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July 2, 2008


Tech Review by Don Rose

I just renewed my T-Mobile contract for another 2 years, since I have been extremely happy with their combination of customer service, call quality and overall coverage in the LA area (very few dead spots or dropped calls, especially in the past year). And thanks to an extremely friendly/helpful Joel in T-mobile's Customer Loyalty department, I got a lot of perks for reupping my contract, including: a free NOKIA 6263 cell phone (more on that baby below), free shipping and handling, waived $18 upgrade fee, and even a free month credit on service (worth $39.99 on my plan, which continues to be 1000 anytime minutes per month plus unlimited nights and weekends, an unbeatable deal if you shop around).

The Nokia 6263 lists at $199 and is normally $49 or so when you upgrade, but since I told Joel that many companies offer similar or better phones gratis, he was able to get me the 6263 for free. (One example of the plethora of free deals out there: you can currently get money back - yes, beyond free - when you order a T-mobile Shadow smartphone via Amazon.com -- once you sign up for T-mobile service through Amazon, of course; I didn't do this since I would have had to end one contract and start another (a hassle), which also means an activation fee, and a plan that cannot match the one I have now.)

I'm telling you all this to help you in your decision process, should you be near the end of your contract. Let me know your experiences. Now on to the phone...

How is the Nokia 6263? Excellent. It packs a lot into a reasonably small size that passes The LA Report's Pocket Test (fits easily, and jacks are located on top to avoid cord hassles). I like the fact that, for a clamshell phone, it has just about every feature you would want in a phone. Not always the best at each feature, but decent-to-excellent on most dimensions, especially when it comes to what cell phones are really about, after all: call quality. (One feature where the 6263 IS the best is its display: over 16 million colors, TFT, a big bright and sharp 2.2 inches of visual va-va-voom; no other phone in this price range came close.)

Another sexy selling point: the 6263 is one of only two T-mobile phones (as of this writing) that is 3G capable. With higher speed 3G cell service rolling out across the country, this phone's 3G capability makes it future-focused (T-mobile already has 3G in New York, and I was told Los Angeles should have it by the end of 2008). What does 3G mean? Better call reception/coverage (because the frequency used is higher, hence the signal penetrates more areas, even if dense with buildings)... faster web downloading... and, according to phone specs on cnet.com , "3G Services / Included Services: Video Call". Wait -- did I actually see the words "Video Call"? Can it finally be here? Wow. We can't wait to try it. (I assume other callers must have 3G too to do Video Calls, but since 3G is coming fast, expect most folks to have it by year's end or sooner.)

Even without 3G, the Nokia 6263 has a winning combination of features. We especially like the dedicated music controls on the front of the closed clamshell (play/pause, back, frwd), which lets you play tunes when the phone is closed (e.g., in your pocket) and is suitable for airplane playing (they even call it Airplane Mode). These outer controls are located just under the large color external display, which is also pleasing and good for self-shots using the 1.3 megapixel (MP) camera, which takes good photos (despite the so-so MP rating). There is also an FM radio built-in (the included wired headset acts as the antenna), with many presets possible. The phone box also includes a 512MB microSD card, for storing and transporting tons of data (songs, video clips, photos, and other digifiles), and the phone's microSD slot (smartly located on the left rather than inside under the battery, like some phones) can accommodate SD cards up to 4GB. You can also sync with your PC (and Microsoft Outlook), by using the included mini-USB cable to hook the 6263 up to your PC and running the free PC Suite software that Nokia makes available on their website.

Final note: since July 1st officially launched California's Hands Free Only While Driving cellphone law, and since stats show less accidents overall when drivers keep both hands on the wheel during cell calls, the 6263's Stereo Bluetooth capability can literally be a lifesaver.

Nokia really covered all the bases with their 6263 cell phone. It simply has the best sweetspot of features I have seen in any phone of this size and price. For more info on the Nokia 6263, including an informative video overview of the phone and its features, click on this PhoneScoop.com link: http://www.phonescoop.com/articles/article.php?a=172.