The camera offers all of the standard options, including quality and resolution settings, various capture modes, white balance settings, a self-timer, and more. Picture quality, however, wasn't all that great, as images looked hazy and had a bluish tone. On the other hand, recorded video clips looked decent, with a pretty clear picture and minimal blurring.
Moving from the social to more of the Nokia Surge's core competencies, as a phone, the Surge offers quad-band world roaming, a speakerphone, speed dialing, three-way calling, conference calling, voice commands, and text and multimedia messaging. The address book is only limited to the available memory (the SIM card can hold an additional 250 contacts) and allows you to attach multiple numbers, e-mail addresses, job title, and other personal information to a contact. You can also make video calls with AT&T's Video Share service, but note that the recipient must also have a Video Share-compatible phone, and the service costs $4.99 per month. Bluetooth 2.0 is onboard with support for mono and stereo Bluetooth headsets, hands-free kits, object push profile, dial-up networking, AV remote, and more.
The Surge is also 3G-capable (HSDPA 850/1900MHz), so in addition to making the Web browsing experience snappier, AT&T's 3.5G network should help with streaming media services, such as AT&T Music and AT&T Video, which are both supported on the phone. Hopefully, AT&T's 3G network is pretty reliable where you live because the smartphone doesn't have integrated Wi-Fi.
For an entry-level smartphone, the Surge beats out some of the big boys with a full HTML Web browser with Flash Lite support. With the latter, you'll have a smoother browsing experience and will be able to enjoy streaming music and video right from the browser. We were able pull up YouTube just fine, but it required several tries to get videos to play. Once going, the stream was mostly smooth, though every once in a while a video would need to rebuffer.
If you just can't get enough video, the Surge also ships with the MobiTV app, and there are plenty of other entertainment options as well, including a built-in media player (supports AAC, AAC+ v1, AAC+ v2, WAV, MP3, WMA 9, and RealAudio10 files), FM and XM radios, and a handful of games.
Last but not least, the Nokia Surge offers GPS/A-GPS with support for AT&T Navigator. With this location-based service, you can get real-time tracking, data, voice-guided directions, and other navigation tools. Currently, AT&T Navigator is free for the first 30 days, but afterward, you will be charged $9.99 per month unless you cancel the feature.
We tested the quad-band (GSM 850/900/1800/1900; HSDPA 850/1900) Nokia Surge in San Francisco using AT&T service and call quality was OK. Voices sounded a bit tinny on our end of the conversation, and the call would cut out every once in a while, so we'd have to ask our friends to repeat themselves. Our callers weren't particularly impressed with the audio quality, either. Some reported slight crackling noises, while others said we just didn't sound very clear. Speakerphone quality wasn't particularly notable. While not pristine, there was plenty of volume, and we were able to carry on conversations with no problems.
We paired the Surge with the Logitech Mobile Traveller Bluetooth headset and the Motorola S9 Bluetooth Active Headphones. We weren't huge fans of the sound quality of the latter, but they came in handy for listening to music since the Surge isn't outfitted with a 3.5mm headphone jack and we didn't have access to an audio adapter or compatible headphones. As with phone calls, the phone's speakers pumped out music with loud volume, though we're not sure how many friends you'll make by blasting your tunes through the speaker.
AT&T's 3G coverage was a bit spotty here in San Francisco and didn't exactly deliver blazing speeds, either. CNN's and ESPN's mobile sites, which usually come up in 10 seconds or less, took 50 seconds and 45 seconds, respectively. Meanwhile, CNET"s full site took 1 minute and 46 seconds to load.
The Nokia Surge features a 1500mAh lithium ion battery and has a rated talk time of 4.7 hours (4 hours on 3G) and up to 16 days of standby time. In our battery drain tests, the Surge delivered 10.25 hours of talk time on a single charge.