Monday, December 08, 2008

Nokia 6650 (AT&T) Review: The latest stylish metallic S60 flip

Nokia has been trying to break into the North American market for the past few years and now Nokia has unveiled one of the phones that was designed with North America in mind by adopting the popular flip format. Partnering with a US carrier helps as well with AT&T releasing the 6650 a few weeks ago. After a few visits to a local AT&T store, there isn't a lot of focus on the 6650 and the sales staff rarely recommend it so it's going to be a silent seller only to those in the know of its powerful S60 operating system. The firmware on my 6650 is V 03.25.01 10-02-08 (the initial production firmware). The box contains the phone, AC-4U charger, and manuals.

Thanks to WOM World for supplying me this 6650 for their Nokia Chronicles.



The last AT&T S60 device, the N75, was buggy and bloated with AT&T software. Does the AT&T 6650 suffer the same fate?
Quick facts:
Name: 6650d-1bH (RM-324)
Network: GSM 850/900/1800/1900 WCDMA 850/1900
Weight: 112 g
Dimensions: 47.3 x 99.7 x 16.2 mm
Battery life (stand by): 350 hours (WCDMA/GSM)
Battery life (talk): 360 minutes (GSM), 240 minutes (WCDMA)
CPU: 32bit Freescale MXC300, 369 MHz ARM1136JF-S
RAM: 128 MB (accessible: 20 MB)

My phone was manufactured in: (your phone's country of manufacture could vary) Mexico.

Closed:


Opened:


Aesthetics
Although it's only 16.2mm thick when closed, the 6650 looks big compared to current phones in the market. Its boxy appearance makes this phone much more suited for men. The brushed stainless steel battery cover and front give the 6650 an classy expensive appearance. The 6650 exhibited no creaking.

Stainless steel adorns the front of the phone:


The phone interior is glossy black that smudges very easily:


Nokia E71, Nokia 6650, Nokia N82:

The 6650 looks right at home with its S60 brothers.

Thickness of the 6650 compared to the E71:

The side of the 6650 is fairly flat so nudging your finger between the top and bottom halves to flip open the phone with one hand is tricky. I kept getting one of my fingers caught between the two metal parts when the phone flipped open. Ouch

Similar to other Nokia phones, no status LED is present.

The keypad light is relatively weak but does not bleed. Like most flips, lighting is not controlled by a light sensor but turns on when you open the phone.


The SIM mechanism is similar looking to the ones found on the N82 and 6680 but doesn't hold the SIM itself but just keeps the SIM pushed against the connectors.


Display
The 6650 uses a small 240 x 320 pixel 2.2 inch screen as its main display. For some reason I didn't feel it was small and suits the phone's size well. But putting it up against any other S60 you'll notice the difference.

The 6650 display is brighter but smaller than the N82

I had no difficulties viewing the screen under direct sunlight.

External Display
The 6650 uses a 128 x 160 pixel screen. The secondary screen is usually the one that gets all the left over technologies like CTN with lots of problems like ghosting or lack of colors. But the 6650 surprises me with a screen that's adequate for photo taking without the ghosting typically found on external displays.

Image Quality

The brightness and contrast are not as good as the main display but the ghosting isn't too bad

A major bright spot to the external display is that it's not limited to telling time and giving status icons. You actually have a separate menu for the external display. Available applications are: Music Player, Camera (photo only), Profiles, Stopwatch, Timer, Calendar.

Calendar gives you a quick way to see what you have scheduled for the day.

Music Controls:


You can actually read incoming messages from the external screen but you can't access the messaging application from the external display's menu.

Unlike most screens, the standby clock never dims:

I was wondering in my preview if this was an OLED but turns out it's a TFT.

Keypad
The keypad is large but flat. The tactile feedback is similar to the RAZR. There are no easily feelable bumps to sense the difference between each row or column of keys. Each number is coated with plastic so perhaps you could use that to feel your way around the keys but I had a hard time doing that. I just ended up looking at the keypad more than any other phone I've used in the past:


There are some differences in the AT&T model compared to the non-branded 6650:

You can use MagicKey to remap the AT&T keys to something else. I found myself accidently hitting the GPS button pretty frequently when I was trying to find "2"

The D-pad is also completely flat with the D-pad ring being fairly wide and has the same glossy texture as the 1,4,7 column and 3,6,9 column but different than the center key and 2,5,8,0 column. The two tone black glossy and smooth grey columns help you to visually find the keys easier.

