Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Five steps to buying or upgrading your phone

Five steps to buying or upgrading your phone

· Find a phone you like. Keeping in mind the points in the previous section, find a handset that offers the best combination of style, features, and performance for you.

· Check with your carrier. Carrier stores and Web sites are the easiest place to buy a new phone as you can get the new handset activated, sign up for service, and make changes to your account all in one place. If you're a new customer, your contract agreement will entitle you to rebates and discounts for phones. Find out which ones they are, as they can offer significant savings. Additional rebates might also be available for online purchases.

If you're a current customer, ask your provider if any deals are available if you get a new model. This is essential as carriers will limit how often you can get rebates on a new phone. Remember that you don't have to buy a phone that comes with rebates (doing so will mean a new contract) but it can be more economical to do so.

· Check third-party retailers. You also can buy phones from general electronics stores such as RadioShack that are not affiliated with any carriers. Going this route can offer a couple of advantages. Not only may prices be different, but you might find alternative models not directly sold by a carrier. Just make sure your carrier will support the phone you want. For example, a GSM phone will not work with Sprint or Verizon. Also, while third-party retail stores aren't owned by a carrier, they can partner with providers to offer the activations services and rebates.

If you have a GSM carrier, you also might consider buying an unlocked phone, which are available only from third-party retailers. Unlocked phones differ from carrier-branded phones in that they have no settings that tie them to one operator. In contrast, a handset sold by T-Mobile can be used only with T-Mobile service. Unlocked phones are especially attractive to frequent international travelers because they can change providers simply by changing the phone's SIM card. Just keep in mind that if you buy an unlocked phone, you won't be eligible for any carrier-sponsored rebates.

· Do you need a smart phone? Smart phones combine cell phone and PDA functions in one unit. They're most appropriate if you require e-mail and access to your calendar when on the go. Also, some smart phones allow you to access and edit Word and Excel documents. Smart phones will also vary widely by design. While some models use a stylus and touch screen, others offer full QWERTY keyboards.

Though smart phones are considerably larger and much more expensive than standard handsets, often costing upward of $600, they eliminate the need for two separate devices. Smart phones are available in Palm, Symbian, and Windows Mobile operating systems, each of which has unique characteristics. Be aware that you'll need to purchase a separate data plan, which varies by carrier. For more on smart phones and handhelds see CNET's Quick guide to handheld operating systems or CNET's PDA buying guide.

· Read the fine print. Some things to keep in mind before you commit:

  • You can search auction sites such as eBay for good deals. Use caution when going this route, however. If there's an outstanding balance tied to the number, the carrier won't activate the phone to work on a new account. Also, if you receive a broken device, make sure you can return it.
  • Again, be aware that if you're a current customer and your contract has expired, you don't need to sign a new contract to get a new phone. But if you don't sign a contract, you'll pay full price for the new handset since you won't be eligible for rebates.
  • If you're prone to losing your phone, consider an extended warranty in case your handset is lost, stolen, or damaged. Some carriers also offer roadside assistance services in case you need help while driving.
  • During the grace period, you can return a phone for a full refund if you decide you don't like it. Check with your provider for exact details.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

How to pick a phone

How to pick a phone

Nokia 6230
The Nokia 6230 is a candy bar-style phone.
Picking the right cell phone has as much to do with personality as it does with needs. Handsets vary from the feature-rich and slickly styled to the strictly functional and unassuming. Ultimately, though, it's a personal choice, and you'll want to buy a handset that is right for you--one that you'll enjoy using and carrying around. And while there are many factors to consider, it all boils down to which handset will offer the best blend of design, features, and performance.


Motorola Razr V3
The Motorola Razr V3 is a flip phone.
Cell phones come in a variety of form factors. Flip phones and candy bar models are the most common, but slider phones have grown quite popular as well in the last couple years. Swivel phones are also available, but they are relatively few in number.

Each form factor has its unique characteristics, so you'll want to think carefully about which is best for you. For example, flip phones are useful if you frequently store your mobile in a pocket when on the go since the shape prevents accidental dialing. Also, since they cradle your head naturally, flip phones can be more comfortable for some users. On the other hand, candy bar-style phones can be sturdier and, for many users, easier to use. Lastly, slider models can provide the best of both worlds. And frankly, many people just find the sliding action appealing. When making your decision, be sure to hold the mobile in your hand and next to your ear to see how comfortable it is to hold in your hand.

