Not to be confused with the similarly named -- but very different -- 6500 Slide, the 6500 Classic is a slimline, solidly constructed handset that offers a smooth user experience.
When you think of whippet-thin phones, you're likely to think Motorola or Samsung rather than Nokia. Lately, however, the Finnish manufacturer has been getting in on the skinny-mini action. The 9.5 millimetre-thick 6500 follows on from the similarly slim 6300, which impressed us earlier this year.
The most striking thing about the design of the 6500 Classic is its simplicity. There are no buttons besides the keypad, and the only port is a micro USB socket that lurks stealthily at the top of the handset. It's all very sedate and not at all flashy or distinctive. Some may find this boring, but to us the lack of gold accents, textured bits and mirrored surfaces was a welcome relief.
The front of the 6500 Classic features a 320 x 240-pixel QVGA display with a thin silver perimeter. Each alphanumeric key has a raised silver stripe at its base, which makes the close-set buttons easier to distinguish. In an inversion of the usual nav-key configuration, the centre selection button is sunken rather than raised above its surrounding ring of directional keys.
Now a confession: it took us a while to figure out the mechanics of removing the battery. Unlike with most other phones, you can't use your nails to scoop it from its metal clutches -- you'll need to turn the handset upside down and tap it on a hard surface so that it falls out. it's likely that you won't need to remove the battery very often given the lack of a memory expansion slot, but frequent SIM-swappers should take note.
The Classic's aluminium body has a solid feel -- this is no flimsy phone. As with a heap of other recently released phones, the screen and piano-black sections attract smudges like Britney attracts controversy, but the fingerprint-farm factor is something we're learning to live with.
Nokia calls its 6500 Classic "the fusion of form and function". While the handset doesn't represent the pinnacle of mobile telephony, there are enough useful and entertaining features to keep most users happy. It's quadband, it's 3G, and it comes pre-loaded with a handful of nifty apps like a world clock, the Opera Mini browser and the now-ubiquitous Sudoku game.
Nokia's new focus on digital music -- incorporating a downloads store that will launch locally in 2008 -- is reflected in the sleek media player application found on the 6500 Classic. The interface is clean, playlists can be thrown together on the go, and a customisable equaliser lets you tinker with your tunes.
The bad bits? Storage is limited to the onboard 1GB of space, and there's no camera on the front for video calling. There is also no FM radio, and you must use Nokia's supplied headset to listen to music -- it plugs into the sole port on the phone, which is micro USB.
We can't rustle up much negativity for the 6500 Classic's performance. Applications load quickly, the menu structure is logical, and as with the rest of the Nokia line-up, you probably won't ever need the user manual.
That said, there are a few small shortcomings. The lack of shortcut keys such as a volume rocker or dedicated camera button can be frustrating -- if you need to take a quick snap, you'll have to navigate through the menus. One way around this is to program the shortcut keys to access your frequently used functions.
Photos looked a little cloudy and murky when viewed on a PC monitor. We also noticed a significant delay between pressing the capture button and hearing the telltale click, though our snaps did not look blurry as a result.
The main reason you would buy the 6500 Classic is for the form factor. The design is elegant, the profile is slim, and the construction is solid enough to take a battering. While mobile Web users and video callers should look elsewhere, the handset would be a good choice for anyone who wants a reliable, no-fuss phone that will barely be noticeable in a pocket.