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Telstra T165i review: Telstra T165i

The Country Phone will feel at home in those remote areas that struggle with mobile coverage. It makes up for an absence of bells and whistles with great performance of its essential features.

Joseph Hanlon Special to CNET News
Joe capitalises on a life-long love of blinking lights and upbeat MIDI soundtracks covering the latest developments in smartphones and tablet computers. When not ruining his eyesight staring at small screens, Joe ruins his eyesight playing video games and watching movies.
Joseph Hanlon
3 min read

Design
Wiggle into those chaps and tug on your best 10-gallon hat 'cause it's time to leave the bright lights behind us and check out Telstra's latest Country Phone. Compared to its predecessor, the F165, the latest Country Phone is about the same size and almost an identical weight, but there's no denying the T165i is a slightly sexier handset.

7.5

Telstra T165i

The Good

Curved, extendable antenna. Screen is excellent in daylight. HSDPA and AGPS. Good battery life.

The Bad

Quite a big phone. No mapping software installed.

The Bottom Line

The Country Phone will feel at home in those remote areas that struggle with mobile coverage. It makes up for an absence of bells and whistles with great performance of its essential features.

The first thing you'll notice about the T165i is its curved external antenna. Like the F165, the antenna is extendable, but it's also curved away from the screen so that it points away from the side of your head when you speak into the phone, decreasing the chance that your huge head or massive 10-gallon hat will act as an obstacle to reception.

To further assist in receiving the best signal possible, the T165i features fast-mounting inputs for attaching the handset to a car cradle with a signal boosting antenna. A switch next to the camera on the back of the phone covers the external antenna port, keeping out dust and dirt.

The keypad is large and well defined, as are the navigation keys. During its launch, a spokesperson for Telstra explained that special consideration had been given to designing a screen with improved visibility when outdoor under sunlight. The 2-inch QVGA resolution screen, which looks rather dull indoors, is excellent outside, far better than most phones we see.

Features
A Telstra Country Phone couldn't be so without Next G network compatibility. The T165 features HSDPA data transfers up to 7.2Mbps, though Telstra is quick to remind us not to expect data much faster than 3Mbps, which in itself is excellent. These downloads will come in handy for accessing Next G services like news, sports results and the local weather.

The T165i also features assisted GPS, though without a dedicated mapping solution to go with this hardware. Telstra, obviously, wants us to use the web-based Whereis maps, but this doesn't stop us wishing we had a pre-installed navigation application. In truth, the screen size doesn't suggest a strong navigation tool, and Whereis is fine for grabbing quick location updates.

For media playback the T165 supports MP3 audio and MP4 video files. Headphones are attached through the combination USB port and the phone's memory can be expanded up to 4GB via its microSD card slot.

Performance
We'd love to have been able to test the reception of the T165i in remote areas of Australia, but we've had to make do with standard city-slicker's testing. Not surprisingly the T165i has worked well within the concrete jungle. All the phone calls we've made have been loud and crystal clear and messaging is fast and easy using the large keypad.

Battery life during our tests has been excellent, and better than manufacturer ZTE estimates. It rates the battery cycles at three hours for talk-time and about 10 days of standby. We've managed to stretch the talk-time to about five hours, and our standby tests have seen at least 12 days.

Overall
The T165i has a few key points that should interest its target farming market. The curved extendable antenna is a practical touch that adds a dash of flair, and the screen is excellent when viewed under bright natural light.

While we can't recommend the T165i for any of its extras — the camera and media player are both low quality — its basic functionality is exceptional. It's an incremental upgrade only on the previous Country Phone, but it's a worthy update nonetheless.