Now it's time to think about more specific design concerns. When evaluating a new phone you should examine the size and placement of the buttons and controls, the size of the text on the display, and the color and size of the screen. Make sure that the controls are big enough and that you can understand how to use them. Though thin phones are very popular they usually have keypads that are flat with the surface of the phone. Such keypads can be hard to use. Also, look at the display and see if you can read the text without straining. If you have a flip phone, an external screen is advisable so you won't have to open the phone to see your caller's identity.

Finally, remember that you'll want to enjoy using your phone and carrying it around. So go for an interface that's attractive and easy to use, and pick a color and shape you won't mind holding in your hand. And since some handsets are more rugged than others, find something that fits your activity level.


Sony Ericsson W600i
The Sony Ericsson W600i has a swivel design.
If you thought picking a design was hard, choosing your features isn't any easier. The list of possible mobile features is extensive, so carefully consider each point. As a general rule, you shouldn't buy anything more than you need, so don't let a carrier salesperson pressure you into buying an expensive handset. If you want a handset just to make calls, stick with something simple that doesn't offer a lot of extra features. Though basic phones are often overshadowed by high-end handsets in carrier stores, a variety of such models exist. But you may have to ask for them.

If you're going to use your mobile for e-mail or organizational tasks, go with a higher-range model or even a smart phone. Alternatively, if you'd like entertainment options on your handset, consider a camera phone or a device with an MP3 player or streaming video.


Samsung SGH-D807
The Samsung SGH-D807 has a slider design.
Though design and features are very important when buying a cell phone, performance is the most critical point to consider. Remember, a cell phone is only as good as the calls it makes, so even the most feature-rich and design-centric handset is worthless if it can't offer decent call quality. And while the strength of a carrier's network is critical to making good calls, the strength of the phone's antenna and receiver play a big part in performance as well.

Determining call quality will take some work on your part. Editorial reviews are helpful, but call quality is ultimately subjective and will vary sharply--even for the same kind of phone--according to the user's geographic location, the numbers of callers using a carrier's network at a given time, and even atmospheric interference. You can start by asking your friends and see what they recommend. Also, ask to test their phone for yourself. When shopping in a carrier store, ask to make a test call with any handsets that perk your interest. If they don't have working display phones, ask a sales rep to use one. When evaluating call quality listen for the clarity of the voices and the volume level. Check to see if the phone picks up any static or interference and ask you callers how you sound to them. Remember, you can always test a phone during the grace period and exchange it if necessary.

If you're looking for a good camera phone or multimedia handset, you should also consider how those features will perform. Every camera phone will vary in photo quality and some music phone will be better than others. Performance also will fluctuate among 3G phones that play streaming video. If possible, evaluate these features before buying.

Finally, ask about the phone's battery life. At the very least, you'll want a handset with more than three hours of continuous talk time and more than five days of standby time. Though every phone will have a rated battery life as set by the manufacturer, your real-world experience will vary, so you should check editorial reviews as well. CNET lists the tested talk time in all cell phone reviews.

