Music players in phones have, since the introduction of the Motorola ROKR, become a standard feature across the board. What used to be something that differentiated one phone and manufacturer from another is now a feature that every phone put on the market (other than those that are “free phones if you sign up for a contract”) seems to have.
Attempting to differentiate on your music player has, for the longest time, been akin to trying to differentiate your automobile based on the stylishness of your cup holders. With their 5610 slider-form factor mobile phone, Nokia manages to differentiate on the integration of the music player with the rest of the phone.
The key to this is a set of functions called the Navislide, which is used to control the musical functions of the phone with a single thumb-flick on the controls – the Nokia 5610’s entire keypad is rather well designed, with the keys giving lots of good tactile feedback and a quick response curve. With the overall construction of the device, the entire package is nicely built – fits in the hand, can be used one handed easily, and it’s nicely solid.
But back to the Navislide – if you’ve ever used an iPod thumb-wheel, the Navislide is like falling off a log. It’s straightforward, and adjustable, and remarkably easy to use. Rock it left to use the music player, rock it right to use the built in FM radio, rock it up for the next track or station, or down for the previous one. It’s a remarkably easy device to get used to.
That slider bar is also quite handy when using the menus for the other functions on the phone. First a note on the screen: It’s a simple truism of how much these devices have matured as the market has grown; this screen would have been considered stunning and high end two years ago; it’s crisp, bright and easy to read; the screen is QVA resolution, and quite good enough for watching video. (Indeed, the mobile has a small VGA camera for doing video telephone calls.)
The menu system is well laid out, with four configuration options available, and it’s clear that Nokia is leveraging their development efforts into the System 40 operating systems well. The D-pad is fully user configurable, and gives you plenty of options for using the phone fluidly and easily.
As a phone, it’s a full GSM/HSDPA 3G network phone, and can have its firmware updated wirelessly, no need to hook it up to a desktop computer. Its inboard contact system can store 2000 contacts, and there’s full cut and paste between all applications on the phone. (In earnest, once you’ve used cut and paste on a phone, the next question is “Why did this take so long to get implemented…”)
Lastly, the 5610 has an excellent 3.2 megapixel camera with an integrated LED flash and decent autof ocus. While it’s not going to make you give up your dedicated digital camera as a photography tool, it’s more than adequate (and borderline overkill) for something to take quick snapshots. Again, Nokia’s attention to the user interface makes the camera a dream to use.