Nokia 8801 : Swank meets… more swank

What’s the swankiest phone on the market right now? Which phone is reminiscent of that most excellent Nokia phone *ever*, featured in The Matrix (the Nokia 6110)? Which phone retails for $1200, arguably the single most expensive phone *ever*?
That’s right: the Nokia 8801.
And it’s pretty fantastic. Not $1200 fantastic, but definitely worth a couple of c-notes (thank you, T-Mobile). Anyway, this phone was intended to replace my long-ago destroyed Nokia 6170 (the only flip I ever loved), and to replace my current Crackberry 7100t (great phone if you’re into that whole Blackberry thing… which I’ve discovered that I’m just not). A few pros and cons…
It’s stylish. Literally, one of the most beautiful phones I’ve ever seen. The materials are great – stainless steel and resin – and the phone carries a weight that makes it feel ‘real’. Seriously, it just feels like ‘high-end’, not plastic and light. The value of this is relative, of course; some people very much prefer light and plastic than heavy and metal. But those are the same people that like Dodge Neons. I prefer the heavy swing and thunk of an Audi door closing. Attention to detail. Quality. Yep. The 8801 has all of that.
And then, as if that just weren’t enough (and it’s not), the phone is sickeningly durable and scratch-resistant. This is obviously a good thing (especially for me). The screen is protected by some kind of intensely crazy scratch-resistant glass akin to sapphire (i.e. what they use on Rolex watches). Cool? Definitely.
The phone is a slider phone, and the screen slides up to expose the keypad. The design of the slider is nice enough but has some drawbacks. I expected it to be flimsy, but it’s not; it slides with authority and speed, and much like the previously mentioned Audi, it does so with weight and even a thunk. Unfortunately, the keys are smallish and slightly rounded, so it makes actuating them slightly uncomfortable. Other reviews really focus on this, and it’s true: compared to my 6170, these keys are a pain in the ass. However, they’re not unusable and it just takes some getting used to. Text messaging isn’t quite as fast, but it’s really not as big a deal as most people seem to make of it.
The screen is bright and shiny, albeit a bit small (typical, for some reason, of the high end Nokias). Apparently it’s an XVGA screen, high-res. I’m not too terribly worried about it, it looks fine. For my tastes, I thought the icons on the 6170 were cooler, but whatever, that’s pretty much irrelevant.
The sound quality is spectacular, and while people have been moaning online about the reception being less than stellar, I’ve gotten nothing but excellent reception (T-Mobile). I was a little worried (and annoyed) for a bit because I couldn’t figure out how to adjust the call volume, and the default setting (at midrange) was low. I couldn’t have conversations in anything less than a still and quiet room. I thought to myself “how the heck does a phone this expensive and feature-packed not have a volume control?” The solution is a bit odd, but not terrible. Rather than sully the extremely clean exterior lines of the phone with additional buttons (the usual Nokia remedy), you use the 5-way nav button (left-and-right) to adjust the in-call volume. It’s simple, it’s straightforward, and it works. The only problem? It’s not immediately obvious. And that’s kind of disappointing considering the manufacturer of the phone. Nokia has always developed such intuitive user interfaces that I’m a little surprised at this design decision. Now that I know about it, though, it’s not even an issue.
It’s a great phone, almost as useful as the 6170 (which unfortunately lacked Bluetooth). It’s good enough to replace the old girl, though, and definitely a step up from the Crackberry 7100t. Bottom line? Probably not a phone everyone is going to love, and will appeal most to those that value aesthetics a great deal. I like it a lot and give it high marks, but it really comes down to taste.

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