10 key features to consider

10 key features to consider

  1. Organizer applications: Even the most basic handsets offer organizer applications. Typically, you'll find a calendar, an alarm clock, a stopwatch, and a calculator. Higher-end handsets will have many more options, while other models will offer offbeat applications such as a compass or a thermometer.
  2. Phone book and voice dialing: Consider how many contacts you can store. Voice dialing lets you make calls without using the keypad, which is particularly handy when you're on a headset or if you're using the speakerphone.
  3. Web browser: This lets you surf the wireless Web and get information such as news and sports recaps, weather reports, and stock quotes. It also lets you download files including games and ring tones. WAP (Wireless Access Protocol) browsers are optimized to view sites configured to display on small, mobile devices but keep in mind that not all sites are made for WAP browsing. On the other hand, some newer, high-end phones are including full HTML browsers so find out which you'd prefer. You can use some Internet-ready phones as a modem for your PC, but you'll need to purchase the proper data cables to take advantage of this feature.
  4. Messaging and e-mail: Text messages send text only, and multimedia messages send pictures and videos as well as text. Some handsets support instant messaging from services such as AOL and Yahoo. If you'd like to receive personal or work e-mail on your handset, make sure it supports this feature. Messaging and e-mail does cost extra, however, so consider purchasing a data plan if you'll be using the features frequently. You might also consider a phone with an integrated keyboard for faster typing.
  5. Camera and video recorder: Use them for taking pictures and shooting brief video clips. Some have a low-grade VGA resolution, but many camera phones now have resolutions of a few megapixels or more, which offer much better photo quality. Similarly, while some camera phones offer just a few extra features, other models offer a flash and editing options that resemble those on a regular camera.
  6. Speakerphone/conference calling: A speakerphone is useful for hands-free calling when you're driving or multitasking. Consider getting a unit with a full-duplex speakerphone, which allows both parties to speak at the same time. Business travelers who need to set up impromptu meetings will want to look at a phone that supports conference calling.
  7. Push to talk: A walkie-talkie-like service that lets you immediately connect with individuals or call groups, which is especially useful for business users who need instant contact with their colleagues. Best of all, you don't need a cell signal to use them and you won't use standard calling minutes. Not all carriers offer this feature, however.
  8. Bluetooth: This feature lets you wirelessly connect via low-frequency radio waves with external devices, such as a headset for making calls. Many phones also allow you to use Bluetooth to exchange or sync data with other Bluetooth devices or to connect to stereo headphones to listen to music. Verizon, however, has limited Bluetooth on some of its phones. For more information see CNET's Quick guide to Bluetooth.
  9. Multimedia options and memory: Some features to look for include a digital music player, support for MP3 files, and an FM radio. Also, many phones now support streaming video and videoconferencing through 3G wireless broadband networks, and other handsets can download music over the air. Services will vary by carrier, but Sprint and Verizon both offer music stores. There will be an extra fee, of course, and you'll need 3G service in your area.
    For the best experience with a multimedia phone, make sure your phone has plenty of storage space (an external memory card slot is best), and consider whether you want dedicated music controls on the exterior of the phone
  10. Accessories, applications, and personalization options: Some phones come in multiple colors or allow for changeable faceplates. Accessories such as Bluetooth headsets, speakers, or SIM card readers also are available, but make sure it's specifically designed for your phone of choice. Most models offer a variety of customization options as well. These can include a choice of display wallpaper, screen savers, and ring tones. If personalizing your phone is important to you, make sure you have a lot of options before buying a particular model.
    Handsets will also differ on their support for extra applications. Though every cell phone supports games not every model comes with integrated titles. In that case, you'll have to buy them for a few dollars a pop, and your selection will change by carrier. Extra applications are available depending on your phone model and your carrier. For example, Sprint offers a wireless backup service to save your contacts, while Verizon Wireless has a GPS application called VZ Navigator.

Sony Ericsson W300i

Sony Ericsson W300i


As a Walkman phone, the new Sony Ericsson W300i from Cingular offers a viable alternative to a separate MP3 player. Praised for its design and functionality, Walkman phones such as the W600i and W810i have become best sellers, integrating features and functions without the limitations imposed on many other music phones.

As a mid-level clamshell, the W300i offers many of the features of high-end devices, in a reasonably-priced package. Closest to the previously launched Sony Ericsson Z525a, some may despair the lack of a Push-to-Talk option. Regardless, with speakerphone, conference calls, caller ID and voicemail also all available, the phone meets most call standards.

The W300i covers the basics in organizational applications, featuring a Calendar, Task list, Alarm Clock, and Notepad. Other handy tools include such old favorites as the Stopwatch, Timer, and Calculator. With a full entertainment package and standard organizational applications, this phone should keep users both on time and on track during hectic times, and blissfully occupied during downtime.


The design is perhaps somewhat controversial - some may find it cheap, while others will think it light and whimsical. On one level, it's a case of personal taste, but on another level, the phone has a pretty nice look for a mid-level device, incorporating a two-tone color scheme and an external screen.

When the eye first strikes the W300i, the first thing it will most likely pick up is the color orange. Where other phones might feature blue or green exterior LCD screens, the W300i goes for a vibrant orange to match the metallic orange highlights on the body of the phone (which of also happen to match Cingular's logo).

Contrasted against the black faceplate on a silver frame, the orange highlights grab the eye with a warmth that some may find lacking in blue or green. On the other hand, personal taste is personal taste, but while some might not find this color scheme to their liking, the design itself is at least, somewhat unique. (In addition to "Shadow Black," the phone is also available in "Shimmering White."

