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THE BALTIMORE SUN

Small Siemens S56 cell phone's extras pack a big punch

I recently tried to take in my old cellular telephone to Radio Shack to get it reactivated for a friend and the store clerk laughed long and loudly at me. He told me he wouldn't reactivate it because the technology in the telephone was so old.

I felt that much more out of touch with the latest cellular telephones when I tested the Siemens S56 ($249, but less with a plan from Cingular or AT&T;) with its Bluetooth cordless headset and attachable camera and Internet abilities. My regular cell phone performs no neat tricks, so playing with the Siemens was a blast.

The Siemens S56 uses the digital GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications) network, which won't be available from Cingular in the Baltimore area until October. AT&T; has network and the phones available now in Maryland.

The telephone is downright tiny at about 4 inches in length and less than 2 inches wide and 0.7 inches in thickness. I kept having to remind myself that I had placed it in my shirt pocket, because it weighs only 3 ounces. When a cell phone is this small, that means that the buttons are extra tiny - requiring me to fumble to turn it on and dial.

Because the buttons are so tiny, I never got around to really using the organizer. You get a calendar and alarm. It also can be synchronized with information from Lotus Notes and Microsoft Outlook.

On the upside, though, is the Bluetooth technology that allows a small module for hearing and speaking to automatically sync up with the S56 so that you don't need a cord to attach to the phone, which has a swivel base and can swing from its carrying accessory on your hip.

I liked the Bluetooth headset, which encouraged me to dial a number before taking off into traffic, then talk while driving down the road. You must remember to charge up the headset piece first, though - something I didn't think about when I first tried to use it.

If you forget to charge the headset, the S56 has a speakerphone feature that worked OK.

I also liked the camera accessory with flash that came with my review unit. You send the Web-appropriate digital images to an e-mail address.

The phones are sold only through companies offering cellular service. You can call Cingular Wireless (1-800-331-0500) or AT&T; Wireless (1-800-868-8415) to get the phone and a plan.

Information: www.my- siemens.com.

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