I tried playing Tetris on the 6650 but the clicky feedback and flat D-pad was really bad for gaming as you can easily switch directions as you do by rocking a real d-pad ring.

I'm not a fan of the keypad in terms of use but it is nice looking. Fans of the RAZR keypad will feel right at home with this one.


Software
The 6650 runs S60 3rd edition with feature pack (FP) 2. With FP2, the 6650 is slightly sluggish when navigating in and out of folders and opening applications.

Since my review unit is an AT&T branded 6650, it includes some software unique to AT&T:


Software additions include:
  • Cellular Video
  • Yellowpages
  • AT&T Mall
  • AT&T Music
  • AT&T GPS
  • Shop Apps
  • Shop Games
  • MobiTV
  • Mobile Bank
  • PTT

None of the AT&T applications can be uninstalled from the App. Manager. Most of the AT&T applications can't be moved either.

Some of the re-labelled functions are:
  • Gallery -> My Stuff
  • Web -> MEdia Net
  • Installation -> Games&Apps
  • Contacts -> Addr. Book

And some custom icons were applied that don't change with a different theme:
  • Messaging
  • Calendar
  • Gallery
  • Installation
  • Contacts
  • Web

Missing typical Nokia S60 applications:
  • GPS
  • Download!
  • QuickOffice (read only)
  • Zip
  • IM
  • Music Store
  • Podcasting
  • Switch
  • Setting Wizard
  • Nokia Maps


Stability
During my time with the 6650, it never rebooted or hung on me.

Multimedia
Those who say S60 is designed mainly for creating and not geared as much to consume multimedia must not fully use their phone. Out of the box the 6555 supports H.264 video, the same video format used by the iPhone. With some added third party software like Coreplayer and MobiTubia, the E71 can open DiVX movies and stream YouTube videos. With the included 2.5mm stereo headsets (or get yourself a pair of AD2P stereo Bluetooth headsets) and music player supporting album art, you can easily have your favorite MP3s blasting in your ears. If you're an audiophile then you can install OggPlayer. S60 gives you more flexibility than both the locked down iPhone and the "lacking in software" Blackberry.

Camera
The E71 includes a 2 MP camera with no autofocus and no macro mode. Keeping it real basic this time.


Nokia kept it classy and didn't label it with flashy words like "2 Megapixel"


The external display helps for self portraits

These are the available quality settings:
Image Quality: Basic, Normal, High
Image Resolution: 480x640, 864x1152, 1200x1600

Additional settings:
Flash: On, Off, Auto
Night Mode: On, Off
Self-timer: 10, 20, 30 seconds
Sequence Mode: On, Off
White balance: Auto, Sunny, Incandescent, Fluorescent
Color tone: Normal, Sepia, Black & White, Negative


The 6650 doesn't use the N-series photo software but a much more basic one:


Camera uses the center key for taking photos so the menu is hidden by default unlike other s60 devices with a dedicate shutter button. Since the center key takes photos and makes menu selections, you can't take a photo with the menu displayed. press the left soft key or right on the dpad to show menu and hit left on the dpad to hide the menu.

You can't silence the camera on the AT&T firmware.

Outdoor photos:


Night photo:

Without night mode it's noisy. With night mode you have to be very still which I wasn't able to do

Close up photo:

Without macro mode and autofocus, the 6650 doesn't fare well in close up photos.

The images turned out grainy in almost all situation. After hitting the shutter key, a still picture is shown on the screen of when you clicked the shutter key but that isn't the photo you've taken since the camera is slow. After a few seconds, the still picture is replaced with the actually photo. I'm not sure how much lag there is but it feels like it's half way between the shutter key is pressed and the actual photo shows up. This makes it very annoying to take photos of fast things. You need to stay very still for taking photos.

Video
The maximum video recording resolution supported by the E71 is 320 x 240 pixels which is perfect for uploading to YouTube.

These are the available quality settings:
Maximum Length: MP4, mp4v-es, 320x240, 377 kbit/s
Short Length: 3GPP, h232-2000, 176x144, 81 kbit/s

Sample video:


Reception
The 6650 had similar reception to the E71 which is a little weaker than the N82. I had a number of times the 6650 switch to EDGE instead of using the faster 3G HSDPA network. Voice came out loud and clear through the speaker.

