Yeah, I finally got my Nokia 7650 mobile phone! Nokia’s first color screen mobile phone (not counting the 9210 Communicator) is the coolest handset to hit the GSM market so far this year. It has a built-in camera not to mention a huge color screen.
When I first saw this phone at the end of last year I was pretty excited. But we had to wait for such a long time since this phone was first shown that I grew tired of waiting for it. Initially, the thought of Nokia’s first color phone combined with a camera seem really appealing. Then, I saw that it was going to be big and heavy and that sort of put me off. Having to wait this long added to my discontent.
However, as the product slowly seem to become a reality, I just couldn’t help myself. The hype was building and I just wanted to get my hands on it. The deciding factor for me would eventually be the price and I said I would only get this phone if it came out at a reasonable price. (It did.)
I finally got the call that it was arriving on July 5. I was lucky enough to be one of the first people in the world to get my hands on this phone. The rest is history.
Before I get into the review, I should add that this phone is only a GSM 900/1800 dual-band handset, which means it will not work on US GSM 1900 networks. Bummer for the US market.
The Nokia 7650 is a bulky phone. I don’t think there is much avoiding that fact. It is larger than nearly every other GSM phone available in the market today. The design though is pretty impressive. The phone has a look of a solid metallic casing on the top while the bottom is sort of a brown plastic. Having said that, the most surprising factor is that for its size, the phone isn’t that heavy. Sure, it can’t compare to the super slim profile of other phone models available now, but it really wasn’t as heavy as I thought it would be. Still this is not a phone you’ll be able to easily slip into your pocket.
The split-type layout of the numeric keypad is a pretty neat design. It takes awhile to get used to all the new buttons and stuff, which is a departure from the traditional Nokia layout. The 7650 comes with a joystick that is very similar to the Ericsson T68 that I had previously. This split-type keypad also opens up to reveal the camera. Cleverly placed at the back of the phone, you could technically do some “spying” on others, which of course has led to several disclaimers in the Nokia manual about the use of the camera.
The large color screen has got to be one of its big selling points as well, which now makes every function very readable. You can’t argue with a bigger screen.
I had no problems with holding the phone. It is much fatter and bigger than I’m used to, so people with smaller fingers beware, this phone feels different and a bit awkward. I’m actually not used to a mobile phone this big so I’m a bit conscious of dropping it. Nevertheless, it was designed well enough and with the microphone right under the screen, you can actually hold the phone while talking by grabbing the sliding keypad instead of the whole phone. This makes it much more comfortable for people with smaller hands.
So how does the phone hold up? First of all, there are a lot of new functions that come with the phone. Let’s start with the newest of all things, a built-in camera. This is one of the first if not the very first GSM phone with a built-in camera. I know that Japan has a few models as well as several that are supposed to be available in Korea, but this is the first built-in camera for the GSM market (there is an add-on attachment for the T68/T68i, but this is so much better).
The lens isn’t great so you wouldn’t expect to be taking detailed pictures with this camera. But it is sufficient enough that you can have a lot of fun with it. Night shots are limited by the lack of a flash, but there is a “night” mode so the pictures come out relatively reasonable. While I hope that one day they can incorporate a really good camera without sacrificing too much in size, this camera is a great start. I can’t wait to be able to send pictures to other people who have MMS or to another picture phone, once they become more widespread.
The color screen is the real stand out with the 7650. As Nokia’s first color attempt (again, forget about the 9210 communicator), it really is a very good try. The screen is very clear and is shaped perfectly to accommodate both the new features and the camera mode. It feels so nice to be able to read a message with more than two lines appearing on the screen at one time. Actually, you can even see the whole message now at one time. The Motorola V70 had display so pitifully small, something that gets even more exaggerated when you switch to a phone like the 7650. I really like this screen and hope that all phones go to larger screens.
One really neat function of the 7650 is the built-in speakerphone that makes for truly handsfree use. You can now talk on the phone without picking it up – great for the car. You can place the phone on the table and speak into it like a speakerphone. You activate this by pushing the red button on the side of the phone. The sound comes out through a speaker at the very top of the phone. The quality of the sound is reasonable is loud enough to hear most conversations in a quiet room. The phone though has a very cool sensor that can sense when to disconnect the speakerphone and activate the normal earpiece just by placing the phone against your ear.
What surprised me was that Nokia uses the same battery as many of the previous models. The BLB-2 battery pack is commonly used in most new Nokia models. Nokia seems to have done a reasonable job with power management and consumption in the 7650. The phone is rated at 4 hours of talk-time though I think if you use the camera and color screen a lot, than number is going to fall really quickly.
The 7650 also incorporates GPRS, Bluetooth, MMS, a personal information management (PIM), and other functions like a voice recorder. As far as menus and functionality goes, you can’t beat Nokia. In relative comparison to Motorola, Nokia is the clear winner. The menus have the typical Nokia feel, but seem to copy a lot from Windows CE/Pocket PC. You now get lots of “folders” and functions that make the 7650 feel very much like a PDA.
As for basic phone services like voice-calling, the 7650 works perfectly fine. Calls are well audible both from the receiver and the sender’s standpoint. Reception is very good as expected.
So when it’s all said and done how is the 7650? Well, I for one have had a lot of fun with it in the past two days. I think it’s a really good attempt at giving us a glimpse of what to expect from mobile phones in the future. Nokia is leading that charge again. My two big complaints are of course the size and its dual-band (instead of tri-band) status. We’re all so used to small phones, can we really revert back to a big phone? I don’t know. Also as frustrating is that I still have to use another phone for tri-band usage. How difficult is it to make the 7650 tri-band?
I’ll probably only keep the 7650 as a novelty for a few months until the Nokia 6610 arrives. But for the amount I paid (I got a deal from my operator and only paid about US$450), which wasn’t too bad at all. It’s a huge deal compared to how much I initially paid for the Motorola V70. So if you want to try out the latest in mobile phones and have some MONEY TO BURN, give it a try.