The overall look of the phone is further enhanced by a black faceplate, which could be classified as "dull" in the sense of "not shiny." This lackluster texture may satisfy those users who find glossy surfaces a bit too ostentatious (or just too reflective), as well as users who just don't care. The W300i also features a handle-like protrusion at its hinge, which creates an interesting, yet comfortingly symmetrical, shape.

The most striking aspect of the phone's design in general may be its weight: at 90 x 47 x 24 mm and 94 g, it's light enough to juggle (if one is so inclined as to juggle valuable electronic devices, which is not recommended). Some might call the overall design effect "cheap," while others might find that this design makes the phone conveniently light and somewhat unique.

The phone is a rounded-rectangular clamshell, with a 101 x 80 px external LCD screen placed slightly lower than center, a placement which allows for a comfortable distance between the screen and the VGA camera lens, positioned up towards the hinge. Those who are often frustrated by easily-accidentally-pushed side buttons will be relieved to find no real side buttons along the edges of the phone.

Tucked safely away near the hinge on the side of the phone dwell the infrared port on the right and the shiny orange Walkman controls on the left. The back of the phone features another black faceplate covering about two-thirds of the surface, and the speakerphone up towards the hinge. The power / USB / headphone port is found on the bottom of the phone in the usual place.

Opening the phone reveals not a standard number pad, but a series of three circular columns, not unlike spread-out piles of overlapping coins. The look makes for an interesting, futuristic alternative to the average keypad, and, despite all fears to the contrary, the arrangement makes for easy, mistake-free dialing. The standard five-way keypad for navigation sits above the number pad. This pad is relatively small, which sometimes causes problems with navigation.

Another concern is the power button, which is so tiny as to be mistaken for a groove near the bottom of the keypad. However, like the number pad, it proves to be surprisingly easy to push, despite all appearances. A similar button parallel to the power key summons the Walkman menu.

Users might at first be tripped up by the "clear" button, which, unlike on other phones, cannot be used to scroll back to the previous screen. A separate "back" button takes care of such matters. The adjustment may be awkward at first, but soon becomes second nature.

Situated above the keypad is the 128 x 160 px TFT internal screen. The only other noticeable interior design feature is the somewhat skinny "neck" where the hinge connects the upper and lower parts of the phone. Users may decide for themselves whether or not this look is to their liking, but it does give the phone another unique design feature along with the orange highlights, dull-textured faceplates, and nonstandard keypad.

Overall, the design of the W300i is a little boxy, but with enough unique features, like the rounded-out number pad and the non-glossy surface, to make the phone more interesting than bland. Some users may have trouble with some of the small buttons on the phone, especially the 5-way navigation keypad, but on the whole the W300i's unique look gives satisfactory charm to a mid-range handset.

Out of the box, the Sony Ericsson W300i comes with a Standard 900 mAh Li-Ion Battery, Charger, Headphones, Quick Start Guide, and User Manual. While the headphone cable adapts to fit most sets of headphones (in addition to the headphones provided in the box), users may have to buy a USB cable specifically designed for this phone.


The W300i does record video, a feature that so far has not become a necessity on mid-range phones. The video camera then, is a nice touch, and while the resulting video files may not be Hollywood quality, they do satisfy the demands of spur-of-the-moment video-recording fun.

Excepting the video camera, the phone's VGA camera leans towards the standard for a mid-range phone. The camera takes pictures in the standard sizes: Large (640 x 480 px), Medium (320 x 240 px), and Small (160 x 120 px), as well as an "Extended" size of 1280 x 1024 px. The camera offers neither flash nor the ability to take self-portrait photos via the external screen. Only two quality options are offered: Normal and Fine. As can be expected with a mid-range camera, images are hardly print quality.

The zoom lens offers 1x, 2x, and 4x magnification, whereas brightness can be adjusted along various intervals between +/- 2 points. Zoom is adjusted via the up / down keys on the 5-way pad; brightness by the left-side Walkman buttons. Color effects are rather limited but satisfactory: Regular, Black and White, and Sepia cover the bases, while Negative and Solarize add some different fun options. A self-timer is included.

