Flip phones haven't exactly been en vogue lately, but the Nokia 7205 Intrigue, a glossy, lightweight handset, makes a strong first impression. Aside from its good looks, it supports Verizon Wireless' V CAST with Rhapsody music service, and offers fast 3G performance and reliable voice quality. At $129 after a $50 mail-in rebate and two-year contract, it's more expensive than other feature phones and its video streaming performance is mediocre, but the head-turning design and strong call quality may be worth the premium.
In a market filled with touchscreens and slide-out keyboards, the Intrigue's design is refreshingly simple. This clamshell is a light 3.2 ounces, and it feels compact and thin in the hand. The silver hinge and accents lend it a classy look. However, the glossy finish picked up fingerprints very quickly.
The phone gets more interesting once you turn it on: the understated black lid reveals itself to be a 1.9-inch PMOLED display, whose blue text offers the time, incoming text notifications, and battery life and Wi-Fi signal indicators. Users can also play music and snooze the alarm clock from this screen.
When you flip open the phone, you'll find a spare layout: a matching piano black interior with gray characters and thin metal grooves separating the buttons. The Answer, End, speakerphone and camera launch buttons, and two soft keys are all flush; only the grooves are raised. The keys felt a bit stiff as we typed text messages, but we were able to peck out notes quickly and accurately nonetheless.
The four-way navigational pad looks like a plus sign. All of the buttons are on the lower half; the underside of the lid is completely taken up by the 2.2-inch display. Although the screen is bright and colorful, the 320 x 240-pixel resolution strained our eyes while we were viewing text on Web pages.
Navigating the menus using the four-way pad was pretty self-explanatory. The four points double as shortcuts for Mobile Web, the Verizon Dashboard (a straightforward, comprehensive menu), Habitat mode, and the shortcuts settings. To access the various menus, just press the center of the pad.
When you reenter the Dashboard after exiting it, the program last-used will still be highlighted; the Intrigue makes it easy to return to the things you do most often. The one thing that took some getting used to was using the CLR button on the keypad to backpedal; a soft key would be more intuitive.
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The Intrigue has volume keys and a USB port on one side and a 2.5mm headphone slot on the other. The back panel of the phone houses the 2-megapixel camera (with flash).
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The Intrigue has a feature called Habitat Mode, a Verizon Wireless exclusive, which assigns nature-inspired icons to your five most recent contacts and then gives you quick access to them by placing these icons on the wallpaper; you can assign photos to your contacts to appear instead.
If one of these people calls you, their icon will appear on-screen. Pressing down on the directional key and then clicking OK opens a profile, from which you can call that person or send a text message, and see a chronological listing of your contact with them, including calls and text messages, complete with previews. Although we liked having all of this information in one place, to some shoppers this particular feature will register as little more than a gimmick.
For $2.99 per month, users can get visual voicemail. When you first receive a notification that you have a new voicemail, you'll also see the number of the person who left it, and will have the option of listening to it then, or later. Annoyingly, though, if you choose to listen to the message later, there's no way of bringing up that visual voicemail screen again and reviewing the messages you have waiting.
The Intrigue also works with V CAST with Rhapsody, a service that costs $14.99 per month and allows users to download full songsfrom its library of more than 5 million. While the phone only has 150MB of internal storage, it also accepts microSD Cards up to 8GB.
Downloading "Womanizer" by Britney Spears ($1.99) took 1 minute and 12 seconds. Once you download a song, you can go to www.vcastmusic.com to download a copy of the song to your PC, at no extra charge. It'd be nicer to be able just to sync the music to your computer using the included USB cable (or by inserting your microSD Card into a reader).
The music on the speaker sounded tinny and metallic, but not unbearable. We were bummed to see that the Intrigue has a 2.5mm--not 3.5mm--headphone jack. If you want to use 3.5mm headphones, you'll have to buy an adapter. You can get one for about $15.
On the plus side, we liked the playback controls on the lid. The skip and pause buttons were very responsive to our finger taps.
The Intrigue also supports V CAST Video (starting at $15 per month), which allows you to stream clips of popular shows and news programs. The content comes from plenty of familiar sources, such as CNN and Comedy Central, among others. When we chose a 1-minute-and-27-second CNN news clip, it took less than 10 seconds to connect, buffer, and start playing, which felt reasonable. Although the clarity was pretty poor, the stream had no interruptions, even with just one bar of service.
Web Surfing and GPS
While the colorful V CAST Music and Video interface is easy on the eyes, the phone's Mobile Web browser is crude: mostly text, and the pictures we did see were mainly ads. The phone has EV-DO (Rev. A), but no Wi-Fi. Loading CNN.com took 5 seconds; ESPN.com and NYTimes.com each took 6 seconds. That's fast, but the trade-off, again, is that you get very few pictures and an ugly list of links.
The phone also supports VZ Navigator (Verizon's GPS service, which we've reviewed on other devices such as the LG Versa), but was not enabled on our test unit. Parents can also add Chaperone Parent/Child, which shares their children's location by tracking their phone.
E-mail and Instant Messaging
Options for instant messaging and e-mail both appear under the Community tab in the Dashboard menu. E-mail options include AOL, MSN, Verizon.net, Windows Live, and Yahoo, but not Gmail. To access our Gmail we had to sign in through the Web browser. Gmail's interface was crude, even for a feature phone; we could see our inbox, but no other folders.
Click to enlargeThe supported instant messaging clients are AIM, Windows Live, and Yahoo Messenger. Signing into our AIM account was easy. However, the first time we logged into IM, Verizon Wireless took five minutes to verify our information, and then reenter the IM login screen. Once we did, the interface was straightforward. At any time, you can click the left soft key and select "Switch service" to use one of the other two IM clients.
The Intrigue's 2-MP camera rendered colors pleasantly when we shot bold objects, such as a strawberry and a bright orange badge. You can tweak the exposure options manually or leave it on Auto. You can also play around with the color, shooting in black-and-white, sepia, or negative tones.
The camera also takes VGA video at 30frames per second. To switch between photo and video mode, just press the camera launch button. Recorded footage looked pretty awful; resolution was terrible and the video wasn't very smooth.
A dedicated button launches the camera, and it started up quickly. However, because you have to press the center of the navigation pad to take a picture and the lens is on the outside of the phone, your finger might make it into a few shots.
You can send your photos as a picture message, upload them to an online album or a blog, or send them via Bluetooth to a compatible printer or other device.
We were pleased with the call quality the Intrigue offered on Verizon Wireless' network in the New York City area. Even when we placed a call while walking down a busy Manhattan street, our caller could barely hear any background noise, save for some people talking nearby. All in all, the voice quality was loud, clear, and reliable.
Battery Life and Greenness
With a rated talk time of 4 hours, the Intrigue's battery-life claims are on the lower end of normal. After placing a few calls, downloading a song, streaming some video clips, and using the Web browser--and then leaving the phone on overnight--we were down to three out of four bars of battery life. The Intrigue ships with a low-load charger, and the phone displays a reminder to unplug it once the battery is fully charged; we'd prefer that the phone just stopped accepting power at that point.
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The $129 Nokia 7205 Intrigue is stylish and lightweight, and offers good call quality, plus access to Verizon Wireless' V CAST Music service, which includes a library of some 5 million downloadable (albeit, pricey) songs. Before you buy, we strongly suggest checking out the $69.99 LG Chocolate 3, which also boasts Verizon's clear voice quality and V CAST and VZ Navigator features. However, the Intrigue makes a case for itself with a faster Rev. A connection (the Chocolate is Rev. 0) and its more innovative interface.