The PCD CL252 mobile phone

An overview of the Personal Communications Devices (PCD) CL252 mobile phone.

Included with the phone is a manual and an earphones/microphone combo headset. The manual is the inadequate single sheet of paper that has sadly become standard with inexpensive phones, and there is no more complete manual available for download. The earphones are hard plastic that don’t seal your ear canal, but work well for the price. The phone takes a standard 2.5 mm headphone plug, so upgrading is easy.

AUDIO PLAYER
The audio player is found at Multimedia – Audio Player. The multifunction top key toggles between play and pause. The multifunction bottom key stops playback. A single press of the left or right multifunction key switches to the previous or next track. Pressing and holding the left or right multifunction key rewinds or fast forwards through the current file. The keyboard’s minus and plus keys (- and +) adjust the volume. The center multifunction key opens the playlist, as does the left program key.

The player is nicely integrated with the telephone and alarms. When an alarm sounds, an incoming call arrives, or an outgoing call is placed, playback is automatically paused, and it automatically resumes when the call ends.

Similarly, playback pauses when the camera’s viewfinder screen is active or when any Java application is launched, and restarts shortly after leaving it. Deactivating sound in Java’s settings does not alter this behavior.

Pausing playback and then leaving the audio player by any means saves your place in the current track for when you return. This is not reliable, however: after normal daily use, returning to the audio player I sometimes am returned to my place and sometimes find my place has been lost. I am unable to reproduce this behavior at will, so I can’t give any advice on how to avoid this annoyance.

The player can reproduce mp3, mp4, and wav audio files. It cannot reproduce oga, rm, or wmv audio files, make use of m3u or pls playlists, or display cover art in any format.

Playlist and sorting
As mentioned above, the playlist is entered from the audio player either via the center multifunction key or the left program key. The playlist is aware of only the tracknumber tag, which is used to automatically sort the playlist. Sorting only works if the tracknumber tag is in the format x/y, where x is the track number and y is the total number of tracks on the disc. Automatic sorting is not affected by tags other than tracknumber or by directory structure.

The playlist cannot be sorted manually, which is a shame because sometimes automatic sorting fails even when the above caveats are accommodated. For example, one common problem is that what should be the final track is placed first in the playlist.

Items are shown in the playlist by filename only. You cannot rely on the title, album, discnumber, or discsubtitle tags to provide visual clues, or to help you figure out what is what in a heterogeneous collection.

This adds up to an exceedingly limited experience for the user who has more than a single album and wants something other than a random playlist. Songs are grouped by album and are in order within each album, but each album appears in random order on the playlist. Playback of sequential tracks spanning multiple discs such as found on audiobooks is impossible unless you spend a lot of time manually changing filenames and tracknumber tags, and even then random sorting bugs as mentioned above might bite you.

The audio player’s configuration is unintuitively hidden in the playlist under Options – Settings, but in any case there isn’t anything useful here.

MP3 tags
The audio player ignores all tags, and displays only the filename. Opening the playlist, selecting a track, and going to Options – Details, you will see five tags: artist, album, genre, and date. The album tag is truncated to 34 characters, and date is truncated to the year. One cannot do anything useful with any of these tags: you cannot, for example, sort your collection by artist or genre.

BROWSERS
The phone comes with two browsers. There is a non-branded browser found on the menu at WAP. It uses GPRS even if a WiFi connection is available, and there is apparently no way to change this behavior. Not wanting to waste money, I haven’t tested this browser further.

The second is Opera Mini 4, which is found on the menu at Fun & Games – Java – Opera Mini 4. It uses WiFi if available and GPRS otherwise. It takes six minutes to load! Being an old release in any case I chose to install Opera Mini 7, which loads quickly enough.

CAMERA
The camera is found at Multimedia – Camera, and the camera’s settings are found by pressing the left option button while the viewfinder is visible. Using default settings the images produced are only useful for portraits to associate with address book entries. I set the camera to maximum quality. This is done in Options:

  • Image settings – Image size: 640 x 480 (maximum)
  • Image settings – Image quality: Good (maximum)
  • Storage: Memory card

Image quality is still unimpressive and has no EXIF data, but becomes usable. The phone’s basic image viewer cannot zoom in; to see details, view the image on a computer.

