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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.
The VGA camera takes pictures in three resolutions (640x480, 320x240, and 160x120) and three quality settings. Other features include a 4x digital zoom, a night mode, a self-timer and a multishot option. It's a slim assortment of offerings, to be sure, but also fitting for a basic phone. Photo quality is pretty bad, unfortunately, even for a VGA camera.
The camcorder lacks editing options, but you can shoot clips with sound in two lengths. Videos meant for multimedia messages are capped at 10 seconds; otherwise, you can shoot for as long as the available memory permits, which is a respectable 32MB.
You can personalize the 1680 with a variety of wallpaper, screensavers, font colors, themes, and alert tones. More options and additional ringtones, are available from T-Mobile's T-Zones service via the WAP 2.0 wireless Web browser. The 1680 comes with demo versions of two games: Pac-Man/Ms. Pac-Man and Midnight Pool. You'll have to buy the full versions for extended play.
We tested the dual-band (GSM 850/1900) Nokia 1680 in San Francisco using T-Mobile service. Call quality was just average. Though the signal was clear and voices sounded natural, the volume is rather low and the phone has a sensitive sweet spot. If you move the phone from your ear just the slightest bit, the sound level drops significantly.
On their end, callers said we sounded good but not great. They could tell we were using a cell phone, and they reported that the 1680 picks up a lot of background noise. But most of the time, we were able to hold a conversation. Speakerphone quality was unremarkable. The audio had a lot of static, and callers had a difficult time hearing us. On the whole, this is a decent phone for occasional callers, but anyone else will find the call quality disappointing.
The 1680 has a rated battery life of 7.6 hours talk time and 17 days of standby time. It has an impressive talk time of 12 hours and 14 minutes. According to FCC radiation tests, the 1680 has a digital SAR of 1.39 watts per kilogram.