Samsung / T-Mobile
Thin is in - in a big way.
By Columnist
updated 10/26/2006 7:18:05 PM ET 2006-10-26T23:18:05

There are phones that work only in the United States, namely ones from Verizon, Sprint and Nextel, which use CDMA or TDMA cellular systems.

But companies that use the GSM standard used all over the planet, sell phones that work all over the world.

Here are three new world phone designs that could work on T-Mobile's or Cingular's GSM cellular network in the U.S. and also all the GSM networks that are available overseas.

Samsung makes some very thin phones but this time they've outdone themselves. They've teamed up with T-Mobile to bring the t519 — also known as the Trace to market. The Trace is super thin and light. It measures 4.5 by 2.0 by 0.3 inches and weighs only 2.5 ounces. It’s slightly wider to make way for a wider screen and somewhat bigger keys. 

The Trace is a GSM/GPRS/EDGE world phone meaning it operates on both U.S. and foreign frequencies. It sports a 1.3 megapixel camera, SD memory slot, an alarm clock function, calculator and a whole lot more. The battery is said to last up to 6 hours of talk time and 8 days of standby.

As for functionality, the Trace is a terrific little (and I stress little) phone. It does everything you might want from an inexpensive cell phone which fits in nearly any pocket. Because of its thin profile, it’s easy to forget you’re carrying it with you.

The Trace sells for $99.99 after rebates. Monthly service plans begin at $39.99.

Motorola is very hot these days. With the RAZR, SLVR and Q they’re in the forefront of cool-looking designs. They’re also making some interesting phones for overseas markets that we’ll probably never see here in the U.S.

The A1200's see-through cover hides the wires for the earpiece (in the Moto logo).

For instance, the A1200 is a small, thin world smartphone WCDMA and which runs on the Linux operating system. It’s sleek (3.8 by 2.0 by 0.85 inches, 5.6 ounces) with a 240 by 320 pixel, 2.4-inch TFT color touch screen. That means you need to use the stylus to 'dial'  your calls and navigate the other features. Battery life is quoted as nearly 4 hours of talk, 200 hours of standby and nearly 100 minutes of video.

There’s a clearplastic cover that allows you see the screen when it’s closed. That cover also contains the phone’s earpiece cleverly hidden in the Motorola logo.

The handset can handle MMS/EMS and Internet e-mail services (POP3, SMTP, and IMAP). There’s a built-in VGA-quality camera with video capabilities, a MP3 player, and a set of terrific sounding built-in stereo speakers.

When it comes to syncing, the A1200 will talk to your computer via the supplied Motorola Desktop PIM software suite. Unlike previous Motorola Linux smartphones, this one does not allow you to send/receive e-mail for and to a Microsoft Exchange server.

The A1200 comes in three colors — red, black and silver. Like the Samsung above, the A1200 is easy to forget in your pocket — until you need it. After trying some of the offerings available in the U.S. marketplace I wonder why some high-quality cell phones, like the A1200 never make it here. I hope American carriers are listening.

Finally, I’ve been testing i-mate’s new JAQ smartphone. It’s a full-blown Microsoft Mobile 5.0, quad-band (850, 900, 1800, 1900 MHz, GSM/GPRS/EDGE) handset with a 2.8-inch LCD screen, Bluetooth and miniSD memory car expansion slot.

The JAQ in the anti-Q. It is large and wide (4.8 by 2.8 by 0.9 inches) and looks heavier than it really is (5.64 ounces). I-mate calls the device “heavy duty.” There’s a  huge rechargeable battery inside which provides you with up to 4 hours of talk time and 150 hours of standby.
The newly-designed JAQ is a solid smartphone.
The large battery actually makes the bottom half of the handset a lot thicker than the top. When you begin using JAQ you realize that extra heft actually makes it easier to type on the QWERTY keyboard than typing on most other smartphones. So do the keys themselves — because they have enough room to be spaced properly. The JAQ provides the best typing experience I’ve encountered to date.

I was less impressed with the audio quality of phone calls made on the JAQ. While people I spoke with said they heard me perfectly, they sounded to me like they were talking through a paper towels roll. It spoiled an otherwise stellar device.

One of the most interesting thing about the JAQ is that its parent company, i-mate, is located in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. The handset is not currently available through any cellular carrier here in the U.S. but is available, unlocked on a number of Web sites.  Unlocked means you have to worry about entering the correct settings for your cellular provider. Prices hover around $500.

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