Nokia is not known for its clamshell handsets, but the company does occasionally make a foray into that world, and has done so with the N71.
In fact, despite Nokia’s reluctance to flip, there is already a clamshell handset in the N range – the N91. Where that is a very chunky beast, with a camera in its own clamshell independent swivelling section, the N71 has a rather more traditional clamshell design, being made in just two pieces, and hinged at its top edge.
The front screen offers just 96 x 68 pixels of viewing area and, a relatively limited range of features. It will show the handset status and the current time, and when you are playing music a button underneath the screen will pause and resume. But you can’t switch between tracks or fiddle with volume without opening the flip.
Design wise Nokia doesn’t seem to have really taken the full potential of what the clamshell format offers on board. Let’s start with the overall size, shape and weight. The N71 is thicker than the popular candybar N70 - the other Nokia handset I happen to have handy as I write. With the clam closed it is almost as tall, and it is heavier. Compare for yourself: N70 53 x 109 x 22mm, 126g; N71 51 x 98 x 26mm with the flip closed, rising from 98 to a shade over 180mm tall with the flip open and 139g.
When you open the flip there is room for a decent sized screen and for large, well spaced keys. What does Nokia provide? A screen which is nicely specified in terms of pixels – 240 x 320 of them – but a mere 2.4in diagonal in size. I’d have liked to see it larger.
The keypad is the bigger disappointment, though. The number pad and control keys are separated by a design feature – a slightly curved indent in the casing which to my mind just consumes potentially useful space.
There are several things I just don’t like about the keypad design design. The softkeys are a long way from the softmenus they map onto, and while you will get used to this it is a little disconcerting at first.
The navigation key sits in the centre of a familiar group – Call, End, and those softmenu keys. It could easily be a third larger, and its raised select button feels only OK under the fingers. The whole thing needs an element of digit-precision to use effectively.