With the introduction of the last year, Nokia took a brazen a step forward in the world of fashion phones. With its innovative design--the lipstick shape and the lack of a keypad--the 7280 garnered a lot of attention, even from the celebrity set and the glitterati. And now the Nokia 7380, which is part of Nokia's L'Amour fashion collection, is the successor to the 7280. As with the 7280, the similarly shaped 7380 doesn't look like a phone at all. With its mirror finish and designer motifs inspired by "craft and ethnic influences," it certainly looks like it's meant to be a fashion accessory first, a phone second. The phone's circular spinner "click wheel" controls takes some getting used to and are certainly not for everyone, but they're not too difficult once you get the hang of them. And don't think the phone is just for show--there are quite a few impressive features packed into this tiny device, including Internet access and a megapixel camera. All this comes at a price, though; the Nokia 7380 will sell for roughly $500 to $600, though it may come down if it's picked up by a carrier. At first glance, the Nokia 7380 may look like a fancy compact mirror. It has no antenna or keypad, and by all accounts, it doesn't look like a cell phone. It sports a very appealing mirror finish with copper brown and ivory white accents, and there's even an orange L'Amour designer tag on the right side. On the back is a leatherlike covering located underneath the camera lens and flash, which are also housed in a mirror finish. The left spine holds the SIM card slot drawer, which opens like a latch. Removing the SIM card is easy; just push down the card and it pops out. It's a big improvement over the drawerlike SIM holder on the that required a special tool to open. On the bottom are the mic, the charger and headset ports, and a wrist-strap slot. Its sticklike chocolate bar shape measures only 4.5 by 1.2 by 0.8 inches and weighs a light 2.8 ounces. This shape lends itself to an easy fit in the pocket, and it feels cozy in the hand. It's also surprisingly comfortable when held to the ear.
On the front is the aforementioned mirror finish complete with a flower motif etched in a corner near the speaker. When the phone is activated, part of the mirror finish disappears to reveal a tiny 1.25-inch landscape-oriented screen, most likely to accommodate the size and shape of the phone. Though we found the display big enough for making calls and sending messages, its usefulness for other functions is limited. For example, it was a bit small for sending messages, and Web browsing was mostly uncomfortable. The display's 104x208-pixel resolution and 65,536-color palette aren't great, but they're certainly acceptable. On the downside, the screen is very difficult to see under direct light because of the mirror finish. Also, the contrast, brightness, and backlighting time can't be changed. Font size can be changed only within text messages and not elsewhere. Users with vision impairments may have a hard time with this phone.
A little lower on the front are the stylized navigation controls. Set in concentric circles, the controls include four indicator lights and a middle OK button that glows orange when activated. The outer circle acts as buttons for two soft keys on one side, and the Talk and End/power buttons on the other. We didn't find it too difficult to press the assigned areas of the circle, but those with larger fingers might feel some discomfort. Also, the keys aren't labeled. The inner circle is known as the Nokia Navi spinner, and it spins like a wheel that you can use to scroll through the menu options as well as dial and send text messages. This may sound like a chore, but it isn't that difficult. When texting, the phone is smart enough to guess the next letter in a word, and you can select letters by simply scrolling through them. Dialing is a little harder, as you have to scroll back and forth more frequently; you can't dial by letters as there's no keypad. However, the phone was intended to be used with a pre-established contacts or a calls list stored in the phone and SIM card, so you can either dial by voice commands or simply navigate through your address book.
We were disappointed that there are no volume rocker and no dedicated camera button on the phone. Also, the Nokia 7380 uses an internal rechargeable battery that cannot be replaced by the consumer; instead, it must be sent to an authorized service facility. It's unclear if this will be worth the time and money if and when it occurs.