INTERFACE LANGUAGE
The language is set in Settings – Phone Settings – Language. English and Spanish are available, but the Spanish is so dreadfully poor as to make many functions incomprehensible. Even if English isn’t your preferred language, it’s really your only choice on this phone.

JAVA AND JAVA APPLICATIONS
Java is installed, as are a few applications: two games, a Facebook application, Opera Mini 4, Palringo, and Snaptu. There is no way to delete them to save memory or remove them from the menu, which is a shame since I use none of them.

Additional Java applications are easily installed.

MAIL CLIENT
The mail client follows URLs in the default browser, and this behavior apparently cannot be configured. The mail client uses WiFi when available, but as noted above the default browser does not, making the mail client needlessly costly when reading anything that leads you to a URL. Due to this weakness, I rarely use the otherwise nice mail client and usually check my mail using Opera Mini and the mobile optimized universal webmail service Mail2web.

The mail client does not identify itself with an X-Mailer header, so I don’t know what it is. It sends in plain text, UTF-8. Using IMAP, it subscribes by default to INBOX, and can be configured to subscribe to other folders on the server. This configuration is found at Inbox – – Options – Settings – Advanced Settings – Incoming Server – Folder Subscriptions. The folder subscription window only reads the first 20 folders on the server.

The client also has the local folders outbox, sent, and drafts, which are not synchronized with the server.

Reading incoming mail, it is limited by default to the first ? KB of the plain text portion of the body. TODO: Determine the exact limit and if this is configurable, e.g. in Inbox – Options – Settings – Advanced Settings – Account Settings – Download Size. By default this value is set to 307200, which is the maximum the phone accepts.

A signature block can be optionally configured at Inbox – Options – Settings – Advanced Configuration – Signature. An RFC 3676 compliant separator line is not added automatically, so it’s up to you to begin your signature with two dashes, a space, and a new line. The signature block is added to the top of quoted replies rather than the bottom, promoting evil top posting.

MEMORY CARD
The phone accepts one MicroSD memory card. I do not know what is the maximum sized card the phone can accept, but my 32 GB card works fine. The card can be hot swapped. To safely remove it, select Multimedia – File Manager – Memory Card, then select Options – Remove. The card may be safely inserted at any time, be the phone off or on. Oddly, the card is inserted upside down.

When a new card is inserted in the phone for the first time, the following directories and files are created on it:

@bgsr_1/
  bgsr.bk
  bgsr.o
@Playlists/
  audio_play_list.sal
Fotos/
My Music/
Videos/

The purpose of @bgsr_1/ is unknown; not even inspecting its contents with a hex editor provides clues.

audio_play_list.sal is a binary file, making it needlessly difficult to manually view or edit the playlist.

The Fotos/ directory is where photos go if you choose to store them on the memory card instead of the phone’s internal memory (recommended).

The My Music/ directory is where I place audio files for playback in the audio player.

The Videos/ directory is where videos go if you chose to store them on the memory card instead of the phone’s internal memory (recommended), and is where I would place videos for playback on the phone if I could get that to work.

PHONEBOOK
To set the phonebook’s options, open the phonebook, select any entry, press “Options”, and select the last option, “Phonebook settings”. This is where, among other things, the speed dial settings are hidden.

VIDEO RECORDING AND PLAYBACK
I copied known good videos to the memory card and attempted to play them, none successfully. The mp4 files I have tested play audio but not video. The avi, mpg, and wmv files I have tested do not open.

TODO: Discover what’s the issue here. Compare what file and mplayer report for audio and video formats and selected codecs in files the mobile produces vs. external files that don’t work

Clue 1: The mobile produces avi videos that file and mplayer identify as “video: Motion JPEG” (file’s term) and “VIDEO: [MJPG]” (mplayer’s term). External avi videos I’ve tested that don’t work are identified as “video: XviD” or DivX 5. Try using memcoder to convert one of these to MJPG.

