Nokia had a good idea. The company mated the fun, colorful designs of its best-selling 5100 and 6100 series phones with the supercompact designs of its high-priced 8860 and 8890 models, then slapped a down-to-earth price tag on the offspring of this union. The 8260's affordably stylish look seems sure to seduce many buyers, even if the phone has some flaws. The first thing you'll notice about the 8260, a dual-band TDMA model, is that it's really small. It measures 4.1 by 1.75 by 0.7 inches and weighs 3.4 ounces, which is only slightly more than what the 8860 and 8890 weigh. Like the chrome 8860, this model has a built-in, hidden antenna. But what's different about the 8260 is that it comes in three colors (Red Pepper, Electric Blue, and Carbon Gray) and doesn't have a slide-down, dial-pad cover; the 8260's keys are always exposed. There's nothing inherently wrong with this design. You may initially find the 8260 awkward to talk into, though, since the mic on this shorter-than-usual phone rests high on your cheek rather than close to your mouth. However, callers will be able to hear you just fine. (It should be noted that Nokia seems to have designed this pocket-friendly mobile especially for those who prefer to use an earpiece for hands-free operation. Our review unit came with an earpiece, but in the real world, it's an optional accessory.)
The 8260 doesn't suffer from the fingerprint problem that the chrome-finished 8860 does. But the upper half of the phone, a clear, plastic face that protects the LCD, does attract the natural oils from your skin, which means you'll end up having to wipe off the phone regularly. And while we're griping, the dial-pad keys are cramped (as with most supercompact models) and a little slippery. Dialing numbers was sometimes an adventurous process. Also, the on/off power button, which is hidden at the top of the phone, is tiny and can best be activated by using your fingernail (nail biters might have a problem). From a features standpoint, there really isn't anything that distinguishes this model from Nokia's other phones. The phone book stores an ample 250 names and numbers, and the calendar can track up to 50 appointments (if you have the patience to input them into the phone). In its press materials, Nokia touts the phone's mobile-originated short messaging service (MOSMS) feature, which enables you to send brief text messages to another wireless phone. Unfortunately, our phone wasn't set up to test this feature (the service is optional), so we can't say if it's useful or just gimmicky. As for performance, we tested the phone on AT&T's network in New York City and the Pennsylvania countryside. And although AT&T isn't known for having great service in New York City, call quality was generally good, both in analog and digital modes.
Nokia's 6100-series phones are known for having excellent battery life, and the 8260 also shines in this department. The company says you'll get up to 3.5 hours of talk time and 8 days of standby time, and our tests didn't dispute this claim. In fact, we got closer to 4 hours of talk time. Road warriors will also appreciate the phone's compact battery charger, which juices up the battery in just under an hour.