New Toy: Cingular 8125 Windows Mobile Phone

I’ve been wanting a new mobile phone for some time now. I bought my previous phone (a Motorola MPX220 SmartPhone) a year and a half ago. At the time, it fit my needs perfectly– I worked out of the home 99% of the time, and when I went to client sites I always had my tablet PC with me. The only time I used the PDA functionality on my SmartPhone was when I was out running errands or during “personal time.” I got a lot of email, but most of it was from readers of my various web sites, and so it was shuttled off into various folders by autofilters. There were only 30-50 messages per day that were actually actionable– things from coworkers, clients, etc. that required me to actually DO something. And aside from server outage issues (which also sent SMS messages to me) I didn’t really have ANY messages that were in the “must-deal-with-NOW-or-else” variety.

Then, I changed careers.

Fast forward a year and a half. I have a new gig at Microsoft, and most of the criteria that existed when I bought my MPX220 have fundimentally changed. I now go to an office every day, and spend the overwhelming majority of my time in meetings and roaming the halls and corridors talking to people. I love my TabletPC, but it’s too bulky to take with me EVERYWHERE. Sometimes, I just want to jot down a quick note, or add a task to my list… the SmartPhone was good enough to do this once in a while, but to do it a dozen times a day requires something a little bigger. I also get hundreds of messages per day that are actionable, which is a huge shift… and some of them are in the “must-deal-with-NOW-or-else” variety.

So what did I buy? The Cingular 8125.

The new phone fits my needs perfectly… it has a good-sized thumb keyboard. (I spent 15 minutes typing away on a Treo 700 and on an 8125, and I was able to get 60% more text entered on the 8125 in that time. It’s measurably better for my giant claw-shapmed mandibles I call “hands.”) It has a great screen– especially in landscape mode. Perfect for viewing a calendar with a dozen overlapping meetings. Perfect for managing a massive task list with (at last count) 52 projects, 227 tasks, and 18 categories. And perfect for browsing my favorite RSS feeds when I have a free moment. Most importantly, though, I can jot a quick note without having to fight against T9 input.

And email? Moving to a device that has Windows Mobile 2005 (and hence integration with Exchange PUSH email technology) is like night and day. It’s a beautiful thing.
I’m thrilled with the device, and I’m really enjoying it. I take my tablet PC only to meeting that I’m responsible for generating notes for distribution… otherwise, the phone/pda hybrid is my meeting companion.

Also, the camera phone on this device is MUCH better than the one on the MPX220… great for quick casual pictures. Will it compete with a digital SLR? Uh… no. But it’s not supposed to. It’s about as good as can be expected for a 1.3 megapixel camera integrated in with a cell phone.

What about the phone itself?

Well, when my brother-in-law asked me what phone (with PDA functionality) he should buy, I told him that there were two major classes of phones…

1.) Phones with integrated PDA functionality (like most SmartPhones)
2.) PDAs with integrated phone functionality (like most PocketPC phones.)

I explained that, while this was a subtle distinction, it was an important one. I think it is key to look at what you use more often, and optimze for that use. Well, I almost never use my phone. Last month, I racked up a mere 38 minutes. My average monthly usage? 42 minutes. I’m just not a phone guy. The overwhelming majority of my phone calls consist of “Yeah… I’m in a meeting. I’ll swing by and talk to you about that when I’m done.”

For this kind of use, the 8125 has served me perfectly… I’m the wrong guy to ask to judge its quality as a phone because if it had glaring flaws (which I don’t think it does) I probably wouldn’t really notice them. The only way I interact with the phone is with my excellent Motorola bluetooth headset– I either click the button on the earphone to answer an incoming call, or I click the little button and say “Rachel Home” and it calls my wife. I don’t really interact with my phone much even in the rare cases I actually use it.

Bottom line, I’m thrilled with the purchase. It’s a good device, and was VERY reasonably priced. ($299 is the price currently shown on the Cingular web site… I paid a tad less than that because of some special discounts.) Great value for the money.