One nice feature of the camera is the Shoot Mode, which allows the user to take Normal, Panorama, Frame, and Burst shots. Panorama Mode guides the user in taking three aligned photos, which it then blends together to create a connected, extra-long shot. Frame Mode caters to the user who enjoys putting pictures of a friend's head on the bodies of Elvis, the Mona Lisa, or a bearded hippie. Other frames work in the more traditional sense, decorating the edges of the shot with theater curtains, an abstract spiral, or a desk stacked with paperwork. There are nineteen frames in all. Burst Mode takes four rapid-fire shots, perfect for capturing madcap action or for the work of aspiring fashion photographers.

Unlike cameras on many other phones, the W300i's camera does not feature sidekey-activation. The shutter is triggered by either a softkey or the enter key on the 5-way keypad. The digits on the number pad also serve as shortcuts for various camera functions.

The aforementioned video recorder alternates with the still camera via the side buttons of the 5-way keypad. The video quality, like the picture quality, is as can be expected from a lower-end camera: perfectly fine for fun and spontaneity, but probably not a replacement for a separate digital video recorder. Users may choose between short, low-quality recording for purposes of video messaging, and longer, higher-quality recording for eventual transfer to a computer. Small (128 x 96 px) and Large (176 x 144 px) video sizes are available. Night Mode and special effects are available just as they are on the still camera.

Video or still images may be saved either to the phone or to a separate memory stick. Multimedia messaging is available for sending photos and video to friends and family.

As the VGA camera is on the lower-end of the technology scale, serious photographers will have to look to a separate camera for their needs. For those who do not rely on their phone as their primary imaging device, the W300i's camera satisfactory meets requirements for general fun, from snapping photos to send to family members to capturing the spontaneous antics of a couple of friends on video. Furthermore, the inclusion of a video recorder is a nice touch not often found on mid-range phones. In sum, the W300i's camera rates about average with bonus points for the video recording feature.

Motorola RAZR V3i

Motorola RAZR V3i


The original Motorola RAZR V3 was released for Cingular in late 2004. And while other carriers have gotten newer and more advanced versions of the iconic handheld, Cingular customers have patiently waited for a successor.

With the new RAZR V3i, Motorola undertook the challenge of improving upon the look, design, and features of the popular original. Replacing a legend is never easy, but the V3i presents a long overdue upgrade over the original while offering a design update that maintains its trademark ultra-slim profile.

The V3i was originally scheduled for release at the end of 2005, but mysteriously delayed until now. Consequently, some of the phone's features are dated and no longer cutting edge, but the addition of a memory card slot, 1.23-megapixel camera, and iTunes make the V3i a welcome improvement over the original RAZR.

Having addressed the shortcomings of the original RAZR, the V3i provides an attractive new design to once again stand out in an ultra-thin market.


Building on the V3's popular design, the V3i offers an updated and streamlined look while maintaining its ultra-slim profile. Dark gunmetal gray casing that features a brushed texture on the upper section gives the phone an interesting and stylish look. The solid feel and smooth lines of the V3 have only been enhanced by the V3i's updates.

The clear area that surrounds the 65K-color external LCD has grown and now encompasses the Motorola logo that glows blue whenever the external screen's backlight is activated. The small external screen offers at-a-glance access to the time, network status, and battery strength.

Located at the top of the phone is the 1.23-megapixel digital camera which allows the user to take photos up to 1280 x 960 px. For self-portraits or group shots the external LCD can be used as the viewfinder.

Along the sides of the phone are shortcut keys that allow for easy access when the clamshell is closed or while speaking on the phone. A dedicated Voice Key on the right activates the MotoSpeak advanced speech recognition feature. Along the left side, the Volume Keys can be used to adjust the volume of the ringer, earpiece, and external speaker. Below the volume buttons, a Smart Key has a variety of uses - including as a selection key or to take a picture with the clamshell closed. A multi-function port on the bottom left accommodates the charger, Motorola headset, or USB cable to connect to a PC.

The external speaker for use with the Speakerphone or MP3 player can be found on the bottom of the handset's back. The upper half of the back comes off to reveal the battery, memory, and SIM cards.

Minor improvements are offered on the stylized interior that features the nickel-plated copper alloy keypad and blue electro-luminescence panel. With the removal of some superfluous lines, the keypad offers a cleaner look and raised arrows on the 5-way navigational button make it easier to navigate. An iTunes button has also been added to the keypad - replacing the messaging key - to make it easier to access the music player.

