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Nokia is no slouch when it comes to designing high-end cell phones, but the company's bread and butter remains simple handsets for making calls. That's where Nokia got its start, and that's where its focus remains for developing markets. The new Nokia 2600 for AT&T fits this mold perfectly. Though it offers a VGA camera and Bluetooth, this handset is all about communication. The design is simple and intuitive and the call quality is serviceable, but the phone's molasses-like menu interface was frustrating. The Nokia 2600 is $150 if you pay full price, but it's free with a service contract.
The 2600 is a standard Nokia candy bar phone that's a salute to minimalism. It is clad in basic black with just an orange ring around the center column of keys to give it some individuality. The lines are straight and clean, but its tapered edges are a nice touch. The 2600 is 4.21 inches long by 1.84 inches wide by 0.79 inch thick and weighs 3.17 ounces. It is compact and portable, but the plastic skin feels rather flimsy.
The display measures 1.5 inches wide and supports 65,000 colors (128x128 pixels). Though that's a low-resolution display when compared with most other current cell phones, it's fitting for such a low-end phone. Graphics and photos aren't sharp, but colors are relatively bright and the screen isn't washed out. What's more, the icon-based menus are intuitive. You can change the standby mode font color and the font size and activate a power-saver mode.
The 2600's navigation array consists of a square silver toggle with a black OK button. Though it is decently sized and raised above the surface of the phone, it's also a bit slippery with a plastic feel. It didn't present us with any problems, though, and you can set the toggle to act as shortcut to four user-defined functions. Two soft keys and the Talk and End/power buttons complete the array. They have a spacious layout as well but they're flush and equally slippery. Also, we'd like a dedicated back key and a camera shortcut.
The keypad buttons are hit and miss. They didn't feel cramped, but they aren't very tactile. Similarly, while we like that the central column of keys is colored in gray, the backlighting could be brighter. We didn't suffer from any misdials, but rapid texting did feel awkward.
Like T-Mobile's recent Nokia 1680, the 2600 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 backside above the single speaker.
The 2600 has a tiny, 200-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.
The 2600 has a solidly low-end feature set, but it does include Bluetooth. There's no stereo profile, which really isn't needed on such a basic phone, but you can use Bluetooth to send files. Other features include a vibrate mode, text and multimedia messaging, a voice recorder, an alarm clock, a calendar, a to-do list, a notepad, a timer, and a stopwatch. You'll also find trial applications for Mobile Banking, WikiMobile, and My-Cast Weather.
The VGA camera takes pictures in three resolutions (640x480, 320x240, and 160x120) and three quality settings. Other features include a digital zoom, a night mode, a self-timer, and a multishot option. It's a slim assortment of offerings, to be sure, but appropriate for a handset with a VGA camera. Photo quality is good for a VGA camera. Colors were relatively bright and there was minimal noise. On the other hand, you'll need adequate light since the 2600 doesn't offer a flash.
The camcorder is as basic as can be. It doesn't offer any editing options beyond a choice of clip length. Videos meant for multimedia messages are capped at 9 seconds; otherwise, you can shoot for longer periods in normal mode. Video was about what you'd expect from a VGA camera, which is to say pretty bad. The 2600 has about 10MB of user-accessible memory.
You can personalize the 2600 with a variety of wallpaper, screensavers, and themes. You can download more options and additional ringtones, from AT&T. The 2600 comes with demo versions of three games--Bubble Bash, Tetris, and Ms. Pac Man--but you can buy the full versions and additional titles.
We tested the dual-band (GSM 850/1900; GPRS) Nokia 2600 in San Francisco using AT&T service. Please note that as a dual-band phone, the 2600 will not work outside of North America. Call quality was decent--not spectacular but not bad either. The signal was clear and strong, and voices sounded relatively natural. The volume could be a bit louder, but the phone performed well for what it is.
On their end, callers said we sounded fine, though a few reported that the 2600 picked up an excessive amount of background noise. Even on our end, we had some trouble hearing the phone conversation in very noise environments. Similarly, automated calling systems could understand only when we spoke in a quiet place. Speakerphone calls were just OK. Since the speaker faces the rear of the phone, you should place the phone upside down for the best experience. But even then, the audio is muffled at the highest volume levels. Bluetooth headset calls were satisfactory.
Yet, we had more issues with the phone's painfully slow menu interface. When opening the main menu and when selecting certain features, we had to wait as long as 3 seconds for something to happen. It was not something we were expecting on such a basic phone and it definitely diminished our experience. Before we got used to it, we impatiently would press the OK button several times.
The 2600 has a rated battery life of 3 hours talk and 16 days standby time. We were quite impressed with the tested talk time of 11 hours and 54 minutes. According to FCC radiation tests, the 2600 has a digital SAR of 1.43 per kilogram.