Rollout: Cingular's 8525 PDA Phone

The first UMTS/HSDPA PDA phone to debut in the United States, Cingular's standards-friendly 8525 should lure customers with high-speed wireless WAN access and its expansive feature set.

January 30, 2007

7 Min Read
Network Computing logo

Cingular has been making great strides in the implementation of its UMTS/HSDPA data network, currently available in about 150 markets. Prior to the release of the Cingular 8525, PC Cards and laptop-integrated adapters were the primary access methods for this 3G network, leaving mobile pros with PDAs out in the cold.

An upgrade of the Cingular 8125, the 8525 is a Windows Mobile 5.0 PDA and a quad-band GSM world phone that is the first U.S. PDA phone to provide Universal Mobile Telecommunications System/High-Speed Downlink Packet Access capabilities. Designed by HTC, the face of the device has a touch screen, but a sliding mechanism reveals a QWERTY keyboard for text entry.


The 8525 takes full advantage of the simultaneous voice and data capabilities provided by the UMTS/HSDPA network. We talked on the phone while browsing the Web both on the device and while the device was tethered to a laptop, with no effect on call quality or data rates. It's likely that other networks will bring this feature to the table in the near future, but Cingular's UMTS network has the first-mover advantage.While we're talking tethering, we should note that we easily set up the phone as a modem, with the option to use Bluetooth or USB. However, the option is expensive. If you're going to tether, Cingular wants you to pay for the laptop data plan, which is a bit more costly than the PDA data plan. An individual PDA Connect Unlimited plan runs $44.99 per month, while the Data Connect Unlimited weighs in at $79.99 ($59.99 with a two-year commitment). The steep difference between the PDA Connect and Data Connect plans is not uncommon--many operators place a high premium on wireless data--but we'd like to see those prices drop.

PDA Phone ComparisonClick to enlarge in another window


Although speed isn't the only reason to buy this device, Cingular's UMTS/HSDPA network is a vast improvement over its previous-generation EDGE (Enhanced Data Rates for Global Evolution) network. With UMTS/HSDPA, Cingular is finally in the same league with the Verizon and Sprint EV-DO (Evolution-Data Only) offerings. We conducted speed tests in four locations around the Washington metro area, using the device solo and tethered to a laptop. The 8525 achieved average download speeds of 810 Kbps, with bursts of more than 1,100 Kbps. Average upload speeds were 228 Kbps and peak uploads hit more than 350 Kbps. The device also successfully rolled back to EDGE and GPRS networks when UMTS/HSDPA wasn't available. In our tests, though, the 8525 indicated that it was on GPRS while it was actually on EDGE. Cingular assured us this glitch will be fixed this year.

Cingular isn't relying only on the promise of high-speed WWAN access to lure customers. The phone serves up a wireless triple threat, with its 3G UMTS/ HSDPA, 802.11 b/g Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 2.0. Wi-Fi is appealing to enterprises of all shapes and sizes, but will likely prove especially popular in the health-care sector, where investments in Wi-Fi infrastructure and accompanying mobile applications have been substantial. Many Windows Mobile devices had built-in Wi-Fi technology, but competing devices such as the Palm Treo require expansion cards to get these capabilities.Mobile pros who juggle a variety of Bluetooth peripherals also will appreciate the upgrade to Bluetooth 2.0, with its ability to handle up to six peripherals. Additionally, Cingular is promising Push-to-Talk through a software upgrade for the 8525 in 2007, which is likely to generate interest from field-service techs.


The key for any device platform is application availability, and the 8525 takes full advantage of the large community of independent software vendors offering enterprise and consumer apps for the Windows Mobile platform. The 8525 comes standard with mobile versions of Word, Excel and PowerPoint, which let users view and edit Office documents. Most PDA phones provide this capability, though BlackBerry owners must purchase a third-party app to edit Office documents; many other Windows Mobile smartphones suffer a similar fate, with view, but not edit, capabilities. The added ability to open Adobe PDFs with ClearVue PDF ensures that users should be able to access most files they find in their inbox.

Speaking of inboxes, the 8525 comes with a variety of mobile e-mail apps aimed at enterprises and individuals. In addition to typical access to POP and IMAP servers, Cingular serves up Good Mobile Messaging and Xpress Mail, both popular options. As a Windows Mobile 5 device, the 8525 also supports Microsoft ActiveSync, so getting to your Exchange server shouldn't be an issue. The Microsoft Messaging and Security Feature Pack is pre-installed, so enterprises that are ready with Exchange Server 2003 SP2 can take advantage of Microsoft Direct Push, as well as added management capabilities, such as remote device wipe and device password enforcement. Although the Nokia E62 has a leg up on the 8525 with its BlackBerry Connect support, the 8525 should meet the mobile e-mail needs of most enterprises.

To demonstrate the 8525's capabilities in the field-services arena, Cingular gave us access to its Field Services Automation Solution, a work-order/service-management combo powered by software from Corrigo. It's a helpful app for service techs, with a mobile application and a Web-based interface, built-in workflow, ad hoc reporting and GPS integration for personnel tracking. Cingular isn't the only operator partnering to provide these types of applications; Verizon and Sprint Nextel also have third-party partners who provide these important real-world capabilities.ENTERTAINMENT AND NAVIGATION

Cingular stocked the 8525 with applications for everyone, including navigation tools and a wide range of entertainment options. Road trippers in unfamiliar territory can use a Bluetooth GPS to connect with TeleNav, a service that provides turn-by-turn driving directions. Passengers, meanwhile, can capture the scenery with the device's 2.0 megapixel digital camera. Its daylight pictures are better than those of most camera phones, but we found the flash lackluster. And security-conscious enterprises can nix that capability by purchasing the Cingular 8500 model, which is the same device minus the camera.

The microSD expansion slot provides storage capabilities that are handy when using the device as a digital music player; Windows Mobile will even pause your music for incoming phone calls. Unfortunately, the device lacks a standard headset jack, so headphone options are mini-USB and Bluetooth. And if you hate to leave home without the Discovery Channel, fear not--this device is MobiTV-compatible.

The Cingular 8525 will prove appealing to enterprise buyers looking for a full-featured mobile device with solid wireless connectivity options and enough horsepower to tackle their mobile application needs. The price tag may give cost-conscious organizations pause, but it's in line with PDA phones that are similarly outfitted. n

Dan Renfroe is an IT consultant with OST, Washington. Write to him at [email protected].0

Stay informed! Sign up to get expert advice and insight delivered direct to your inbox

You May Also Like

More Insights