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Nokia 7650

The 7650 is Nokia's breakthrough product, offering an integrated camera, a large colour screen and multimedia messaging service (MMS), among other high-end features. With this phone, Nokia is selling more than a handset -- it's evangelising a new way of using mobiles.
Written by Aloysius Choong, Contributor on
nokia-7650-lead.jpg
7.5/10

Nokia 7650

Very good
Pros
  • Feature-packed easy-to-use built-in camera.
Cons
  • Bulky doesn't support Bluetooth headsets.
  • Editors' Review
  • Specs

The 7650 is Nokia's breakthrough product, offering an integrated camera, a large colour screen and multimedia messaging service (MMS), among other high-end features. With this phone, Nokia is selling more than a handset -- it's evangelising a new way of using mobiles.

Design
Given the recent trend towards tiny cellphones, the 154g Nokia 7650, with its considerable girth of 26mm, is a brave departure from the norm. In this case, though, the 7650's bulk can be forgiven, considering the amount of real estate devoted to the display. The large 4,096-colour screen is bright and sharp, easily displaying 10 lines of text. A knobbly, mini rubber joystick lies below the screen, allowing for intuitive navigation. There's also a standard numeric keypad on a tray that slides out from the back of the phone. This, of course, adds thickness to the handset. When extended, the length of the 7650 goes from 114mm to about 150mm. For some, this will be a phone for the bag, not the pocket. Nokia is usually adept at touching up its high-end phones cosmetically (note the smooth, sleek finishes of the 8855 and 8910): it therefore comes as a surprise that the 7650 sports a dull grey-green paint job that looks slightly plasticky.

Interface
The 7650 runs on Symbian OS and uses an icon-based menu system similar to that on desktop and handheld computers. The phone doesn't support pen input, so navigation is via the mini joystick, while text is entered using the keypad. This dual interface may sound complicated, but it is evident Nokia has put a lot of thought into making this intuitive. The 7650, with all its functions, can be fully operated using just one hand. Without extending the numeric keypad, it’s possible to perform several tasks such as making calls and playing games. You only have to extend the keypad when typing text messages or taking pictures. The Symbian OS is highly responsive -- it takes a second for programs to load. In addition, multitasking is supported so various programs can be running at each time. Pressing and holding down the ‘Menu’ key calls up a list of running programs, making it easy to switch between them.

Camera
The most important feature of the 7650 is its digital imaging function. Nokia, living up to its reputation for keeping things simple, has implemented this in a straightforward, three-step process. In its normal, retracted position, the keypad covers the back of the phone, hiding and protecting the camera eye. So the first step in activating the camera is to fully extend it, exposing the lens. A single press of a pre-programmed soft key puts the phone in instant camera mode. Here, the display screen becomes the camera's viewfinder, and does a credible enough job. Colours are accurately reproduced on-screen, although dithering can sometimes be detected due to the limitations of the 12-bit screen. The accurate colour reproduction and high-resolution screen make it easier to frame shots. When you're ready to snap, depress the mini joystick and you hear a simulated ‘click’ sound as the shot is taken. At a size of 30KB per picture, you can store hundreds of these in the 7650’s 3.6MB of RAM. The handset doesn't offer functions such as zoom or flash, but it does provide a picture resolution of up to 640 by 480 pixels and a special mode for low-light photography. Don't expect the picture quality to be great, though. Colour tones are reproduced accurately, but images tend to look unfocused. At its heart, the 7650's camera function is largely a gimmick. It lacks the same quality or power that dedicated cameras have, with good reason. But for casual, spur-of-the-moment pictures, it’s more than adequate. taking a photo, there are several things you can do with it. You can choose a photo to use as the phone’s background picture. Or you can utilise the phone's picture Caller Line Identification (CLI) to attach a mugshot to an entry in the contact list so that his or her face will appear on-screen each time a call is received. Furthermore, a game called Mix Pix can slice your photos into little squares and mix these up so you can piece them back together for fun. After snapping a picture, you can send it to someone else via Bluetooth, infrared or multimedia messaging service (MMS). MMS is, of course, another of the 7650's touted features. The MMS story is easy to tell: shoot a picture and send it instantly to your friends or loved ones anywhere. What may be harder to sell is the cost: At 36p per message, MMS could easily burn a big hole in the pockets of users. That said, there will be times when a picture tells far more than 10 SMS messages.

Features
The 7650 contains some of Nokia's most advanced features. Apart from the integrated camera and MMS, it also offers Java 2 Micro Edition (J2ME), Bluetooth and polyphonic ringtones. Nokia is a latecomer to the mobile polyphony scene, but the quality of the 7650's audio can rival most. The speaker is especially impressive. When there's an incoming message, the sound of the alert tone seems to envelop the surroundings. However, the 30 pre-installed ringtones vary in volume, so some of these may be too soft to hear. The Bluetooth feature in the 7650 also deserves a mention. Sending pictures and information to a Sony Ericsson T68i via Bluetooth is effortless as both phones use the vCard standard. However, as with the 8910, Nokia's implementation of this wireless technology is limited here. The 7650 currently does not support Bluetooth headsets -- a move that has displeased some users.

Performance
The reception of the 7650 is average. Like many other phones, it failed to register signals in areas with poor network coverage. The normal voice quality from the phone is good, although the speakerphone function was erratic during our tests. Held at half an arm's length, the handset's microphone was sensitive enough to pick up my voice but the speakers did not offer sufficient volume for me to hear the other party well. The 7650 has a special proximity sensor that automatically turns off the speakerphone mode when it senses something near, so you don't accidentally get a blast of sound to your ear. This seems like a nifty feature, except it didn't seem to work very well on our set. According to Nokia, the 750mAh Li-ion battery should offer a talk time of up to 4 hours, or standby of 150 hours. In our real-world tests, it gave us two to three days, depending on how intensively you use the camera. Although this is acceptable for a colour-screen, full-featured phone, we wonder why Nokia has yet to migrate to higher-capacity Lithium-polymer batteries.

Conclusion
Nokia has gone out on a limb with the 7650. Remarkably, it does most things right. At £346.63 (inc. VAT) for the handset only, or £111.63 (inc. VAT) with an O2 contract) the price is acceptable for such a powerful device (prices from Expansys. There is much to like about the 7650, but if you don't need to be on the bleeding edge, you may want to wait on the sidelines a little longer.

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