The video recorder is found at Multimedia – Video Recorder. Once in the recorder, video options can be set by pressing the unlabeled left multifuncion key. In an attempt to understand what some of these undocumented settings do, I created video files and report here what the Linux utilities `find` and `mplayer` have to say about them:

Video Settings – Video Quality

  • Handset normal quality (default): RIFF (little-endian) data. Video: AVI demuxer, resolution 176 x 144, Motion JPEG, bitrate 98 kbps, 4.38 frames per second. Audio: uncompressed PCM (mono, 8000 Hz, 128 kbps).
  • Handset good quality: RIFF (little-endian) data. Video: AVI demuxer, resolution 176 x 144, Motion JPEG, bitrate 110 kbps, 4.352 frames per second. Audio: uncompressed PCM (mono, 8000 Hz, 128 kbps).
  • Handset high quality: RIFF (little-endian) data. Video: AVI demuxer, resolution 320 x 240, Motion JPEG, bitrate 262 kbps, 4.464 frames per second. Audio: uncompressed PCM (mono, 8000 Hz, 128 kbps).
  • Sharing quality: RIFF (little-endian) data. Video: AVI demuxer, resolution 176 x 144, Motion JPEG, bitrate 93 kbps, 4.435 frames per second. Audio: uncompressed PCM (mono, 8000 Hz, 128 kbps).

All resulting avi files reproduce without difficulty on other devices.

The built-in microphone faces the cameraman, not the subject, making it better for recording narration than for ambient sound. There appears to be basic noise cancellation at work, cutting out audio recording if the ambient sound is below a certain threshold. This can be observed by recording a scene with quiet background noise, then speaking loudly. The resulting recording will have no sound until speaking begins, during which the background sound becomes audible.

REFERENCES
The manufacturer’s web site does not mention this model. Three useful references to this phone come from Technoshot, Taringa, and Lo nuevo de hoy (all in Spanish), the former getting the credit for the photo illustrating this article. Just guessing, perhaps this phone was sold principally in Spanish-speaking markets.

A sticker on the box and seller’s internal data suggest that this phone may also have been sold as the UTStarcom UT252. Manufacturer Personal Communications Devices (PCD) was spun off of UTStarcom in 2008.

GSM Arena, normally an excellent source of mobile phone data, has no information on this phone or on the companies PCD or UTStarcom.

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About Warren Post

So far: Customer support guy, jungle guide, IT consultant, beach bum, entrepreneur, teacher, diplomat, over-enthusiastic cyclist. Tomorrow: who knows?
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7 Responses to The PCD CL252 mobile phone

  1. anonymous says:

    Anonymous writes:I recently bought a T- Mobile Zest 11 phone which shares many of these functions indeed the audio player and video seem identical. As you say the Audio Player list function makes anything other than using it for random shuffle play very difficult as you cannot easily identify albums. You can under the file manager see album folders but only play tracks one at a time. I have looked for ways to edit the audio_play_list.sal file but had no success so far. Like not been able top get it to play any video files despite trying AVI. Still the phone was very chaep so probably shouldn't complain but with a little more software it could be so much better.

  2. roberta ruiz says:

    this phone is crap

    • Warren Post says:

      You mean, the build quality is poor? That hasn’t been my experience. Mine has been working as designed without problem for three years, which is more than any of my smartphone-toting friends can say.

      Or perhaps you are holding a three year old featurephone to the standards of today’s smartphones? I won’t bother to answer that.

  3. I didn’t ask for this phone I was told that the phone I was going to get was a touch screen and I get this I can read the numbers or the tabs period the
    end it was sent in Spanish I don’t read spanish and I never got a pin or number Fer that phone so it’s no use for me to use it why did I have my information given out foR something like this well I filed a complaint hope they can find out what this is about now I don’t have a phone witch I was also told the service was going to be do one year and I also was getting the Internet I’m going to send this information to the complaint services and find out if I can get service soon as pose I bought a Samsung and I like to see if I can get service on this phone soon as posing I need the phone the other number I was using was a friend phone not my service thank connie R

  4. t young says:

    How does one change or adjust the ringtone to this model phone?

    • Warren Post says:

      The easiest way is to edit the default user profile. Do that in Menu – Settings – User Profiles. Select General, press Options, and select Customize. Here you can set the ringtone, it’s volume, and more.

      People who like to tinker will notice that there are other profiles available beside General.

  5. t young says:

    Thank you so much, at least now I can kind of hear the phone ring but is there a way to make the phone louder than volume 7 option?

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