With the imminent shutdown of the Telstra's CDMA network -- as of 28 January, 2008 -- the Telstra F165, or "country phone", is a purpose built handset for mobile phone owners in rural Australia. While we'll have to take Telstra's word for the phone's ability to access their Next G network from remote locations; we did manage to test out the rest of the phone's feature set.
Let's not beat around the bush; the F165 isn't a latte sipping cafÃ© dweller or a cocktail swilling city night-owl, in fact, it's probably never drunk anything through a straw before in its life. The sturdy rubberised fascia and unsightly external antenna suggests a life on the land, light years away from glamorous, that grace the social pages, billboards, and bus shelters.
But while it may not win any beauty pageants the F165 wins big points for being very easy to use. The numeric keypad is made up of very large keys and the screen, while on the small side, is clear and easy to read. There is absolutely no mistyping using this handset. The menu is simple and easy to navigate, with everything where you'd expect it to be.
The size of the F165 is both a blessing and a curse, and even people who regularly tote around larger model BlackBerrys will be put off by the size of this handset, especially for a device that isn't a smartphone or PDA and won't double as a mobile PC. Weighing in at 120g you do need a purse, a man-bag or saddle-bags to carry the F165 around as it's not at all pocket-friendly.
The external antenna is worth noting again; it's just so old-school. Not only is there an inch high raised knob on top of the device, but within this the antenna extends even further. Perhaps it's nostalgia, and we're sure Freud would have a field-day with this, but there's something sexy about tugging the antenna up before making a call, something akin to wearing "aviator" sunglasses and pretending you're more important than you actually are.
The F165 is quad-band with HSDPA data communications, and while the speed is always welcome; it seems out of place in the F165, as the built-in Web browser really doesn't do the Web justice, even basic text based Web pages are both difficult to read and navigate. Content on the BigPond mobile Web portal is accessed quickly, including music that can be downloaded and played through the onboard media player. Alternatively music can be imported from your PC using the supplied software and a USB cable. The F165 supports1.2.
Text messaging is a breeze with the massive keys and T9 predictive text software, similar to software used in Nokia phones. The F165 supports e-mails either using your BigPond e-mail address or alternative e-mail using POP3 or SMTP protocols. There's also a basic 2-megapixel camera onboard that takes reasonably good pictures without the assistance of a flash.