Expensive is what it is, and expensive is what it looks. Whatever has been said about Nokia, when it comes to premium phone design, the Finnish company is king. That said, that position is rapidly being usurped by Motorola with its eye-popping RAZR and SLVR handsets. Having learned from past 8000 series models, this one comes slim built with a brushed surface that is more resistant to fingerprints and possibly even scratches. However, the mirror polished edges are still prone to smudges.
The two recessed slivers on the sides act as release catches for the battery compartment. Here again, Nokia has delivered a mixed bag. While users will be pleasantly surprised by two 600mAh batteries bundled inside the chic black packaging, it takes some unbelievable dexterity to remove the battery lid of the phone. For this, you'll need to turn off the mobile, keep the cover open for leverage, and apply some desperate pressing of the recessed catches while at the same time try to push the back plate off. It certainly puts you off replacing the battery with the spare given the amount of grunt work needed.
Where Nokia finally flexes its innovative design muscle is in the slider. Unlike the Samsung E800 and Siemens SL65 where the top and bottom halves slide over each other, the 8800's flat-screen display lifts up with a nudge. The spring-loaded slide mechanism ensures a smooth, if heavy-duty, glide operation. When closing, be prepared for the metallic lid clacking back loudly on its steel base as it retracts.
The two battery release catches on both sides sit flushed, and take some nail work to depress.
The keys are oddly plastic, in contrast with the stainless steel shell, and certain buttons may be difficult to press.
Other premium enhancements include a special scratch-resistant crystal for the screen, rotatable clip for the headset, a loudspeaker design that blends into the top of the phone, and a pretty cool desktop cradle with blue light effects and an extra slot for a battery.
Overall, the 8800 sits beautifully in the palm and feels cool to the touch, not least because of its steel housing, with a solid weightiness (134g) that will initially surprise given its slim form factor.
The 8800's minimalist facade belies the multimedia features lying in wait under that shiny hull. Again, it's a mixed bundle. You get EDGE support, but it isn't offered here in Australia. You get Bluetooth, but no infrared. There's music playback including -- surprisingly -- an FM tuner. Unfortunately, Nokia has chosen to bundle a mono headset, although stereo playback is supported via Bluetooth which you can activate through the music options.
You get 64MB of internal NAND flash memory, but only about 47.7MB are usable given the preinstalled stuff, and there's no expansion slot. Of course, this won't be missed much if you're using the 8800 as nothing more than a status object. There's a loudspeaker which also outputs audio, but for radio you'll still need to plug in the headset/antenna for it to work.
The keylock feature, however, belongs to one of those Dilbert moments -- pointless and impractical. Every time you shut the slider, the 8800 will ask if you want to lock your keys. Since the keypad is hidden, the power button changes only Profiles, and the two front buttons do virtually nothing, one wonders what the Nokia designers were thinking.
For entertainment, there are three preinstalled Java games: Street Race, Golf Tour, and Chess. The latter can be played with another player via SMS or Bluetooth, or even against the computer, with a 3D graphics engine enhancing gameplay. More Java games can be downloaded either directly to the phone or via the Nokia Application Installer in the PC Suite.
In line with the phone's premium positioning, Nokia enlisted Japanese composer Ryuichi Sakamoto to create some very New Age-y ringtones which you can delete if you don't fancy. You can also assign MP3s as ringtones.The desktop charger deserves a paragraph of its own. The blue base light certainly makes it easier to know if the phone is charging. But -- get this -- it can charge only one item at a time despite the dual slots, with the phone taking precedence. Meanwhile, the base light has its own built-in Da Vinci Code that you must crack. It will breathe blue light only when the desk charger is empty, or when only the phone is inserted or when, in the event that both phone and battery are in slot, the latter is fully charged. We'll leave you to read the manual to figure out what happens when the blue light is constant.
No complaints this time with the Nokia screen. The 8800's scratch-resistant display means you don't have to worry about slipping your phone into your pocket with your keys and coins and scratching that expensive investment. The 262,144 colours are crystal clear whether outdoors or inside, while the TFT 208 x 208-pixel screen is about the right size for this slider.
Save for a laggy startup time that takes about 5 seconds, once up, Nokia's well-known intuitive user interface doesn't fail here. Aside from some frustrating miscues with the Navi pad, Nokia's Series 40 Version 2 platform is fairly easy to use. Shortcuts can also be assigned to the right soft-key and the keys of the Navi pad.
Camera resolution is decent just so long as you don't expect anything similar to what the 2-megapixel models deliver. Having gotten used to photo lights being part of a camera-phone's arsenal, it comes as some surprise that the 8800 has left this out. So you can forget about night shots unless the area is brightly lit. The camera records in JPEG and video clips in QCIF resolution of 144 x 176 pixels.
At v6.5, the PC Suite is the latest version of the bundled software that comes with the phone. Setting up is a breeze and allows you to connect the 8800 to your PC via Bluetooth. There was no data cable bundled. Once connected, you can synchronise your contacts, emails, notes and tasks with a variety of applications including Microsoft Outlook and Lotus Notes. The Suite is also designed to install applications, transfer music, create wallpapers and ringtones, view multimedia files on the phone, and send text messages.
We had no issues with reception or clarity. In fact, a new feature called Audio Enhancing, under Settings > Calls, works much like Samsung's Sound Mate to improve speech clarity in noisy environments. It seemed effective enough when we tried it out at the malls over a busy weekend.
Watch out for the battery indicator. On a full charge that took 1.5 hours, the battery indicator still showed full after nearly 5 hours of non-stop radio. But by the following afternoon, the indicator had dipped three bars and, following a couple of calls, SMSes and snaps, was completely drained by night. Nokia claims up to 2 hours 40 mins of talktime and 200 hours (about 8 days) on standby. We say the battery should last two to three days if you plan to use a combination of features, though the smart thing to do would be to pack along that spare.
Nokia has an interactive demo on its site for those too lazy to flip through the manual.
If money is not a problem, the 8800 achieves what it set out to do -- offer a luxury handset that doesn't claim to be anything more than a premium-priced, very desirable handset.