Tools Of The Trade: The Nokia 7710 multimedia smartphone

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The Independent Online

A widescreen display is generally considered a useful attribute for a TV set, but now the idea of panoramic mobiles is taking off. Samsung has developed a phone with a display that swivels into landscape mode for viewing video clips, while Nokia describes its own 7710 as a "widescreen experience" for mobiles.

A widescreen display is generally considered a useful attribute for a TV set, but now the idea of panoramic mobiles is taking off. Samsung has developed a phone with a display that swivels into landscape mode for viewing video clips, while Nokia describes its own 7710 as a "widescreen experience" for mobiles.

Stylistically, the 7710 is not unlike Nokia's N-Gage gaming handset, although with a less garish casing and a much larger display. Like the N-Gage, it is really designed to be held in landscape mode rather than upright; most of the phone's functions are operated with keys ranged either side of the screen.

What the 7710 does not have is a conventional keypad. Instead, the way to dial is to use an on-screen virtual keypad. This does take some getting used to but it works well enough, especially with the handset in speaker-phone mode. The size and shape of the 7710 does not really lend itself to holding the phone to your ear to make voice calls; the bundled (high-quality) headset is a more practical option.

But why buy a communications device that is quite awkward to use as a phone? The answer is as much in the display as in the multimedia functions.

The device - calling it a handset is probably inaccurate - comes with a music player, a built-in camera and a video player with support for Real file formats, as well as an FM radio. The radio was one of the surprise pleasures of the 7710: it picked up stations with relatively weak signals, such as London's XFM, with no problems.

For storing media files, the 7710 has a 128MB multimedia card built in, which gives a reasonable amount of storage. It is possible to replace this with cards up to 1GB, although unfortunately it is not possible to change the card without opening up the phone.

The screen, memory and headset do make for a very reasonable multimedia device, albeit one that is rather bulkier than, say, an iPod Mini. But the large colour screen means that the 7710 is a capable alternative to a personal digital assistant (PDA) as well.

The screen is sharp enough to make the diary application at least as usable as on a Palm or PocketPC handheld computer, and the 7710 also is a capable web browser although, due to its GPRS-only data connection, this is a relatively slow experience. But for email, GPRS is fast enough.

The 7710 has an in-built application that combines email, text and multimedia messaging in one interface. As this supports both Imap and POP3 mailboxes, it should work well with office email systems and services such as Yahoo! and Hotmail. Again the size of the screen, and its landscape orien-tation, makes email a practical option.

The 7710 has handwriting recognition as well as an on-screen keyboard. The recognition is quite good, and with practice can be as quick as the keypad on a dedicated email device such as the Blackberry. A possible downside, though, is that there is no flap or cover to protect that large screen from scratches. Such a cover might make the 7710 uglier, but it would toughen it up for business use.

THE VERDICT

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Pros: huge range of multimedia functions and a good PDA.

Cons: really needs 3G to come into its own.

Price: from £80 (contract with Vodafone UK).

Contact: www.nokia7710widescreen.co.uk

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