Every now and then, a new mobile phone comes along that tries to break the norms. The norm in this case is the traditional design of a handset. Touting a “futuristic” design, the Nokia 7600 is just such a phone.
The 7600 represents Nokia’s first entry into 3G. It has a dual-mode W-CDMA (3G) chip as well as a GSM (900/1800) chip built-in. Technically, this should be able to give you access to 3G networks (currently we have NTT Docomo’s FOMA in Japan and Hutchison’s 3 network in Europe, Australia and Hong Kong with more on the way).
In addition to the dual-mode, the design of the 7600 is what makes this phone unique. The 7600 has a very unusual “square” shape. This shape gives it both its allure and yet is probably is most challenging hurdle. I was given the opportunity to own this handset as part of my providers marketing ploy. Needless to say I took them up on this opportunity to try it out.
The biggest hurdle to the 7600 is definitely its shape. Most people either love it or hate it. Having used it, I have grown from disliking it to getting more comfortable with it. From a user’s perspective, it does have its charms. The square like shape is definitely a novelty although it does seem more feminine. The awkward shape also means that you have to tilt the phone sideways to use it with the ear receiver in one corner and the microphone in the other corner.
The biggest hurdle is of course the keypad layout. Scattered along the sides, the 7600 abandons any traditional number layout and instead relies on you adjusting to it. Try typing SMS on this phone – you almost have to relearn it again from the beginning as it just doesn’t flow as well typing in this layout.
Hence, the layout is slightly awkward but it’s clearly just something that takes getting used to. The question is do you need to do that? I mean it’s a mobile phone and many users have enough difficulty navigating the menus. Getting comfortable with a strange keypad layout may just be too much for some users.
The 7600 is a dual-mode W-CDMA/GSM handset. Unfortunately, in its initial launch, it didn’t work in the 3G mode as the operators had not yet launched 3G. As a result it was just a simple 2G phone (although Hutchison is now selling it for use in its 3G services in Europe and Australia as I understand).
As a 2G phone, it seems perfectly fine. Reception is typical Nokia quality – very good. I was though disappointed that it was only a GSM900/1800 model which means its not yet capable of use in the US (I think tri-band GSM is an absolute must these days). As a 3G phone though, the main lure of 3G (in my opinion, video calls) is lost as the 7600 does not do live video calls. Hence, to me this is still a standard 2G phone.
It does though take and playback video clips which you could technically send as well. In that respect, the 7600 actually does really well. The camera lens picks up a lot of light and when you set it to the night mode, you can actually get some relatively good video clips. The same can be said of the camera with picture quality pretty good considering these are not high-resolution images (though for a mobile phone, 640×480 is already very good these days).
The 65k color screen is decent and for Nokia, this was certainly an upgrade. The details didn’t ‘wow’ me as other handsets have. Still the screen for all practical reasons is fine. I only had a chance to moderately try the music playback function, but it’s definitely not something I would use – my P900 plays back MP3 much better. There is nearly 30MB of space for storage of multimedia files though I doubt this is enough for real MP3 use. The phone also comes with the usual host of Nokia functions including Bluetooth, PIM, GPRS, handsfree, games, etc.
At the end of the day, the quirky shape/layout and the lack of tri-band capability means I would more than likely give this phone a pass. I kept it for less than 2 months, and most of that time, it was used by my better half who thought it was pretty cute. I barely used it for a week before I gave it to her. With more handsets on the way and lots of really nice choices out there, I would definitely think the 7600 today is a WASTE OF TIME.