Nokia wisely took advantage of the 6600's spacious real estate, giving the mobile a generous 65,000-color, 2.25-inch (diagonal) display that's roomy and easy to read, even in direct sunlight. Our thumbs didn't have much trouble with the five-way toggle or the keypad, but we had to press pretty hard to register a keystroke; we prefer a lighter touch. A clever addition is the dedicated Edit key to the left of the keypad, which provides one-button access to editing options such as symbols, numbers, and word-predicting text. It did take us a few seconds to get used to the Talk and End buttons, which are placed on either side of the screen rather than below it. Also, there are no dedicated speakerphone or camera-shutter keys. Instead, those features are activated by the soft keys.
The icon-driven menu was easy to navigate (you can scroll sideways through selections), if lacking in eye-catching animations. We did notice that the Symbian OS 7.0 was a little sluggish; it sometimes took a few seconds for menus to load or for pages to redraw. We also had a complaint with the placement of the MMC media slot. As with the Nokia 3620 as well as the Nokia 3300 music phone, you have to remove the 6600's battery to change the card. Also, since there are no volume-control buttons on the side of the mobile, you'll need to remove the Nokia from your ear to adjust the sound level in the middle of a conversation. The camera lens is located on the upper half of the back of the handset, almost giving the 6600 the look of a real camera from behind. The size of the Nokia 6600's phone book depends on how much of the shared 6MB of memory is available. For each contact, you can store three numbers and associated information such as an e-mail address and a job title. For caller-ID purposes, you can pair contacts with a picture and one of 24 polyphonic (24-chord) or 18 monophonic ring tones; there's also a vibrate mode. The phone also comes with a full complement of features, including a calendar with week and month views, a to-do list, text and multimedia messaging, voice memo, a currency converter, a calculator, and six-way conference calling. Bluetooth and infrared ports let the handset connect with other devices, and you can sync to your desktop PIM, though you'll need to download Nokia's free PC Suite software first. If you're tired of talking, you can surf the Web over the GPRS-enabled XHTML browser or set up support for SMTP, POP3, and IMAP4 e-mail accounts. We had one grumble with the duplex speakerphone, though: you can activate it only after placing a call, and it sometimes took a few seconds to turn on.
The 6600's built-in VGA camera includes three resolutions (640x480, 320x240, 160x120) and three modes (Standard, Portrait, and Night). The 2X digital zoom lets you get up close and personal, but the transition is rather jarring. The resulting snapshots were fine for a camera phone, if not quite suitable for framing. Sending photos was easy, but you can edit only their rotation. The camera comes with a handy self-timer, which you can set for 10, 20, or 30 seconds--perfect for getting yourself in the shot or steadying the camera on a solid surface for long-exposure night shots. We were able to balance the phone on a level tabletop, but setting it on uneven surfaces was tricky. Unfortunately there's no flash or mirror for taking self-portraits.
You can also capture the moment on video with the handset's video recorder, which renders brief (10-second), fuzzy images and lo-fi audio. The 6600 stores clips as QCIF files in resolutions of either 176x144 or 128x96, and you can play them using the phone's onboard RealOne player. We got an undeniable kick out of shooting video with the 6600, but the actual clips aren't exactly Oscar worthy. As with the phone book, picture and video storage is limited by only the phone's available memory, but if you're running low, you can store your recordings on the included 32MB MMC media.
The mobile comes with a pair of so-so games (Snake EX and Pix Mix) but packs plenty of customization options. You can choose from four color schemes or use a snapshot as your wallpaper. You can download more wallpaper, applications, games, and ring tones via T-Mobile's T-zones service. A nice addition is the digital wallet, which stores credit card numbers and addresses that you can then access with compatible wireless services. A 4- to 10-digit access code protects the wallet from wrongdoers. We tested the Nokia 6600 (GSM 900/1800/1900; GPRS) world phone in the New York metro area using T-Mobile service, and callers said they could hear us loud and clear. We initially had a little trouble hearing callers until we learned how best to hold the phone; as it turns out, the receiver should be angled up a little higher than we were accustomed to. The 6600's speakerphone quality was also good, and the volume was quite loud.
The 6600's battery life wasn't great--far less than what we'd expect out of a Nokia mobile. We fell short of the promised four hours of talk time by a little more than an hour. Standby time also was poor. We managed only 3 days, compared to the promised time of 10 days.