Speakerphone
The audio is loud but there is a lot of distortion at the higher volume levels.

Headset
I didn't have a chance to test this.

Connectivity
Unlike the Blackberry and iPhone, the 6650 offers a wealth of Bluetooth profiles that allows you to share files with other devices, listen to music over a wireless stereo bluetooth headset, or sync data to your home computer.
As with all E-series devices, infrared is included to share data with older devices or laptops without Bluetooth.
connecting the 6650 to a computer using a USB cable will automatically keypad unlock the phone allowing you to select the connection type (mass storage, nokia suite, etc.) This even works with the phone closed.

WiFi
None.

Global Positioning (GPS)
The 6650 has an integrated GPS chip to get an accurate position of the phone.


However the internal GPS is hidden behind AT&T's Nav solution since no Nokia built-in GPS applications are included with the 6650. Thankfully AT&T hasn't locked the GPS as Verizon typically does so you can get it working with 3rd party applications.

Here's a photo of it working with Nokia Maps 1.2:


The 6650 was consistently faster at locking a position and much more sensitive than my N82 and leap years ahead of the E71.

Time to lock is dependent on your location and weather conditions. Turning on assisted GPS in Tools > Settings > General > Positioning > Positioning Methods will reduce lock time but requires a data connection.


External Memory
Unlike most other S60 Nokia handsets, the 6650 does not include a memory card with the retail package. However it easily supported the 2GB microSD and 8GB microSDHC cards I had on hand. The small slot and rubber cover make inserting the memory card very tricky. Make sure you don't insert the card upside down because it's really hard to take out. The memory card goes gold connector side facing up when you're looking at the keypad.


Battery
The 6650 uses the same long lasting battery as the E71: the BL5L, with 1500mAH. The 6650 consistently lasted at least 4 days of usage before needing a charge. I spent a whole weekend without a charge and this included having the phone on dual mode (3G and GSM), e-mail synching throughout the business day, send about 8 MMS per day, and occasional phone calls for about 30 minutes total. A great battery where i didn't need to think about charging as i do on my N82.



Conclusion
After 2 weeks of testing the 6650, I found the 6650 to be an enjoyable phone that provides a little more flexibility than the typical dumb phone. It's stylish and fits well in a pocket. I really enjoyed the functionality Nokia added to the external display. I can read incoming messages on the external display without opening the phone. It's too bad Nokia doesn't push the multimedia capabilities and strength of the S60 platform in the 6650 but users benefit by not requiring an expensive smartphone data plan from AT&T. The 6650 looks very business-like so it's a good fit for Nokia's Mail for Exchange. I'm testing RoadSync on mine and haven't experienced any hiccups yet.

Ratings:
Performance...........7
Build quality...........9
Keypad...................4
Connectivity...............6
Features for $.........8 ($69 on AT&T with 2 year contract without data plan needed)
Software................8
Camera..................6
Battery life.............10

Overall.....................7.5


PROS:
*amazingly fast locking GPS
*stylish design with stainless steel
*Great build quality
*lots of existing S60 games/apps
*long lasting battery
*AT&T didn't screw up the phone that much

CONS:
*no wifi
*flat keypad with Razr-like feedback
*can't uninstall AT&T applications
*grainy camera
*small screen
*minimal sales package (no memory card, no headset)
*2.5mm headset jack
*sluggish UI with FP2

3 comments:

nokia 6650 review said...

Not a bad phone but ive seen alot better from nokia. I use it for a few weeks and the phone kept unlocking itsself in my pocket due to the touchscreen button. Another 6650 review is worth a read.

Anonymous said...

Good review. I got the 6650 recently and like it a lot. I was looking for ways to customize my phone and ran across your review.

One thing you overlooked in your review is that the phone can sync to MS Outlook (calendar, contacts, notes, etc). If your notebook or PC has Bluetooth, you can use that to sync. The calendar part works really well.

acekard said...

Very huge feature and I most like its is controlled by touch sensitive controls directly.there is button for GPS services like AT&T Navigator,inclusion of A-GPS support,quadband GSM/EDGE, dualband W-CDMA access, the addition of Bluetooth with stereo audio support, 2.0 megapixel camera with flash and video recorder, microUSB port, microSDHC expansion slot,so so so.....many features!I love this mobile.