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.The Nokia 6101 has a respectable range of features that offer a broad range of functionality without getting too complicated. You get a 500-name phone book with room in each entry for five phone numbers, three addresses (e-mail, Web, and street), and miscellaneous notes; the SIM card holds an additional 250 names. The 6101 lets you organize contacts into groups and pair them with a photo for caller ID. The phone supports MP3 ring tones, but it comes with just eight polyphonic tones that can be matched only with caller groups and not individual callers. Other options include a vibrate mode, text and multimedia messaging, voice dialing, an alarm clock, notes, a calculator, a calendar, a to-do list, a stopwatch, a countdown timer, and PC syncing for your calendar and contacts. A great feature included is the ability to send voicemails in a multimedia message; you can simply record a message and zap it to a friend in a few seconds. We're also pleased to see a speakerphone and an infrared port, and although there's no Bluetooth, we wouldn't normally expect it on a midrange phone.
The Nokia's 6101's VGA camera took subpar shots compared with other low-end camera phones. Colors looked washed out and fuzzy, and editing options are slim. You can take photos in only two resolutions (640x480 and 80x96) and from three quality settings, with additional features limited to a night mode and a self-timer; there's no zoom, flash, or color effects. The video recorder takes clips with sound at either 15 seconds in length or whatever will fit on the available 4.4MB of memory.
An additional multimedia feature on the Nokia 6101 is its FM radio. You need a headset to act as an antenna, but the phone doesn't include one. You can personalize that handset with a variety of screensavers, wallpaper, color themes, alert sounds, and ringer profiles. If you want more options and ring tones, you can download them through the WAP 2.0 wireless Web browser and T-Mobile's T-zones Internet service. The 6101 comes with a demo version of three games--Canal Control, Solitaire Deluxe, and Tetris--but you can always get more titles if you want them. In comparison, T-Mobile usually gives you at least one full game.We tested the triband (GSM 850/1800/1900) Nokia 6101 in San Francisco using T-Mobile's service. Call quality was up to usual Nokia standards with admirable clarity and volume, and we encountered little static from other electronic equipment. Callers could tell we were using a cell phone, but they didn't report any serious problems. Although speakerphone calls suffered from diminished quality, they still were loud enough to hear clearly. Be advised, however, that you can activate the speaker only after you've made a call.
The Nokia 6101's batteries lasted a long time; we coaxed 7.5 hours of talk time on a single charge, almost double the rated time of 4 hours. Standby time was also excellent: We fell short of the promised 14 days but still got a respectable 8. According to FCC radiation tests, the Nokia 6101 has a digital SAR rating of 0.68 watts per kilogram.