Pretty much the whole of the PEBL is finished in matt black, with the exception of the polished metal hinge and the long external display. When in standby mode the external screen will display the time of day in either digital or analogue formats, as well as signal strength and battery life. This screen also displays the caller ID information when you receive a call, allowing you to decide whether to flip the clamshell open and answer or not.
Talking of flipping this clamshell phone open, the PEBL has the best opening mechanism I’ve ever seen. My everyday phone is a Samsung D600 and I love the way that slides open and closed, but the PEBL beats even that. The PEBL is secured shut by four strong magnets – two either side of the screen and two either side of the keypad. To open the phone you hold it in your palm, then just slide the whole top section towards you using your thumb – this breaks the contacts with the magnets and the PEBL flips open effortlessly. So the tactile rubber finish isn’t just to make the PEBL feel good in your hand, it also makes it very easy to open.
When you open the PEBL you realise that it looks as good inside as it does from the outside. The keypad has a shiny, mirrored finish to it, while the curved ridges separating the numbers look great, especially in a darkened room. But despite looking decidedly cool, the keypad maintains a standard layout, so you won’t have to re-learn how to text, as is the case with many of Nokia’s “stylish” handsets.
Unlike most phones today which have two soft buttons to control the menus, the PEBL has three. The middle soft button brings up the main menu, as does the button at the centre of the four-way pad, while the left and right soft buttons allow you to select options or exit your current menu. The four-way pad can also select four shortcuts from the main screen, as can the left and right soft buttons. All these shortcuts are user definable, so you can access much of this phone’s functionality with a single button press.