A new 262K-color LCD offers bright and vivid images at 176 x 220 px in resolution. At the top of the keypad, the Menu and Left and Right softkeys offer intuitive control while MEdiaNet and iTunes buttons offer convenient shortcuts. Send and End Keys fill out the rest of the top section which features the 5-Way Navigation Button in the middle. The V3i's unique and ultra-thin keypad features a cool blue glow, and is easy to use but does have a different feel that may require some adjustment for heavy text messagers.

Inside and out, the RAZR V3i combines style with cutting edge details that make it unique from other phones on the market and even manage to set it apart from the original V3.

Out of the box, the Motorola RAZR V3i comes with a Standard 750 mAh Li-Ion Battery, Charger, 512 MB Memory Card, Headphones with Hands-Free Speaker, USB Cable, iTunes CD, Quick Reference Guide, and User Manual.


Built in to the V3i's slim case is a 1.23-megapixel digital camera that can be operated by the Smart Key. Using the internal LCD as a viewfinder, the user is able to take pictures up to 1280 x 960 px; a significant step up from the V3's VGA camera.

In addition to high resolution (1280 x 960 px) photos, the V3i can also take pictures at 640 x 480 px, 320 x 240 px, and 160 x 120 px. The navigation pad adjusts the lighting conditions (Automatic, Sunny, Cloudy, Indoor Home, Indoor Office, Night) and the 8x Digital Zoom. Available at all resolutions, the digital zoom does not allow for finer detail as it merely crops the image further with each level of zoom. A Self-Timer (Off, 5 sec, and 10 sec) is also offered on the V3i.

Self portraits are easy to take with the V3i through the use of the external LCD. Using the Smart key on the side of the phone, the user can take photos without opening the clamshell.

Lacking flash, low light conditions can present a problem for the V3i's camera. The Indoor and Night lighting modes can improve the camera's performance but its effectiveness is limited when the lights go down.

Video clips can be taken with the V3i and stored or sent through the Multimedia Messaging Service (MMS). Zoom is available for video clips but the zoom level can not be adjusted once recording has begun. Video length is limited only by the amount of space on the memory card but for sending through MMS they are restricted to around 30 seconds.

At 1.23-megapixels, the V3i's camera is a mid-level offering that can serve as an adequate replacement for a full time digital camera under regular lighting conditions. While it doesn't boast the resolution of the 2 or 3-megapixels cameras that are available on the newest phones, it is far superior to the VGA cameras on entry level phones. While the camera is able to take print quality photos, its video capabilities are limited, making it a fun, novelty feature but little else.

Nokia 6133

Nokia 6133


As the widely and eagerly anticipated successor to the Nokia 6102i, the Nokia 6133 was slated to be a sophisticated update to Nokia's line of flip phones, and chosen by T-Mobile over the internationally released Nokia 6126.

With an eye catching clamshell design, the Nokia 6133 offers a sleek push-button flip release unleashing multimedia features such as an FM radio, 1.3-megapixel camera, dual vibrant color LCDs, and video options such as video ring displays. However, the pros lead to cons that have some consumers upset.

The classic Nokia reputation of simplicity is inherent in the Nokia 6133, however the quality is somewhat lacking with a flimsy flip frame, lower than documented battery life, odd numeric design and


At first glance, the most striking feature of the Nokia 6133 is its solid black front and large display. Measuring in at 92 x 48 x 20 mm and weighing 112 g, the 6133, while not as slim as the Motorola RAZR series, has a nice round compact design that makes it easy to slip into one's pocket.

The clamshell layout ideally protects the keys and internal screen; however the style of the black soft rubber exterior is debatable. Not quite the phone for the fashionista, the muted black silhouette against the shiny silver makes the 6133 look rather sporty.

At the top of the frontplate sits the 1.3-megapixel camera. While it does not have a mirror for vanity shots, the 120 x 160 px exterior display works as a mirror in Camera Mode.

The backplate is constructed with the same rubbery texture as the front, protecting the battery, SIM card, and oddly placed microSD slot. Able to be removed while the phone is in use, the microSD card is inconveniently located under the backplate. The battery charger and USB port plug into the top of the phone making it extremely difficult to talk on the phone while charging it. The power button lies below the camera button on the left side of the phone, making it difficult for left-handed consumers to take vanity shots, and making it easy for the camera button to be accidentally pressed.

