a large capacity 1150 mAh battery that provides long life equaling that of feature phones. In fact, the full-sized MDA and Cingular 8125 only have 100 mAh more capacity. The T-Mobile SDA has the same battery but must also fuel power-hungry WiFi, which means the 2125 has more staying power (assuming the use of WiFi on the SDA, otherwise they're equal). Despite a host of power-eating features, including a large color display, camera, Bluetooth, EDGE and a fast CPU, the Cingular 2125 will last several days on a charge with average use, even with Bluetooth on. If you have the phone set to check email every 15 minutes throughout the business day, surf the web for hours per day or play lots of video and action games, you'll get less. Cingular claims 4 hours of talk time and up to 6 days standby which are optimistic but not that far off the mark.
Bluetooth is rock solid on the 2125, and it offered reliable connections to the headsets we tested such as the Plantronics Discovery 640, Motorola H500 and the Cardo Scala 500. Voice quality and volume were good, and range was middle of the pack, averaging 15 to 20 feet (you may do better, but here in Silicon Valley we have extreme 2.4GHz pollution). The device has Bluetooth 1.2 with the usual class 2 radio that reaches a maximum of 33 feet (10 meters). In addition to headsets and car kits, the phone has OBEX, HID (for keyboards and mice) and serial port profiles which means you'll be able to transfer files wireless to other devices and use a Bluetooth GPS. Like all Cingular Bluetooth-bestowed offerings, the phone supports DUN (dialup networking) for those who wish to use the 2125 as a wireless modem for a Bluetooth enabled notebook or PDA.
All Windows Mobile Smartphones, including the 2125 come with Mobile versions of Internet Explorer, Outlook (comprising of Messaging, Contacts, Calendar and Tasks but not Notes), Pocket MSN (MSN Messenger, Hotmail and MSN Mobile Home), Pictures and Videos (to view photos and watch video through Media Player), Games (Solitaire and Bubble Breaker), a voice recorder, Call History, Speed Dial, Calculator, Windows Media Player Mobile and ActiveSync on the device and on CD for Windows Desktops. The 2125 adds video recorder and camera applications, the Intent Java MIDlet Manager by Tao Group (a Java Runtime), Clear Storage (wipe out the contents of the device to factory settings), File Manager, Task Manager and Westtek's ClearVue Suite which includes viewers and print capabilities for Word, Excel, PowerPoint and PDF documents.
While the Cingular 2125 can't compete with Sony Ericsson and Nokia's top camera phone offerings, it does take decent photos suitable for capturing special moments you'd have otherwise missed. When resized down to 640 x 480 the photos look good enough for personal web site use or for photo-blogging. Images have pleasing, though somewhat muted color and are reasonably accurate by camera phone standards, with a faint purple to blue tint. Noise is at a minimum in well-lit locations, and you will notice the camera's software smoothes out jaggies and noise. Low light means noisy photos, and the 2125 has no flash to help matters. The camera is best suited to partly sunny day shots and well lit indoor locations.
The camera can take still JPG photos up to 1280 x 1024 resolution and at a variety of less resolutions. It has presets for handy things like taking a photo caller ID contact, shooting MMS video and more. Video quality is average by camera phone standards, and is good enough to send to other phones via MMS.
Sample photos taken at highest resolution and resized to fit this page.
A great device which fits an amazing number of features into a compact package. If you're looking for a smartphone and are a Cingular customer, but don't want to haul around a PDA-sized device, this should be on your short list. The phone syncs easily to MS Outlook on Windows desktops using the included USB cable, does a very good job of handling email including Exchange, and has a web browser that beats non-smartphone competitors and gives recent S60 Nokia phones such as the 6682 a run for their money. The stunning QVGA display is perfect not only for web browsing but photo and document viewing. but it doesn't compare well with the T-Mobile SDA which adds WiFi and dedicated multimedia buttons for music lovers.
Pro: Compact! Great display, good camera and it's expandable via Mini SD cards. The smartphone is responsive and won't keep you waiting. Bluetooth works well and works not only with headsets but GPS and Bluetooth keyboards. Quad band phone that works anywhere in the world GSM service is available. EDGE for good download speeds.
Con: Small number pad keys, Mini SD card is located under the battery forcing a reboot to change cards, doesn't have WiFi.
Phone:GSM quad band world phone: 850/900/1800/1900
MHz. GSM class 10 and EDGE for data.
in speaker, mic and 2.5mm stereo headphone
jack. Voice Recorder and Windows Mobile Media Player
10 included for your MP3 and video pleasure. Has vibrate feature.
Camera: 1.3 megapixel CMOS camera which takes still
images and video with audio. 1280 x 1024 maximum photo
Mobile 5.0 Smartphone operating system.
Smartphone versions of
Microsoft Internet Explorer, Outlook (email/SMS/MMS,
Contacts, Calendar and Tasks but not Notes included),
MSN Instant Messenger, Voice Recorder, Pictures & Videos,
and Windows Media Player 10.
Picture Caller ID, Camera and Video capture apps,
games, Speed Dial, Voice Dialing, Call History, a link to get Good, Westtek ClearVue Office Suite, Comm Manager, Calculator,
Java runtime, Task Manager, Clear Storage (erases device), File Manager, Bubble Breaker and Solitaire. ActiveSync 4.0
and Outlook 2002 for PCs included.