Nokia's new 7610 smart phone set the wireless world abuzz with word of its megapixel camera, its Bluetooth support, and its slick Symbian operating system. But once we got our hands on the eye-catching handset, the 7610 felt a bit big and heavy. And while the megapixel camera took sharp shots compared to those of other camera phones, the weak camera options were a letdown. We were also disappointed by the lack of an infrared port, the awkward keypad layout, and the so-so customization options. At $500, the Nokia 7610 is an expensive device, although the price will probably drop once carriers are announced. The candy bar-style Nokia 7610 is certainly a looker. The shiny black handset boasts alternating smooth and sharp corners set off by a slick silver outline that encompasses the outer, mirrored keys. Flip the phone around and you'll find a funky thatched design surrounding the 3.7mm camera lens, along with a 2-inch mirrored surface shaped like a glass shard. It's a stylish design, but we bemoaned the lack of a self-portrait mirror.
The 7610 fit easily in our hand, with our thumb resting comfortably on the curved upper-right corner of the device (lefties' thumbs will be stuck with the sharper upper-left corner). While the 7610 doesn't seem as big, it's only slightly smaller than the bloated-looking Nokia 6600. Measuring 4.3 by 2.1 by 0.7 inches and weighing 3.8 ounces, the phone is a bit heavy and felt pretty big in our jeans pocket.
We were very impressed with the Nokia's 2.25-inch-diagonal, 65,000-color screen. The display was sharp and detailed, and its colors were rich and vivid. We had little trouble browsing the 7610's attractive Symbian OS menus. With Nokia's new Series 60 platform, the 7610's various screens were a snap to navigate, though occasionally sluggish.
While the 7610's keypad sure looks cool, it takes a little getting used to. The keys themselves are laid out in a curved, arcing design, which means that the row for the 1, 2, and 3 keys is considerably smaller than the row for 7, 8, and 9. We liked the feel of the small, five-way navigational keypad, and the dedicated Edit key (which provides one-touch access to the Symbols menu and the Predictive Text modes) is a nice touch. The 7610's on/off button sits on the top of the phone, per Nokia tradition, but the sides of the phone are bare, offering no dedicated volume or camera controls. Whoops.
Included in the 7610's box are a relatively small AC adapter, an earbud-style headset (mono only), a USB data cable and sync software, a felt carrying case, and an adapter for the phone's 64MB, reduced-size MMC card, which lives behind the phone's lithium-ion battery--another irksome Nokia tradition. Why Nokia continues to hide memory cards behind the battery rather than in an accessible slot on the side of the phone is a mystery to us. The Nokia 7610 comes with an impressive set of features, including an address book that stores as many contacts as will fit in the 8MB of internal shared memory. You also get ring-tone and picture ID, text and multimedia messaging, wireless POP/IMAP e-mail access, six-way conference calling, a speakerphone (which can be switched on during--but not before--a call), 18 polyphonic ring tones, 6 True Tunes, a calendar, a to-do list, a notepad, a unit converter, an alarm clock, a vibrate mode, a WAP 2.0 wireless Web browser, voice dialing and commands, voice memos, and a digital wallet for storing passwords and credit card numbers. The phone offers Bluetooth and USB-cable support for wireless headsets, data transfers, and contact syncing, but there's no infrared port--a curious omission.
Without further ado, let's get to the feature that's causing all the fuss: the 7610's megapixel camera. With its 1,152x864-pixel resolution and 4X digital zoom, the 7610 takes sharp pictures for a camera phone, putting the VGA image quality of older camera phones to shame. You can't adjust the resolution or change the shutter sound, but you get three quality settings (High, Low, and Medium). Though we liked the overall quality, you'll never mistake the mobile's pictures for those of a dedicated digital camera. Saddled with a tiny 3.7mm lens (which is unprotected by a lens cover), the 7610 produced images that still looked a bit fuzzy, and we noticed a lot of noise in low-light shots. We were also less than impressed with the camera's anemic feature set, which includes little more than the 4X digital zoom, a self-timer, and a night mode. Missing features include a multishot option (an ideal extra, considering that the 64MB MMC card holds about 130 high-quality pictures), image effects (such as sepia and black and white), and editing features. You can send images to your pals via multimedia message or Bluetooth, and you can use pictures as your wallpaper or associate them with a contact.
While the 7610's photo quality is certainly above average, its video recorder is run of the mill. You can shoot video clips with sound at resolutions of either 174x144 or 128x96 pixels (in QCIF format). The clips we took were barely watchable, which isn't unusual for video-recording cameras. One nice innovation is that you can shoot video clips up to 10 minutes in length, depending on how much memory is available; the video recorders on most of the phones we've tested cap your video clips at about 10 seconds.
The 7610 offers respectable--though not great--customization options. You can choose from a selection of themes, wallpaper, screensavers, colors, and ringer profiles. You can also load MP3s as ring tones. Our review phone came with a couple of limited-use game demos, including Lemonade Tycoon (a business-strategy title) and 180 Darts, a decent dartboard simulation. We also found some business-application demos, including Quicksheet, Quickword, and Quickpoint, which let you read but not edit Microsoft Office documents, as well as a PDF reader. Multimedia fans will enjoy the included RealPlayer for video clips and music. We tested the triband Nokia 7610 (GSM 850/1800/1900; GPRS) in Manhattan. Calls sounded loud and clear, and our callers said they couldn't tell we were on a cell phone. Speakerphone calls also were admirable, and audio quality over the included wired headset was diminished only slightly. We also enjoyed good calls with Cardo's Scala 500 Bluetooth headset and had no problem pairing the two devices.
Battery life on the 7610 was excellent. We got about six hours of talk time, double the three hours Nokia claims. The phone promises about 10 days of standby time. In our tests, we fell short by 2 days, but that's still respectable. The 7610 has a digital SAR rating of 0.55 watts per kilogram.