With today's cell phones being used as much for messaging as for calling, Nokia breaks with tradition, concealing a keyboard inside its 6800 model. Dripping with innovation, the foldout keyboard works well and makes frustrating predictive-text keying a thing of the past. The 6800 lets your fingers do the walking with Web access and e-mail, as well as text and multimedia messaging. While it does the big things well, a few design glitches unfortunately trip up this model. At heart, the dark-blue-and-silver 6800 is a phone first. Its flip cover has the traditional phone-oriented numeric keypad with a four-way navigation rocker key on the front, an up-down volume control on one side, and an infrared window for data transfers on the other. Text is easily readable on the phone's 1.7-inch, 4,096-color screen (on a par with the 7210's), although you may notice some annoying lighting ripples on the right side. It can show eight lines of text at a time, although it sometimes displays partial lines at the top and bottom. At 4.7 by 2.2 by 0.9 inches and weighing 4.4 ounces, the phone may be too much for many consumers. While it's tiny compared to the Handspring Treo 300 and the T-Mobile Sidekick, the 6800 is bigger than Nokia's 6310i.
Flippin' fabulous: Behind the 6800's numeric keypad is a full keyboard that's ideal for text typing.
But pop open the 6800's flip-cover keypad, and you'll see the phone's hidden talent: a full keyboard ready for two-finger typing. In terms of convenience and accuracy, it puts multitap predictive-text keying to shame in regard. Once you flip up the keypad, the screen automatically rotates from vertical to horizontal viewing. However, you'll need to be sure you've extended the keyboard fully; otherwise, the left half won't work. Additionally, the hinge can be stiff, and it requires two hands to maneuver.
Full-size form factor: This candy bar-style phone is larger than most in this category.
With 52 keys, the keyboard has room for only the basics. Despite the use of a split spacebar, the keyboard has generous 5.4mm backlit keys that are spaced 2.8mm apart. Although it takes a little patience and practice to master the Chiclet-like keys, it's worth the effort, though even the best typists will find it hard to tap out more than 10 words a minute. We found the keyboard is best for sending quick e-mail, text messaging, and jotting down notes or lists.
The joysticklike navigation button makes it easy to use to wade through the phone's many menus.
In addition to e-mail-, text-, multimedia-, and instant-messaging options, the Nokia 6800 has a call log for missed, received, and dialed numbers; a 500-name phone book; and several ringer profiles (Normal, Silent, Meeting, Outdoor, and Pager). The phone bundles applications for tracking investments as well as currency and unit conversions, and its organizer synchronizes with Outlook or Notes. There's a calendar, an alarm clock, a to-do list, a stopwatch, and a calculator; you can also type a note, memos, or a reminder into the phone. You can record up to three minutes of background sound, a call, or a voice memo, but they fill the phone's memory quickly, and there's no flash-memory card slot to add capacity.
To link up with a PC (sorry, there's no Mac support), you'll need to download and install Nokia's free 25MB PC Suite. With built-in software for SyncML, the 6800 can wirelessly exchange data over the air. Later this year, look for a software upgrade that will allow the phone to act as a RIM BlackBerry-like device. Unfortunately, because there are so many choices, the menu is awkward and time-consuming to use, making the more than 100 shortcuts important to learn.
All work and no play--no way! The 6800 has two games and an FM radio, which uses the company's proprietary connector and requires Nokia's $35 headset. Any of the settings can be quickly changed, including backgrounds and ringers; the phone comes with 12 graphics and 50 ringers, and it can use downloadable polyphonic tones. In addition to acting as a competent speakerphone, the Nokia 6800 can initiate a six-way conference call and even let you have a private conversation with one of the participants.
After sending a few dozen e-mail messages and text notes, we were convinced that this is the way to go for typing text over the air. Accessing WAP sites, text messages, or e-mail was so much easier with the Nokia that it leaves older (nonkeyboard) phones in the dust. Like other data phones, the 6800 couldn't hold a conversation and go to a wireless Web site or send an e-mail at the same time.
Like many of Nokia's models, the 6800 really holds its charge.
Available through Cingular, the Nokia 6800 is a dual-mode (GSM 850/1900) phone that won't work in Europe. Using T-Mobile's high-speed GPRS network for our evaluation, we found that calls came through loud and clear in the suburban New York area, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. With barely a hint of static, conversations were easy to understand, although the audio was sometimes a little clipped.
While SMS messages flew from phone to phone in a matter of seconds, e-mail delivery was unreliable at best, with some missives arriving in a flash and others taking hours; those exceeding 45K are rejected. During our week of on-and-off use, T-Mobile's network failed four times but generally carried out our wishes on the second or third tries.
With a 1,000mAh lithium-ion battery pack, the Nokia 6800 yields 4 hours, 45 minutes of talk time per charge or a little less than 9 days of waiting for a call. That's a little more chat and a bit less standby time than Nokia claims (4.5 hours and 10 days, respectively), but nonetheless, they're impressive numbers for such a high-powered device.