Nokia doesn't focus on flip phones, so the previous flip models we've reviewed--the and the --didn't impress us. Now with the Nokia 6101, however, Nokia has made a more successful attempt at the flip-phone form factor. Available in black with T-Mobile or in white as an unlocked version (Cingular offers the similar Nokia 6102), the 6101 offers a solid set of midrange features in an attractive, compact design. On the downside, the display has low resolution, and the navigation controls are poorly designed. But if you're looking for a dependable phone without a lot of pricey offerings, the Nokia 6101 is a good choice at $149. Because Nokia has long concentrated on candy bar designs, we were excited to see the Nokia 6101. Compared with the boxy , the 6101 sports a more pleasant style, with smoother angles and a more standard flip-phone look. The black and silver color scheme looks attractive, and the compact and lightweight size--3.35 by 1.77 by 0.95 inches and 3.4 ounces--makes the 6101 easily portable. Overall, the phone is solidly constructed, with a stubby external antenna.
Dominating the front face of the Nokia 6101 is a large, 1.2-inch-diagonal external display that shows the date, the time, battery life, signal strength, and photo caller ID (where available). With support for 4,096 colors, the screen is sufficiently bright, and you can choose different wallpaper or screensavers. Although the display goes almost dark when the backlighting is off, you can change the backlighting time to your choosing. Above the display is a lens for the VGA camera. There's no flash, but the external display acts as a convenient viewfinder for self-portraits. Completing the outside of the handset are volume rockers on the left spine and the right spine.
The inside of the Nokia 6101 isn't quite as elegant. The 2-inch-diagonal internal display is large enough but has a decidedly low-res and washed-out appearance. Despite supporting 65,536 colors, the picture was neither sharp nor vivid in our tests. In fact, the screen made playing games and viewing photos somewhat tedious. Still, it's fine for viewing the simple menus, which are available in two styles. You can change the backlighting time and the font color, but you can't alter the font size or adjust the brightness or contrast. We also aren't fans of the navigation controls. The buttons are a good size, but they're slick, causing us incorrect key presses on a couple of occasions. You'll find a five-way toggle that acts as a shortcut to four user-defined functions, two soft keys, and the Talk and End buttons. In a departure from most Nokia cell phones, where the power button is located on the phone's exterior, the Nokia 6101's End button turns the phone on and off instead. Also, we were glad to see that the OK key opens the menu in standby mode as opposed to the Web browser, as is the case with many T-Mobile phones.
We had better luck with the backlit keypad buttons. Although they're quite slippery, they're easy to use due to their large size. They're also raised just above the surface of the phone for dialing by feel.