On the downside, the handset is saddled with a disappointing display--the same 128x128-pixel, 4,096-color passive-matrix version we've seen on Nokia's older phones. While the eight-line screen is certainly adequate, it pales in comparison to the latest 64,000-color models, and its passive-matrix display looks dull and washed out in direct sunlight. Another letdown is the old-school Nokia menu system, which cycles through top-level menu items one at a time.
The navigation controls, consisting of a four-way toggle and two soft keys that double as the Talk and End buttons, were large enough, though you can't set any user-defined shortcut. Likewise, the 6610 has no dedicated speakerphone key. We had no problem pecking the 6610's keypad, although the weak backlighting was uneven. A bigger complaint is the volume control, which is a thin, crescent-shaped ridge on the side of the phone that's devilishly difficult to press when you're on a call. The Nokia 6610 offers a mixed bag of features, including a 300-name phone book that holds five phone numbers, three addresses, and notes for each contact. For caller ID, you can assign ring tones and images to calling groups but not specific contacts--a feature we've come to take for granted. There's also text and multimedia messaging, a to-do list, a calendar (with alarms and a monthly but no weekly view), a calculator, a countdown timer, a stopwatch, a vibrate mode, a duplex speakerphone that can be activated only after a call is made, 11 polyphonic (four-chord) ring tones, and six-way conference calling. You can surf the Web with the phone's WAP 2.0 wireless browser, but there's no built-in e-mail access. Voice commands and dialing are missing, and while you can beam your business card to other IR-compatible devices via the phone's IR port, Bluetooth fans are out of luck.
One unexpected pleasure is the 6610's FM tuner; you can listen in with a headset that Nokia sells separately for $21.95. The phone will scan for stations, and you can preset up to 20 of your favorites. Unfortunately, the tuner won't program your presets automatically.
Personalization options are so-so. You can use one of the phone's 15 images as your wallpaper, get more from T-Mobile's T-zones service, or have friends send you their favorites via MMS. You can also choose from eight color schemes.
Gamers can try their hands at the two games included with the 6610: Chess Puzzle, essentially a set of abbreviated chess scenarios for players with short attention spans, and Bounce, in which you guide a bouncing ball through a maze of power-ups and deadly obstacles. The phone also comes with a pair of applications: Portfolio II, for tracking investments, and Converter II, for those of us who have yet to learn the metric system. Again, you can download more games and applications via T-zones; the mobile comes with 625K of shared memory. We tested this triband (GSM 900/1800/1900; GPRS) world phone in the New York metro area. We had no trouble hearing our callers, who told us that they couldn't tell we were talking on a cell phone.
Nokia promises 5 hours of talk time and up to 12 days of standby time. We matched the promised talk time in our tests, and though we managed only 6 days of standby time, that's still a good rating.