I just don’t think you can find anything smaller than Siemens’ latest dual-band GSM phone, the CL50 (or its Asian market designation, the 8008). It is also the German company’s first handset based on a clamshell design, which I still find to be very stylish since first obtaining it a week ago. Size isn’t what all matters about the CL50 - what’s inside the phone is also as exciting! :)
The CL50 comes with a heap of features that you may not find in anything as small. Polyphonic tones and an active clamshell design isn’t anything we haven’t heard of before - but adding the word “smallest” may ring some bells for some! It also comes with customisation features (for example, profiles and caller groups), a quite complete set of organiser features, and some fun applications - including melody composer, games and wallpaper. Yes… all in this small little phone! :)
Being nearly just half the size of an ME45, the CL50 is definitely a phone you will need to keep your eyes peeled to - especially if you decide to have it sitting on a table in a very packed café or restaurant! You may even have problems feeling it in your shirt or trouser pocket thanks also to its lightweight design.
Not to worry! The decorative hook, located next to the external antenna and service light, allows you to wear the phone around your neck with a lanyard strap. Having the CL50 around your neck is probably the best place to put it! :)
The “Champagne Gold” colour of the CL50 makes it look simply stunning, with every single part of the phone (including battery cover and external antenna) encased within this fine metallic tint. A smooth finish on the overall casing means lesser chance of scratching.
As for actually holding the phone, I found it to be a bit small based on the size of my hands - where I was easily able to wrap my entire hand around the CL50. The phone’s keypad is sized similarly with the one on the ME45/S45 - but lacks the required height (from the casing) which can make it easier to use. Fortunately, it had a good level of tactility.
User Interface (UI)
The CL50 incorporates the standard Siemens user interface, which most current Siemens users have come to appreciate. A four-way navigational key is ergonomically situated just below the clamshell hinge. This allows the CL50 to be navigated with maximum comfort, where the index finger assists in securing the phone while in the hand.
Although the screen is physically smaller, resolution has been maintained across the screen but reduced in the number of lines it can display (five on the ME45/S45 versus four on the CL50/8008). But if you don’t agree with me here, check out the bigger menu fonts - which can be activated by choosing the “Big Letters” option under the “Display” menu.
A blue backlight for both displays does help to increase visibility while not being excessively bright, and intelligently fades in and out when the clamshell phone is opened and closed respectively. As with tradition, the keypad area of the CL50 is again illuminated with an orange backlight - alike its M50 relative.
The external display is, to my surprise, also greyscale. This one-line display usually provides current signal reception and battery level as well as the current date/month and time. Should you choose to use the 12-hour clock format, the date will not be shown because the am/pm indicator takes up additional space. Other details - such as profile mode, message and missed call indicators - are also shown on this little display. These indicators will also replace the date part of the display.
Making and receiving calls
Call quality on the CL50 is loud and clear - but it did take some time for me, on each call, to try and position the phone comfortably next to the ear. At the end of the day, we’ll all get used to it one way or the other!
The polyphonic ringtones had more-than-sufficient volume even at level 3 (level 4 is the maximum volume, with ascending volume at level 5). Vibration alert also provided the required discreet alert.
Some quick-access shortcut keys for call handling are available as well. For example, pressing the “volume down” button with the flap closed will result in an incoming call being rejected, while pressing “volume up” with the flap opened answers a call. During standby with the flap opened, the “volume down” button will activate the backlight while “volume up” brings up the profiles list.
A host of messaging options are available with the CL50 - including basic SMS text messaging with long text support (up to nine standard-sized SMS messages), and EMS messages (allowing the inclusion of pictures and sounds in addition to just text).
Message indicators in the composition screen provide all the necessary information - including current input mode (tap mode, T9, Chinese stroke, numeric), number of characters remaining for the current message, and the number of standard SMS-es that the entire concatenated message is equal to.
Unfortunately, the flat keypad doesn’t help in making the task of typing a long message any easier or quicker. Go any faster with the T9 on the CL50 and you’ll experience misspelt characters in your sentence! >:)
The overall construction of the CL50 was quite solid, with the back battery cover sitting firmly in place and being very easy to remove and replace. A similar level of solidity was found with the phone’s active flap.
SIM card and battery insertion/removal didn’t require much effort either.
A small phone does mean smaller batteries, but doesn’t necessarily mean less battery life! One of the great things about clamshell design phones is that the internal screen can be disabled while closed, leaving only the outer LCD and service light to remain activated. This, in turn, will decrease battery consumption. On the other hand, the more interaction you have with the phone, the 600mAh battery will require charging a lot more quickly!
On average use, I was able to get around 3-4 days’ worth of standby and approximately 2-3 hours’ worth of talk time.