Battle Test: Cingular 3125 "Star Trek"

When it comes to smartphones, there are generally two types: cellphones with built-in PDAs, and PDAs with built-in cellphones. The Cingular 3125 is the former. A slim flip along the lines of Motorola’s RAZR family, the 3125 (known also as the HTC Star Trek or STR TRK) fits into your pocket like any other slim phone, and is stylish to boot. It also offers the business-class features of larger smartphones without the bulk. Because of this duality, there are two sides to this slim clamshell, so that’s exactly how we’ve approached our review.

As far as being a “phone” goes, the 3125 is a winner. At less than 3.5 ounces, its form-factor falls in line with the current slim flips on the market. Its internal full-color screen boasts a 240×320 resolution, fairly high for such a small screen. This makes text and photos look sharp while maintaining legibility. The outside, secondary screen sports an impressive 128×128 resolution, and as a display for the built-in MP3 player, it functions beautifully.

In addition, the external playback control buttons work nicely with the likewise external volume control making it easy to get to the songs you want to quickly. Once you’ve found what you’re looking for, it plays via the external speaker (which, sadly, sounds like crap) or via the included earbuds. These earbuds, unfortunately, are proprietary, as the phone only has one I/O port that handles data transfer, charging, and audio functions.

The 1.3-megapixel camera works well with the built-in messaging apps, attaching a photograph after taking it is automatically an option when previewing the picture. The photos themselves look crisp, and are stored on the internal (and changeable) microSD card at full size, which you can later transfer via USB or Bluetooth. (Cingular also offers a camera-free version, known as the 3100 for you security loving types.)

Besides all the media features, we find the basics to be on the good end of the spectrum: the sound quality is fantastic, the ringer controls easy to use, the weight and size are just right, and the battery lasts for-frickin’-ever. Were we just looking for a standard phone, this wouldn’t be a bad unit to consider.

But make no mistake: the 3125 isn’t a regular phone. The 3125 is a business phone. Running Windows Mobile 5: Smartphone Edition, the slim flip gives you direct access to your Exchange mail, calendar, (and pretty much anything else you’re running on there), POP email, web browsing, MSN Messenger, and other third-party apps you’d care to load up. There’s no touchscreen, but our Guinea Pig Hilary, who’d never handled a Windows Mobile smartphone before, was able to get around and do everything she wanted to, thanks to the well-engineered buttons at the top of the T9 keypad.

The 64MB of built-in memory are more than adequate for your daily email routine, though composing mail on the T9 keypad is something of a chore. If you’re the type who finds it more important to receive than send messages, it’s not much of an issue

That doesn’t mean that the phone’s limitations stop there, however. We find the lack of support for Bluetooth keyboards to be something of an oversight. Also, we would prefer to see a flash alongside such a nice camera, and a cheaper format than microSD for storage of media (we’d be ok with the added bulk).

A regular micro-USB port would have been better than the proprietary HTC port, but we understand its necessity for the slim shape the phone has. Any other issues we have with the device has are mostly due to the limitations of Windows Mobile 5: Smartphone Edition.

In the end, the 3125 from Cingular is an all around great buy when you consider it packs high-end features into a unique, familiar and user-friendly form-factor. Also, with a price tag that’s palatable to most consumers ($149 after rebate and 2 years of your life), it makes an ideal smartphone for a first time buyer. Power-users will miss some features (touchscreen, QWERTY), so we can’t recommend it for them. But if you’re a casual smartphone user looking for the connectivity aspects more than the full-on “smart” features, it’s as good a choice as any for the price.

Cingular 3125
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