It's been so long since we've reviewed a simple, candy bar phone from Nokia that we almost forgot what they look like. Of course, that's a bit strange considering Nokia built its reputation on basic phones, but lately we've been preoccupied with the company's fancy, design-centric handsets such as the N95 and the 7390. Yet Cingular has pulled an oldie-but-goody out of its hat with the Nokia 2610. Exceedingly simple in form and function, the 2610 is a solid option for anyone who just wants to make a call. Call quality wasn't perfect, but it is acceptable. It's also cheap, at $19 with service.
The Nokia 2610 is couldn't have a more basic form factor. At 4.09x1.69x0.71 inches, it has a compact candy bar shape that slips easily into a pocket or bag. It's also relatively light at 3.21 ounces, and it has a comfortable feel in the hand. The exterior black-and-gray color scheme is attractively subdued, while the silver keys provide a nice contrast. Like most basic phones, the 2610's outside casing feels a bit cheap but some of exterior areas have a slight rubberized texture.
The 2610's 1.5-inch (128x128 pixels) display isn't particularly striking, but it's perfectly fine for this caliber of phone. With support for 65,536 colors, it is serviceable for browsing through its simple menus, but graphics and games look a bit dim. You can change the contrast and the font size but not the backlighting time. The display isn't very visible in direct light, and it tends to attract fingerprints and smudges.
Below the display is the large and well designed navigation array. The five-way toggle is tactile and easy to use, and we like that it's raised above the surface of the phone. What's more, the OK button in the middle of the toggle is big enough for larger fingers. There are also two soft keys and the dedicated Talk and End controls. It's disappointing there's no dedicated Back or Clear button, but the toggle can be set as a shortcut to four user-defined functions. We didn't like that there's no volume rocker on the phone's spine; instead you have to use the navigation toggle. That can be a bit distracting when you're on a call.
The raised keypad buttons give a tactile "push" sensation when pressed, which makes it easy to dial by feel. Though the keys are large, the numbers on buttons keys can be too small for some users. On the other hand, they're lit by bright backlighting, so we had no problems dialing in dim situations.