Henry Thoreau once wrote, "Our life is frittered away by detail. Simplify, simplify." Perhaps this is the approach Nokia took when designing its Nokia 6061. Devoid of any fancy design elements or advanced voice and data features, the 6061 for Cingular Wireless is a good starter phone for technophobes or teens. It gets job number one--making calls--done and even throws in a couple of extras, such as a speakerphone and a Web browser. The Nokia 6061 is reasonably priced at $79.99, but with online discounts, you can get it for free.
With a polished black and silver look, the Nokia 6061's design has understated elegance down pat. The sides have a rubberlike feel for a better grip, but holding on to this flip phone isn't a problem, since it's so light and compact (3.5 by 1.7 by 0.9 inches; 3.3 ounces). While we appreciate the simplicity of this handset, an external screen would have been a nice addition. Instead, there's only a red sliver on the front flap that lights up to alert you to an incoming call or message. Unfortunately, there's no volume rocker; in fact, there are no controls on either spine. That means during a conversation, you'll have to remove the phone from your face and use the navigation toggle--a bit annoying.
Once you open the Nokia 6061, you're presented with a 1.7-inch-diagonal screen that supports 65,536 colors and a 128x160-pixel resolution. The low resolution isn't going to offer you the sharpest or brightest text and images, but it is sufficient for navigating the easy-to-use menus. And while you can't change the font size, you can adjust the backlight settings and the font color. Beneath the screen is a spacious navigation array that users with larger digits shouldn't even have a problem with; it features two soft keys, Talk and End keys, and a four-way navigational toggle with a center OK button. The numerical dial pad is also roomy, and since the keys are raised slightly above the phone's surface, it's easy to dial by feel; plus, the backlighting helps when you're in a dark environment. The Nokia 6061 ships with an AC adapter, whose port lives on the bottom of the handset alongside the headset jack; the wired headset is available for $21.95.
The Nokia 6061 features a 500-name phone book, and each entry has room for up to five numbers; an e-mail, a Web, and a street address; a note; and an image (the SIM card holds an additional 250 names). Since the 6061 doesn't have a camera, you'll need to get images on your phone another way or use one of the default graphics preloaded on the mobile. And since there's no external display, assigning images to a contact isn't really worth the effort. You can also assign your contact to a caller group, and it is only with groups that you can pair ring tones for caller-ID purposes. The phone supports MP3, MIDI, and AMR ring tones and comes preloaded with seven polyphonic (16-chord) ring tones, or you can switch to vibrate mode. Other modes of communication on the 6061 include a speakerphone, text and multimedia messaging, e-mail (IMAP4, POP3, and SMTP), and a WAP 2.0 Web browser. If you need help in the organization department, there is a calendar, a to-do list, a calculator, an alarm clock, a stopwatch, and a countdown timer.
You can personalize your Nokia 6061 with a number of themes, wallpaper, and screensavers. For more interactive entertainment, the 6061 comes with three Java (J2ME) games: Miki's World, Tetris, and a World Poker Tour demo. Of course, if none of the preloaded options are to your liking, you can always visit Cingular's Media Mall and download more. The phone has 3MB of internal memory.
We tested the dual-band (GSM 850/1900; GPRS) Nokia 6061 in San Francisco using Cingular's network, and call quality was decent. On our end, the volume was loud and conversations were clear, and our callers reported much of the same, although they could tell we were using a cell phone. Unfortunately, the audio quality diminished when we used the speakerphone, which can be activated only after you're on a call. Callers sounded muffled, and we wish there were an easier way to increase the volume; as it is, you have to go through several menus to do so. As expected, the Web-browsing experience was a bit poky, but it wasn't better or worse than that of most cell phones today.
The Nokia 6061 is rated for 3.5 hours of talk time and up to 16 days of standby time. In our tests, we got 4 hours of talk time and 17 days of standy time. According to the FCC, the 6061 has a digital SAR rating of 0.77 watts per kilogram.