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You can even make calls

Josey Puliyenthuruthel | September 23, 2004

Nokia Oy, Finland's most popular export -- perhaps second only to a fine brew borrowing the country's name -- has come a long way from its days of making, among other things, toilet paper.

Till about a year and some months ago (when it began to fall back in cellular hustings as the popularity of "clam-shell" phones suddenly zoomed up), the phone company could easily claim the top spot in its industry.

Since then, several competitors -- quite of a few of them shameless copycats -- have had a go at Nokia and have dented its dominance. Prime among these are cellphone makers from Korea, China and Taiwan.

Nokia must be having mixed feelings about their rivals' success: pride at seeing their user interfaces being copied to the tee and dismay at losing potential sales.

Today we examine two of Nokia's recent releases, both path-breaking in their own ways. The first is the Nokia 7610, a top-end phone with a 1-megapixel camera that produces quite awesome results. And two, the Nokia N-Gage QD model, aimed at mobile gamers rather than regular phone users.

The Nokia 7610 is slightly smaller and lighter than the Nokia 6600, which was "fully loaded" in terms of features and functionality. The 7610 uses an interesting design to accommodate two extra buttons on the keypad. This, at first, is a little cumbersome but is not a bother once you get used to it unlike the Nokia 3650's painful circular keypad.

The phone has a brilliant 65k colour TFT unit with a resolution of 176x208. The display is bright, with an adjustable brightness feature, and its reflective nature allows it to work equally well in direct sunlight or total darkness.

This coupled with its 1-megapixel camera is quite a treat to the eye even when you shoot pictures in the dark. The camera creates images of 1152 x 864 pixels in size that are pretty good. Image sharpness, colour saturation and accuracy are also good, but occasionally colour noise" (random colours appearing out of nowhere) can kill an otherwise nice picture. The camera carries a digital zoom function that could be better.

The camera can also record video clips with surprising quality. For those who like such a feature on a phone, there is more good news: you can shoot for 10 minutes! Video clips -- and, of course, photos -- can be sent using MMS, the Bluetooth functionality or email.

Further, the phone comes with a mobile version of the Muvee automatic movie editing software, which can piece together video clips into themed movies. So, for instance, you can add a "paparazzi", "salsa", "speedy", "rendezvous" or even "seduce" theme to the video clips shot. Nice time-pass, as they'd say in Mumbai.

The phone's Symbian 60 platform allows users to run third-party software and games. You can synchronise from and to the phone contacts, calendar data and email over a USB or Bluetooth connection. Also, to store all your information, photos and video clips, the phone accepts a flash memory card; one such card comes bundled with the phone.

Irritants? The Nokia 7610 does not have an auto keypad lock feature that can result in the odd unintended call going out. It's a tad more bulky than I'd like the phone to be and comes with plastic keys, which can result in sore thumbs if you use the text messaging feature a lot. Then, at Rs 28,599, it's certainly not cheap. Otherwise, a very nice camera. Er, phone.

The Nokia N-Gage QD phone is a second-generation phone and the new design addresses the biggest complaints of the original -- having to open up the device and remove the battery to change games burnt on multimedia cards. Users can now hot-swap the card into an accessible external bay at the bottom of the unit and the game will auto-execute.

It is compact for a gaming device, but a tad big for a phone and not too user friendly when it comes to making and receiving calls. But then the model is clearly aimed at the gamer (13- to 17-year olds?) and is priced at a not-too expensive Rs 11,599. The N-Gage QD might mark a turning point in its efforts (not too successful so far) to make its game console-phone combination a popular product.

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