The highlight of the Nokia 6133 that sets it apart from many clamshell phones is the inclusion of a flip button that when pressed, opens the phone.

This brilliant addition seems obvious so consumers can open the phone with just one hand. While a savvy addition, the placement is a bit awkward on the top plate of the phone, and the spring is rather strong. The flip design also seems somewhat flimsy, appearing as though the top plate of the phone could easily become removed.

Once opened, the strengths of the Nokia 6133 become apparent. At 2.2-inches (240 x 320 px resolution), the 16.7 million-color screen is a true highlight. Users can choose from an array of stored themes for the interior and exterior displays. Animation, photos, graphics and text are vivid; however navigating the menu is somewhat difficult. The text is not well distinguished and as users scroll through the menu, a faded, almost non-existent marker guides them. The layout of the keypad is a bit boxy but a nice texture gives text messaging a tactile feel.

Out of the box, the Nokia 6133 comes with an 820 mAh Li-Ion Battery, Power Cable, Headphones, Quick Start Guide, and User Manual. Some users may despair the lack of a USB cable.


Seeing as how the Nokia 6133's strengths lie in its vivid screens, the camera should be as outstanding to make use of this feature, but instead, it is a pretty standard feature. With video capabilities and fun photo options, the camera is not deficient, but at 1.3-megapixels, it is rather mediocre.

Users will be pleased to find all the standard bells and whistles: a self-timer, zoom, white balance, color effects. However, serious digital photographers will have to look to a separate device for their photo-capturing needs.

The camera features a number of controls. Users can adjust camera filters, from Grayscale to False Colors, Sepia, Negative or Solarize. They also have their choice of Image Quality (Basic, Normal, and High) and Image Settings ranging from 1024 x 1280 px to 120 x 160px. Images can be previewed for 0, 3, 5, or 10 seconds, and stored in the phone or on a memory card. There is no flash on the camera, but there is a night setting for low light, a rather poor substitute.

The video camera also has a variety of choices. The consumer can choose Quality (Basic, Normal, High), Resolution (176 x 144 px and 128 x 96 px) and Length. The video can be as large as your internal memory or additional microSD can support.

The Nokia 6133 rises just above average with its 1.3-megapixel lens, no flash, and video capabilities. Though it is not meant for serious photographers, the phone offers the basic tools for a fun video and camera phone experience.

Basic Features

The Nokia 6133 is certainly most functional as a phone. It has standard call features and contacts storage that should meet all calling needs. Released for T-Mobile, the it features GSM quad-band (850 / 900/ 1800 / 1900 Mhz) technology, permitting the use of the handset on compatible GSM networks in North America, Europe and Asia, provided it has been unlocked.

Nokia offers its usual straightforward menu options and calling choices that make the 6133 simple to navigate without ever having to read the manual. The time and date can be set for both the internal and external displays, and the consumer has a choice to customize the wallpaper and screensaver for both screens as well.

The basic phone features are clear, and the easy-to-use speakerphone is prompted on any given call by pressing the top right key. The sound on most calls is clear, though somewhat distant. The 6133 can perform most calling basics such as call waiting, forwarding, and voice command.

The 6133 allows for access to T-Zones and the use of T-Mobile's new myFaves service, which offers unlimited nationwide calling to five U.S. phone numbers.

LG enV (VX9900)

LG enV


With the rise in importance of text messaging and mobile email access, the integration of a full, QWERTY keyboard into cell phones has become an valued feature in phone technology. Until recently, mobile phone users desiring such a keyboard have relied on T-Mobile Sidekick / Hiptop for their on-the-go typing needs. The LG enV brings Verizon into this market and offers new competition for the old standard. In addition to its keyboard and accompanying large internal screen, the enV also offers a 2.0-megapixel digital camera, as well as standard phone service.

As a physically advanced phone, the enV combines three devices—a phone, camera, and internal "laptop-esque" setup, featuring keyboard and screen. Important to note is that the enV is not a smartphone, like a Blackberry, but the internal setup makes for easy typing, internet navigation, and media viewing. The phone's camera, operating horizontally on the "back" of the phone, also gives the feel of a standalone device. The "front" of the enV features a trim, block-style phone, including a full-color front screen. Despite this complexity of hardware, the phone remains remarkable light, small, and streamlined.

