Building on the success of its predecessor, the Nokia 6800, the Nokia 6820 offers a slimmer, more attractive design and useful new features, such as an integrated camera and video-recording capabilities. Still, the main attraction of this AT&T Wireless handset is the built-in QWERTY keyboard, which is sure to please text-messaging junkies and e-mail fanatics. However, this phone will face tough competition from the , which offers many of the same features in a more slickly designed package. The 6820 doesn't come cheap at $369, but you should be able to find it for less with service.
Editor's note: We have changed the rating in this review to reflect recent changes in our rating scale. Click here to find out more. On first impression, the Nokia 6820 looks like your typical candy bar-style phone. It's clad in an eye-catching, light blue and silver casing, and at 4.7 by 2.2 by 0.9 inches, the mobile retains the same dimensions as its predecessor, the 6800. However, it sheds some weight, slimming down to a svelte 3.5 ounces, compared to its forerunner's 4.4 ounces. The phone is compact and can fit in almost any pocket. It also feels comfortable yet solid in your hands.
Admittedly, the 1.5-inch-diagonal, 4,096-color screen is a little disappointing compared to today's latest 65,000-color displays. Images and photos looked pixelated and washed out at times, especially outdoors. Still, text was easily readable, and the screen was resistant to smudges. Located below the display and flanked by two soft keys, a lighted five-way joystick lets you maneuver through the graphical, user-friendly menus. The numeric keypad is set flush with the surface of the phone and, like the navigation controls, has a more attractive design than the Nokia 6800's. All keys are well spaced, but they aren't the most tactile. Also, the joystick is smaller than it should be. However, we liked the two backlit strips separating the three columns of numbers; they made it easy to dial numbers, even when we were in a dimly lit room. The navigation controls all provide one-touch access to a variety of functions--just be sure to lock them when carrying the phone in a pocket or a bag.
As noted earlier, the 6820 looks like a standard candy bar-style phone. But with one flip of the front cover, the true beauty of the handset is revealed: a full QWERTY keyboard with added Talk and End buttons. The blue and silver keys were fairly well spaced, but they'll still take some getting used to, due to the split spacebar. Once mastered, however, you'll be able to crank out quick e-mails and text messages on the fly and wonder how you ever got along without it. Users with larger digits will probably want to take a test-drive first. The keyboard also features a backlight, but you have to manually turn it on with the designated key, located on the upper-left corner. To our delight, the screen automatically adjusts to horizontal orientation when you flip open the keyboard, and a button on the top left corner of the mobile acts as a third soft key. The cover's hinge felt incredibly sturdy, but it does require two hands to open.
Other features on the phone include an infrared (IR) port on the right side of the mobile, a camera lens on the back of the handset, and a dedicated power button on the top right corner. There is no dedicated camera activation button, so you'll have to navigate through the menu to call up the camera. Also, Nokia strangely chose to omit the up/down volume controls that had been located on the left side of the 6800. Instead, you now control call volume by moving the joystick to the left or right, which is a bit inconvenient. The Nokia 6820 comes well stocked with features. The internal phone book can hold up to 500 contacts with up to 5 numbers per name, as well as e-mail, Web, and street addresses and notes. You can also assign up to five caller groups and, for caller ID (when available), associate a picture or any of 44 polyphonic ring tones; there's also a vibrate mode. In addition, the mobile features voice-activated commands and dialing for up to 10 numbers, an alarm clock, a calculator, a calendar, a currency and measurement converter, and a To-Do list.
Business users will be particularly pleased by the 6820's Bluetooth connectivity, its ability to exchange business card information via the IR port, and its WAP 2.0 wireless Web browser, which should work well with the phone's support for EDGE high-speed data transmissions. There is also an integrated speakerphone but its design needs some work. You can automatically turn it on by opening the keyboard, but like the Motorola A630, it doesn't turn off when you close the cover. Alternately, if the flip cover is closed, you can engage the speakerphone once the call has been placed by pressing the right Select key. But if you later open and close the keyboard, it automatically turns off.
The 6820's built-in CIF camera with 2X zoom can take pictures in three resolutions: Basic (160x120 pixels), Normal (320x240 pixels), and High (640x480 pixels). You have the option to snap shots in Standard, Portrait, or Night mode. Unfortunately, there's no mirror for self-portraits, and you can neither control the white balance or the contrast nor add special effects, although you can use your images as wallpaper. Have a bit of Steven Spielberg in you? Then you're in luck. The 6820's camera can also shoot short 10-second video clips in QCIF format with playback in 3GPP. Photo and video quality are pretty poor, but they're adequate for quick snapshots sent via e-mail or multimedia message (MMS). You can save as many photos or videos as will fit in the phone's 3.5MB memory.
The integrated QWERTY keyboard would be nearly useless without texting and e-mailing options, and fortunately, the 6820 offers plenty of opportunities to exercise your thumb. The phone supports text messaging (up to 160 characters) and MMS. We tested both features, and they worked extremely well, as sending and receiving messages were quick and easy. Just be aware that MMS messages exceeding 100K in size won't go through. The 6820 also supports POP3, IMAP4, and SMTP e-mail accounts, as well as MSN, Yahoo, AOL, and ICQ instant-messaging clients. For the mobile professional, you can download the Nokia 6820 PC Suite from the company's Web site, which will allow you to sync with a PC, a laptop, or other mobile device.
You can personalize your 6820 with your choice of wallpaper, color schemes, and screensavers. More designs and ring tones are available for download, and you also can get more Java (J2ME) games. Five titles are included: Backgammon, Water Rapids, Chess Puzzle, Bounce, and Bowling. We tested the triband (GSM 850/1800/1900; GPRS/EDGE) Nokia 6820 with AT&T Wireless service in San Francisco and found reception to be good overall. Call quality was clear, with only a couple instances of static, and volume was loud. Also, callers said they could not tell we were using a cell phone. The speakerphone worked well in our tests.
Battery life was good. The Nokia 6820 hit the rated 5 hours of talk time and matched the promised standby time of 10 days.