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Cingular UTStarcom  

UTStarcom announced two new handsets for the U.S. market this week at CES. One is in trials with a U.S. carrier and the other they are still shopping around and hoping to have a trial underway soon. Both handsets are technically made by Pantech, with one being a solid mid-tier feature phone, and the other for the budget-minded consumer. Both are being targeted for 3rd or 4th quarter releases in the U.S. Unfortunately, we didn't get to sample working models of either phone, so any impressions that we have are from non-working demo units.

We'll begin with the one that's actually in trials, the dual-band CDMA CMD8960.


This is a very vanilla flip phone, with black and silver styling cues on the outside of the phone. There were three buttons to control music features under the display, which according to literature will be a 64k color screen. The action on these three buttons was fairly deep. You had to press them way in to get that little "click" to know that the button had been pushed. Otherwise, the surface was very smooth and you could hardly notice you were holding the CDM8960 in your hand. Smooth as it was, it didn't come across as slippery, as some phones do.

Of all the phones we looked at today, we're sorry to report this was one of the worst hinges we came across. It was very wobbly and insecure, with a lot of side-to-side play. We can only hope that this is a prototype issue, or due to abuse on the show floor, and not actual build quality.

Even though the phone wouldn't turn on, we took our time to fool around with the keyboard, typing in phone numbers and fake SMS messages just to get a feel for the keyboard. The buttons were clearly defined, and fairly smooth as you wipe your thumb over them. The funny thing about this phone is that the keyboard is very stretched out, with the numbers themselves falling very close to the bottom on the phone. This made for awkward typing at best, because you had to grip the phone so low to get your thumbs in the right position. With your hands so low on the phone, it felt top heavy and was a strain to hold. Why it's stretched out this way is beyond us. The send, clear and end buttons are all larger than they have to be, as is the 5-way pad. This contributes to the squashed number pad and cramped data entry.

Other than that, we're not able to say much. The spec sheet says it comes with all the standard features on a modern mid-range CDMA phone, such as 1.3 megapixel camera, EVDO, and Bluetooth, . We'll have more to report as the phone continues to go through trials with whichever CDMA operator is looking at it right now.

The second dual-band CDMA phone is the CDM8935.


This was even less of a working model, essentially just a sculpted block without a working keyboard or any other buttons, for that matter. The one thing of note is that it is pretty danged small. We were unsure if it's the smallest flip phone (by overall volume) for the U.S. as UTStarcom says it is, but it is definitely a small phone. It'll fit into your teeny tiny purse or tightest pant pocket no problem.

The exterior is glossy and smooth black, with a full color external display. As to be expected with a small phone, the keypad is pretty small as well. There is no true 5-way pad, but there are up / down scrolling and side to side scrolling buttons as well as dedicated camera and music buttons. The internal display will also be fairly small as well, at 1.5 by 1.5 inches.

For its small stature, though, it is promising to pack in some useful features, such as a VGA camera, MMS, voice dialing, and speakerphone. BREW is also on the feature list, hinting at which carriers this is aimed at.

As with the 8960, the 8935 has not been announced with a carrier and isn't expected to hit the street until close to the end of the year (by which point, everyone will have Apple's iPhone anyway.)

One last tidbit of information from UTStarcom. They are shopping around a dual GSM/CDMA phone in Europe right now that they hinted might possibly be used in the U.S. at some point in the future.


There are no trials for this phone, which is called the CMA8107, and it would only be sold in Europe with the CDMA radios most likely finding use by people traveling with it to South America, but there's an outside chance this phone could appear in the U.S., if only via unlocked sales form overseas vendors. No word on if this is a Pantech or UTStarcom manufactured phone.

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