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Nokia 5510: the wrong way around

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Review The first thing which strikes you about a Nokia 5510 is that it's the wrong way round, with the display in the middle instead of at the top and the keys in a horizontal formation more like a games console than a mobile.

At 134x58x28mm and 155g, it's noticeably larger than the 3330, on which it is based. Carphone Warehouse is just getting them in stock for £99.99 with contracts on BT Cellnet or Vodafone. Given that a cheap MP3 player is likely to cost £100, this is the sort of price you can't really argue with. Virgin hasn't yet announced a price, but if Carphone is asking £99.99, Virgin will probably be looking at £170-200 with no contract.

Unlike the 3330, the 5510doesn't have exchangeable covers and looks very different. It's no coincidence that the shape owes more to a Nintendo Gameboy Advance than a traditional phone. With a 5510 you can play games, listen to music, text message... oh, and make phone calls. It has a full keyboard, FM radio and MP3 player.

There isn't a speakerphone for the music, although there is a headset in the box and cables for downloading music from your stereo or PC.

You dial by pressing the buttons along the top row of the keyboard, which is awkward, but then again you could always dial direct from the phonebook. And with the full keyboard it's easier to input names in the phonebook.

Virgin's model will probably be the usual blue to show off the red Virgin logo, but we saw a model raw from Nokia without the paint job. The colour scheme was a little odd, the front being blue or red, the centre section cream and the back black.

Buttons and... more buttons

The 5510 has more buttons than a Cadburys factory. In addition to the 45 keys on the keypad there is the clear key, a soft key and a menu rocker switch. The power button is on the end, there are volume buttons on the side plus buttons to turn the radio and music player on and off. Even the headset has a button on the cable.

Nokia has also found space for a good collection of sockets. There is the standard power socket, two headset sockets (one for headset, one for the microphone), an audio in connector to record from a hi-fi and a USB socket so that music can be downloaded from a computer.

The concept of the 5510 is reminiscent of the Motorola V100, an open-out product based on a similar principle, with a tiny full keypad). However, it builds in a lot more functionality than the V100 did. The V100 didn't have the music capability and its games were less than gripping. The prospects seem much brighter for the Nokia product, not for the first time. People are more ready for this kind of product now and the 5510 does the thing more whole heartedly than the V100.

The 5510 screen is the same as a 3330, so it's still a bit small at 84x48 pixels. The keys are a bit too squidgy, not as bad as the V100, but still not great. The space bar on the left works well and typing is somewhere between thumb typing and proper typing. While small keyboards used to be laughed at there is now a wide range of products coming out with add-on or built-in full keyboards only a few inches across.

Text messages can be up to 459 characters long, using three concatenated messages, so you'll be charged for three messages.

The chat mode, where you can see the thread of the conversation, works really well. As standard you can only chat to one person at a time but Nokia makes software for the networks to run that will, in theory, let you have a number of people in a chat room. There is room to store 150 messages in the phone, or 50 picture messages.

The music format is AAC, a protocol which includes software to look after the copyright of the performer. The 5510 will accept MP3 tracks, but turns them into AAC so that you can't then freely distribute them.

Unless you're in the recording industry, the major advantage of AAC is that it produces better sound for the amount of memory it consumes. There is 64MB RAM, which is enough for two hours of music. You can't add any more memory.

The 5510 comes with the Nokia Audio Manager PC software and connectivity cable which will let you upload MP3 files. The software lets you create playlists and build up an audio library. With the software you can trade off size against quality with sample rates from 64Kbps to 192Kbps.

Idea whose time has come?
An audio lead allows you to connect the 5510 directly to a Walkman or stereo unit. The quality of the FM radio is surprisingly good and you can record directly from it. One nice feature of the radio is that you can type the frequency in manually. You can only listen to the radio and recorded music through headphones. A major plus point is that you can use your own hi-fi headphones with a supplied 2.5mm adaptor.

If you are listening to music when a call comes in the 5510 beeps and plays the call ringing. You can press a button on the headset lead to answer it. Sound from the incoming call is sent to both earphones which feels strange for a phone call. (It's also dangerous while driving.) You can listen to music and play games simultaneously, a first in mobiles. All this multifunctionality is made easier to control by the buttons on the side.

The shape of the 5510 owes a lot to handheld games console design and has controls for the five embedded games-Bumper, Space Impact, Snake ll, Pairs ll, and Bantumi. Additional game levels can be downloaded. Future phones from Nokia, Siemens and Motorola will run Java and you'll be able to download games.

The games use letter keys, and have the same controls on both sides of the screen, so you can play left or right handed-using one side for up, down, left and right and the other for firing standard and special weapons in Space Impact. It's not all that comfortable.

There is the standard 3330 WAP browser, which is version 1.1 of WAP. Since the 5510 doesn't have GPRS it doesn't matter too much that the browser isn't the latest 1.2.1 version. There is a limited calendar, which cannot be synchronised with a PC.

Ring tones are a bit disappointing. There is space for 42, but they are not polyphonic and it would have been cool to have had music recorded on the device play as a ring tone. Ringtones can be downloaded and you can assign individual ring tones to different people, but unlike the 8310 you can't assign ring tones to text messages.

Nokia quotes best and worst case figures for talk time - 2hrs 30mins to 4hrs 30mins. Standby time between 55 and 260hrs, but that is with no game playing or using the music player features. Nokia expects 10hrs of music playing. The 5510 uses the same 950 lithium ion battery as the 3330 and takes 3hrs 45mins to charge.

Perhaps more than any other phone the success of the 5510 will depend on the price. It's a neat little product that's bound to have huge appeal for a very closely defined demographic. Knowing your customer is the first rule of sales, and Nokia's got this one right. ®

Copyright © 2001 What Mobile. All rights reserved.

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