In an age of thin phones and slider handsets, T-Mobile's Nokia 1680 takes you back a few years in cell phone design. But we don't mean that as a bad thing. In fact, it's rather nice to see a simple candy bar handset with tried-and-true design aesthetics. The feature set is equally low-key with just messaging, organizer features, and a VGA camera, and the phone succeeds reasonably well at its primary goal of making calls. On the downside, the keypad is rather stiff and the plastic skin feels a bit cheap, but the 1680 is a decent handset for casual users.
The Nokia 1680 has a standard candy bar design in basic black. It may not be much in the looks department, but it's an easy-to-use and accessible design. It's also compact (4.26 inches by 1.81 inches by 0.59 inch) and lightweight (2.6 ounces). We couldn't help notice, however, that the plastic skin feels rather cheap; this is a not a phone for the accident-prone.
The display measures 1.75 inches and supports 64,000 colors (160x120 pixels). That's a rather low resolution when compared with most other cell phones, but it's perfectly serviceable for a handset of this caliber. The icon-based menus are simple and easy to figure out; they should present no problems for the cell phone novice. You can change the font size and color, but no other display options are customizable. We'd prefer a brightness control, as the screen is rather washed out.
The 1680 has a spacious and tactile navigation toggle and central OK button. It is a tad slippery, but it served us will most of the time. The square toggle doubles as a shortcut to four user-defined functions. Surrounding the toggle are two soft keys and the Talk and End/power buttons. They're covered in a comfortable rubbery material, but we'd prefer to have a dedicated clear/back button and a camera shortcut.
The keypad buttons are a mixed bag. Though they have a tactile feel, they're also a bit cramped and feel rather stiff. Dialing phone numbers wasn't an issue, but texting felt a bit cumbersome. If you're a messaging addict, we recommend giving the phone a test run before buying. On the upside, the backlighting is bright.
Unfortunately, the 1680 doesn't have a dedicated volume rocker, which means you must use the toggle to change the volume level during a call. That's rather inconvenient. On the right spine you'll find the charger port and a 2.5mm headset jack. The camera lens and mirror rest on the phone's back side above the single speaker.
The 1680 has a large, 1,000-contact phone book with room in each entry for five phone numbers, an e-mail address, a URL, a company name and job title, a formal name and nickname, a street address, a birthday, and notes. You can pair contacts with a photo and save them to caller groups, but only groups can be assigned one of the eight polyphonic ringtones.
Other essentials include a vibrate mode, text and multimedia messaging, a speakerphone, an alarm clock, a calendar, a to-do list, a notepad, a calculator, a stopwatch, and a timer. As this is a basic phone, you won't find Bluetooth or other trendy features, but you do get instant messaging, a currency and unit converter, a voice recorder, and an expense manager.