Nokia 7610

August 22, 2004

As some of you already know, I chucked my Sony Ericsson K700i about two weeks after I got it. The reason was very simple: the battery life was abysmal! Save that major hiccup, the phone was brilliant, but there was no way I could continue using it with such a broken battery. I might go so far as to say that it was the worst battery I've ever seen on a device.

Enter the Nokia 7610 (I have the white/silver model). This phone was actually the only other phone I was considering when I decided to purchase the K700i (the Sendo X was also on my radar at the time, but it wasn't yet released). The main reason I initially decided in favor of the K700i was simply past experience — I've had good luck with SE phones. The main reason I initially decided against the 7610 was the design. Nokia has a long track record of feeling the need to push the envelope of mobile phone design (if you can call their designs "pushing the envelope"). This phone is no exception and Nokia has made some pretty crazy leaps as far as keypad and case design go, none of which I think will survive this model.

While I'd like to write a lengthy review of this phone similar to those that I've done in the past (most recently the K700i), I just don't have the time and so I'm going to briefly run over some of the things I like/dislike.

I guess I should start with the battery. I have no complaints. I've read every review of this phone (I think :) and a few of them point out that the battery life isn't too great, but I have to respectfully disagree. Battery life is somewhat 'subjective' (unless we're talking about the K700i  :P) and can fluctuate wildly depending on what you actually use your phone for day in and day out. Having said that, I've been rather impressed with the life of the 7610 given my use requirements. I routinely get through two days of heavy usage without having to recharge (this includes taking numerous pictures and videos, talking for extended periods of time, and moving files between my computer and the phone with Bluetooth) — not bad for a full blown "smartphone." I should also mention that the standby time is excellent.

I find the form-factor as close to perfect as it can get. It could stand to be slightly thinner, but that's really the only negative thing I can say about its shape and size. When you consider all that the device contains, the form-factor is pretty impressive. The phone feels very solid; no noticeable creaking or battery-cover movement. Its shape also allows you to stand it up on a flat surface so that you can take timed (or just steadier) pictures and videos.

I use the 1.3MP (1152x864) digital camera all the time — much more so than I've done with past camera phones (I think this is number five). Case in point: when I was at the hospital, I used the camera to take pics of the top of my head so that I could see the gash before they put in the stitches. The white-balancing system works fairly well and I'm quite pleased with the overall quality of the pictures. In fact, the quality is such that I now want to save the pictures I take with it (with previous phones I saved the pictures just because I'm obsessive-compulsive  :P). The refresh rate on the viewfinder is exceptional.

Given the RS-MMC memory-expansion slot and the 64MB card that ships with the phone, I find myself taking video (176x144) of everything. A nice feature of the video recording is that you can mute the microphone if you wish. Playback on the device could be a little smoother, but it's really nothing to complain about.

The phone ships with the Opera browser, which makes for very easy web nagivation when on the move, enhanced further by the large 16-bit TFT screen (176x208). The entire browsing experience has come a long way since I first had Opera on my Sony Ericsson P800 a couple of years back.

Speaking of the P800, that was the first, and until now, only Symbian phone I've owned. The real difference between the 7610 and P800's implementation of the OS is the user interface that sits on top of it — the P800 uses UIQ while the 7610 uses Nokia Series 60 (Second Edition). The two interfaces aren't really comparable though as UIQ is more stylus-centric where Series 60 is focused on keypad navigation. That said, I don't have any real complaints about the interface on the 7610. It could be sped up in certain areas, but for the most part it's pretty solid. I do like the fact that the softkeys are completely customizable and that you can add whatever shortcuts you want to the "Go to" menu, though this could be made a little better by allowing you to point deeper into the menuing system when making shortcuts.

As can be expected nowadays, the interface can be given an entirely new look through the use of themes, which are allowed to change almost everything on the 7610, including the clock faces, default icons, and backgrounds.

The "Gallery" program for viewing images and video (and other files) is pretty nice and like all of the programs on the phone, allows you to easily switch between phone memory and the MMC card. I've actually stopped using the "Gallery" program altogether though, in favor of Nokia Album (Thanks Russ). The Album application allows you to view a time-based thumbnail display of both your videos and images (together). It's great.

The speakerphone and regular speakers could both stand to be a bit louder — I frequently have the volume cranked all the way up. As for voice quality, I've yet to have a single complaint from anyone on the other end.

As I've mentioned many times before, I use my phone as a morning wake-up alarm and the 7610's "Clock" program handles this wonderfully. Once the alarm goes off, the right softkey snoozes for five minutes and the left key turns it off entirely. Like ringtones, the alarm sound can be any audio file, including MP3s. The only thing the application is missing is a recurring alarm option.

I had absolutely no trouble pairing the phone with my PowerBook through Bluetooth. Unfortunately, the 7610 does not sync with iSync. I knew this before I purchased it (another reason I hesitated to get this phone), but assumed that the next version of iSync would add support, especially in light of the fact that the Nokia 6600 and Sendo X, both Symbian Series 60 phones, are suupported. I was wrong, iSync v1.5 was released a few days ago and 7610 support is still missing. Grr. Apparently the hangup has to do with the fact that the 7610 uses SyncML for syncing where the other supported Symbian phones use something called mrouter. Frankly I don't give a shit what it uses, just get it working Apple!

Because syncing with the PowerBook wasn't an option, I actually had to export all of my contacts from Address Book and schedules from iCal, import them into a temp Outlook account on a Windows machine, and then run the Nokia synchronization software from there. This option is fine as a one-time way to move everything over, but the fact that my calendar, contacts, and to-do lists aren't continuously sync'd makes me freaking crazy; hopefully a hack will emerge or the next version of iSync will support it.

And finally, I have to talk about the wacked-out keypad found on the 7610. Oddly enough, like everyone else that has used the funky keypad, I've come to like it and find it very easy to navigate. Don't get it twisted though, if Nokia decided tomorrow to come out with the same model but with a "normal" keypad, I would get it. While the keys feel great when they're pushed, I wouldn't mind for the action to be a bit quieter — the clickety-clack is quite noticeable.

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