In addition to its physical infrastructure, the enV offers the standard high-end software capabilities, including MP3 and video download and playback, enhanced by the large internal screen and speakers. Users may choose to send video and picture messages in addition to simple text. Various other application downloads, including BREW games and IM clients, are available to expand the phone's organizational and entertainment options. Verizon's Mobile Web 2.0 browser lets users surf the internet while out and about. Verizon's Navigator feature offers detailed driving directions on demand. The phone supports a conveniently larger-than-average number of Bluetooth profiles, allowing the phone to connect to several peripheral devices, including a printer or speakers in addition to standards like headsets and handsfree car kits.

The enV's revolutionary new design, featuring several electronic devices in one small package, is backed up by high-end features, such as MP3 / video playback and support of a variety of Bluetooth profiles. The only downside - most of the high end features (including games, videos, and internet) require extra fees.


The design of the enV reflects its multiple-technology package. Closed, the unit looks like a compact block phone, complete with full-color screen and standard dialing / navigation keys. Turned around, the closed phone becomes a stand-alone horizontal digital camera, with the phone screen doubling as camera screen. The phone opens up along the long edge in a sideways-clamshell fashion to reveal a full keyboard and a large screen in a format resembling a tiny laptop computer.

With the enclosed keyboard, the phone cannot and does not attempt to compete with the latest ultra-slim devices floating around on the market. Nevertheless, at 118 x 53 x 20 mm and 130 grams, the phone is far from bulky. Its dimensions and weight fit nicely into the hand, whether the unit is being held vertically (phone) or horizontally (camera, keyboard).

The front of the closed device contains all the features of a standard block-type cell phone. With a two-tone black and silver front plate, the phone looks both interesting and professional. The small external screen is located close to the top, and is large enough to handle the usual call-related display necessities. Beneath the screen, the power and navigation keys arrange themselves in the usual fashion. The number keys fit neatly into the bottom third of the phone in the form of slender rectangles, an arrangement that makes for easy dialing. The bottom edge contains the power port, while the microSD slot and headphone jack dwell along the right edge. With its relatively small size and compact, two-tone design, the "phone" makes for a nice device by itself, regardless of the other technologies rolled into the enV.

The "back" of the phone is really the digital camera. Turned sideways, the phone becomes the "back" of the digital camera, so that the phone screen becomes the camera viewing window. The camera face itself is mostly silver, with a large circular black-colored lens area. The battery slides in to the right of the camera lens, taking up about two-thirds of the camera's "face." Still, the battery is not so intrusive that it detracts from the look of the camera. All in all, the "camera" side of the phone looks much more like an actual digital camera than that of the average cameraphone, which is usually no more than a circular afterthought on the frontplate.

Of course, the most exciting feature of the enV is its full-keyboard input option. The phone opens along the long right-edge in a sideways clamshell design that both looks cool and allows for the keyboard to be included in a compact design. The keyboard for the most part resembles the standard QWERTY layout with a few exceptions. Instead of a single space bar, the phone features two "Space" keys on either side of the bottom row, which allow for easier thumb-typing. The left-handed space bar is at the bottom of a column along the left edge of the keyboard, along with a "Symbol" key for accessing common punctuation, a "Shift" key for capitalization, and an "email" key, which brings up email for registered clients. This keyboard format helps facilitate the transition from two-handed touch-typing to two-thumbed typing. Although typists can not attain as high WPM counts as with a full-sized keyboard, they should be able to type more naturally and much more quickly than with traditional alphanumeric phone pads. Could this phone spell a return to proper capitalization and punctuation in the world of electronic messaging? Only time will tell.

The keyboard takes up most of the bottom half of the open clamshell, with the remaining space dedicated to a five-way navigation key, Send and Power keys, a Speakerphone key, and the Clear key, conveniently placed beside the right-hand space bar. Near the phone's hinge, two soft keys allow users to choose navigation options on the screen. These features allow for users easily navigate the internal screen as they would on any other phone. The upper half of the open clamshell features the large internal screen between two speakers. The large screen should facilitate typing emails and long text messages, as well as viewing pictures and video.

With a cell phone on the front plate, a camera on the backplate, and a keyboard / screen combo on the inside, the enV packs a different technology on every page. In addition, the phone manages to fit all of these features into a small, hand-held package. All in all, the enV manages to combine multiple electronic devices into one compact, professional-looking package.