We can safely say that we've never seen a phone like the Nokia 7705 Twist. Sure, we've reviewed square handsets before, and swivel models were in style a few years back; however, we've never had the two design aesthetics combined onto one device. We're not quite sure if it works--it's certainly unique, but it's awkward. The Twist offers a fair number of features, decent performance, and a nice keyboard for messaging and e-mail; however, it can't measure up as a multimedia phone. It's available from Verizon Wireless for $99.99 with a $50 rebate and a service contract.
As we said, the 7705 Twist offers a singular design for a cell phone. It's perfectly square (2.71 inches by 2.71 inches by 0.59 inch), but the rounded corners make it look only slightly less angular. We suppose that you'll either love or hate the overall effect. On one hand, it has a clean, minimalist profile and is a bit avant-garde, but some people may find its design to be harsh, weird, and uninspired. Indeed, it's certain to get looks on the street, though maybe not for the right reasons. The Twist's front cover is basic black, but you can use a purple or black battery cover (both come in the box). When closed, the phone slips easily into a pocket, and at 3.44 ounces, it won't weigh you down. It also fits neatly in your hand.
It's been quite a while since we've reviewed a swivel phone. In our mind, they never really worked--it took a lot of effort to open some swivel models--but Nokia is never a company to shy away from controversial designs. But in this case, we give Nokia props for resurrecting a long-dead trend. Not only can you can open and close the 7705 Twist with one hand, but also Nokia improved on the design by moving the pivot point from the center to one corner. For now the mechanism feels sturdy, though we're worried about long-term durability. After all, the swivel Sony Ericsson W600i was fine for a while, but it flew apart after several months of use.
Given the phone's diminutive size, we knew not to expect much from the display. It is too small (2.4 inch) to really support the full XHTML browser, but it offers 262,144 colors and a decent (320x240 pixels) resolution. Its colors and graphics look sharp, and the display is bright. It also has a landscape orientation, which is rare outside of the smartphone world. It doesn't make a big difference in usability except that it may show fewer lines of text than on similar phones with a vertical display. The menus are a mixed bag--though Verizon is (thankfully) moving away from its confusing standardized interface, the 7705 Twist still shows some its confusing organization. For example, the browser is still grouped under the "Media Center" submenu. On the upside, the display offers a number of customization options. You can change the backlight time, the home screen font color, the menu font size, and the dialing font size.
The only physical control on the Twist's exterior is a square toggle with a central OK button. The toggle is raised and easy to use even if it is a tad slick; it also serves as shortcut to four user-defined functions. The remaining controls--two soft keys and a clear button--are touch-sensitive. They have a spacious layout so we didn't have any issues when scrolling through menus. We like that you can change their sensitivity and the intensity and pattern of the vibration feed back. A number of features surround the Twist's shiny silver rim complete its exterior. There are a 2.5-millimeter headset jack, a Micro-USB/charger port, a volume rocker, and the microSD card slot. We'd prefer a 3.5-millimeter jack for the headset, but we commend Nokia for adopting what is becoming the universal standard for charger connection.
Another unique feature is the hole through the corner of the phone. It may be confusing at first, but it makes sense when you recognize that it serves as the phone's pivot point. Called the "contact ring," it glows with a multicolored light when you receive a call from a contact in your phone book. Sure, it's gimmicky, but it's the only semistylish touch on the entire handset. On the back of the phone are the lens and camera flash. You must open the phone to use the camera, but we like that the back of the swivel face serves as a large self-portrait mirror.
When you flip open the Twist you'll see its full keyboard. Despite our initial skepticism, the keyboard was roomy and comfortable with tactile keys. After just a couple of minutes, we were off and texting long messages with few errors. What's more, the handset is also wide enough to hold in two hands while typing with our thumbs. Letters share space with numbers and symbols, but that's not unusual. Its large space bar is conveniently located in the center of the bottom row. Near the space bar are a shift key, a back button, a function key for typing numbers in a message, and a return control.
We particularly welcome the fair number of shortcut keys. Along the top row of the keyboard you'll find controls for the messaging app, the music player, the Web browser, the voice dialing app, the speakerphone, and the camera. The keys are quite spacious and are placed far enough from the bottom of the swivel face. We also liked the dedicated "Next" key (for moving through different fields of a text) and the control for symbols. The latter doubles as a shortcut for the vibrate mode.
On the downside, we didn't love its placement of the shared alphanumeric number keys. While many phones place them to one side of the keyboard, the Twist puts them squarely in the center. It's not terribly inconvenient, but it did take some acclimation. What's more, the pound and star keys are placed to one side of the numbers rather than below them. We'd also prefer to see the Talk and End/power keys on the phone's front face rather than mixed in with the keyboard. That means that you must open the phone to place and answer calls and to turn it on and off.
The 7705 Twist has a 1,000-contact phone book with room in each entry for five phone numbers, two e-mail addresses, a street address, and notes. You also can save a dedicated emergency number. For further personalization, you can save callers to groups and pair them with a photo and one of 15 72-chord polyphonic ringtones. You even can assign friends a color for the contact ring. A unique feature of the Twist is its "Habitat" mode. After picking one of two display themes ("urban" or "jungle"), your contacts will be represented by avatars in order of the last person called. Click on each avatar to see a list of messages and calls between you and that contact.
Essential features include a calculator, a calendar, an alarm clock, a stopwatch, a world clock, a notepad, a tip calculator, a unit and currency converter, and a speakerphone. You'll also find speaker-independent voice dialing, Bluetooth, PC syncing, USB mass storage, text-to-speech, and support for VZ Navigator.
Besides threaded text and multimedia messaging, there's instant messaging, and e-mail. POP3 e-mail access for accounts such as AOL, Yahoo, and Hotmail is limited to a clunky Web-based interface, but RemoSync service offers access to push e-mail from corporate accounts as well as calendar, notes, and contacts syncing. We tried syncing our work e-mail and were mostly pleased with the results. The initial sync took a few minutes, but after that the process as pretty smooth and you can view some e-mail attachments. The service will cost you $9.99 per month. We'd much prefer to have such a cost included in an umbrella monthly data plan. The same goes for Verizon's Visual Voice mail, which costs $2.99 per month. Add up all those extra costs and you get an expensive monthly plan. At that rate, it's better to get a real smartphone with a comprehensive data plan.