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Nokia 7380: Love at first sight?

Nokia has high hopes you'll fall head over hills in love with their 7380 model cell phone. They packed nearly every feature they have into this little gadget, what's not to love about this L'Amour series model? Well, the navigation for starters.

The first question you'll ask is "Where's the keypad?" The answer – there isn't one. What you get is a menu button on the left, a Send and End button on the right and a circular dial that iPod users will be very familiar with. There is an additional Select button in the center of the iPod-esque dial. That's it for navigation.

Making a phone call, if the name isn't already in your contact list, requires you to navigate to the Call menu then scroll through a number line to select the seven to ten numbers you need to make a call. Scroll, select, scroll, select, scroll, select… The process easily takes three times as long to dial than on a traditional keypad phone.

Text messages are just as difficult, if not more so. Without a keypad, you have to navigate through the alphabet for each letter you want to input. Nokia did try to make this easier by adding a recognition feature that lists the five most-used letters at the start of the alpha scroll. Still, sending a text message is a real pain on the 7380.

To counter the text messaging deficiencies, Nokia added voice messaging. This is great if you want to tell someone something without giving them a chance to talk back. If you text message to avoid making a sound, voice messaging doesn't help. If you text message because the recipient can't access sound features on their phone, voice messaging won't help. You'll probably find it easier to just call someone than to send an voice or text message.

The camera feature is much easier to use than basic and even mid-line mobile phones. Snapping shots is just two quick button pushes and one scroll away. The 2 megapixel camera takes a good picture in sunlight, though the contrast is a bit on the heavy side. Night mode is so-so. Pictures up-close of friends in a pub or nightclub are better than many other camera phones but don't expect to catch Kodak quality moments on this (or any) mobile.

You can record up to an hour of video, which is quite surprising for this little bugger but the quality is, well, that of a mobile phone. Mediocre compared to camcorders but pretty good for a phone.

If you can overlook the complexity of dialing calls and sending text messages then you probably will fall in love with the Nokia 7380. Voice dialing and a hands-free speaker feature are both included. The phone supports tri-band GSM 900/1800/1900 MHz networks.

The voice dialing feature has made momentous strides over prior generational phones. Gone is the steep learning curve for both the user and phone. Gone are most of the problems associated with background noise. This almost makes up for the lack of keypad…almost.

As a music device, the 7380 is sufficient. The included bud earphones double as an FM stereo antenna. The sound quality is better than nearly all mobile phone devices on the market. An integrated music player supports MP3 formatted music files. Don't give away your iPod just yet, though, since the measly 52 MB of storage won't allow you to use the 7380 as tune storage.

The included browser would be wonderful if the screen size wasn't smaller than the diameter of a dime. The colors of the screen are sharp and resolution of 208 x 104 pixels. The horizontal positioning of the rectangular display makes it easy to view landscape pictures and menus but it's quite awkward to navigate web pages with portrait orientation.

Speaking of the display screen, at first glance you may think they forgot yours. It's behind the reflective finish of the face of the phone, much like a one-way mirror. You will have almost zero screen visibility in direct light and only marginal visibility in natural sunlight. In the dark, though, it is bright, colorful and crisp.

Bluetooth is included and is the only out-of-box connectivity option. There's no USB port on the 7380. Bluetooth connections are strong and stable.

Battery life doesn't live up to Nokia's claims, no big surprise there. While Nokia declares 3 hours of talk time and 10 days on standby, tests demonstrate a 1.5 hour talk time life and just 3 days on standby. Nokia uses their standard battery charger cable and port, great if you've upgraded to this model from another Nokia.

Now onto what you'll really amore about this model – its high-fashion sense. This device doesn't look like a phone, it looks more like a television remote or lipstick case. About four and a half inches long, one and a quarter inches wide and an inch thick, this sleek new design will make any owner stand out. Weighing in at less than three ounces, it's not only small but light.

The design and construction of the phone is much more solid than you might think when you pick up this little phone. While you shouldn't abuse this mobile, it does stand up to regular usage.

Nokia packed a suite of typical applications in this little gadget. The phonebook holds 1000 names and it synchronizes with Microsoft Outlook flawlessly. Calendar, alarm clock and to-do list are all included. Games and Java applications are noticeably absent. Word processing is nearly impossible on this phone so Nokia excluded that feature as well.

The faux leather backing looks fancy but is really much more like a dashboard cover than leather. The included carrying case isn't top of the line but it is easy on the eyes and smooth to touch. Lining the carrying case is a felt-like fabric that makes it a breeze to remove the many fingerprints the phone seems to attract.

All in all, this is a phone for those who want to stand out in a crowd or the casual user but not a business person. The price tag of 0 might be a bit more than you want to spend on a fashion accessory, though.

About the Author: The article on the nokia 7380 has been brought to you by your consumer electronics.

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