Cingular 8525 Hands On

If you read my 10 Things I Hate About Smartphones post last week, you’d discover that I hate Windows Mobile and that, even though they run Windows Mobile, I love HTC. So with that piece of cognitive dissonance in mind, I present my review of the Cingular 8525 aka the Hermes, a Windows Mobile Pocket PC smartphone with fold out QWERTY keyboard and touchscreen. It costs $399 with contract.

The Dash vs. the 8525

Let’s begin at the beginning. HTC has been making PDAs and PDA-like phones for a number of years, both as an OEM for companies like HP as well as under carrier brands. The T-Mobile MDA and SDA, for example, are two phones from the HTC line up. The MDA and Cingular’s own 8125, in fact, are the direct progenitors of the 8525.

A smartphone with a touchscreen is inherently better. Although many OSes and applications work well with a keypad/directional key set-up, a touchscreen makes things so much easier to navigate. That is why I like the 8525, even for all its bulk.

Why is the 8525 so bulky? It contains multitudes: WiFi, Bluetooth, EDGE/GPRS, international 3G compatibility, and, get this, HSDPA. That means you can essentially get connected at high speeds anywhere in the world. Cingular offers a $45 data plan and surfing on this thing, especially with Opera Mini 2, is a dream. Messaging is even better because the 8525 has a huge keypad with ginormous, flat keys that are easy to press and are fairly intuitive. The OS itself, for all my hatred, is acceptable and there are a number of applications available for Pocket PC edition that won’t work on WinMo 5.0 Smartphone Edition. So there’s that.

It supports a number of mail formats including standard POP/IMAP connections to push email through Good. We got our unit directly from HTC so we didn’t get a Cingular high speed account to test HSDPA in New York, trust us, it’s in there and you can expect about 300Kbps on a good day.

The 8525 is quite compact and packed with power. It has a Samsung processor running at 400 MHz and 128MB of built-in storage. It also has a Micro SD card slot on the side and a 2-megapixel camera. A collapsable stylus hides in the lower right corner.

This phone is definitely snappier than the MDA and the 8125 — Blake has the 8125, which I told him to get, as I recall, and is complaining about application speed – so I can say that none of those problems appear in this beast.

With the improved keyboard, multitude to wireless connectivity options, and acceptable touchscreen, I can recommend the 8525 to anyone interested in a Windows smartphone that works well out of the box and, when Cingular rolls out its nationwide HSDPA network, can blow the pants off any other smartphone out there in terms of network speed. Do I still hate WinMo? Sure, but look at that fold-out keyboard! The high speed networking options! The Bluetooth 2.0! Mmmmm.

The 8525 will be available on November 16 nationwide.

Product Page [Cingular]