On 31 July 2001 the first GSM 850 call was made, and soon a number of countries in the Western hemisphere (Antigua & Barbuda, Argentina, Cayman Islands, Colombia, Dominica, Ecuador, Grenada, Montserrat, Panama, Paraguay, St Kitts & Nevis, St Lucia, St Vincent & The Grenadines, and, most recently, Canada and the United States) implemented 850 MHz GSM systems. In five of these countries, GSM 850 is the only frequency available. The addition of GSM 850 rendered 900/1800/1900 handsets obsolete as worldphones, and most definitely as worldphones for use in the Americas: Now you need 850/900/1800/1900.
Half a decade after tri-band terminals became obsolete, three years after NEC introduced its 515 quad-band GSM handset, and two years after Motorola introduced its V600 quad-band GSM handset, Nokia has finally introduced a quad-band handset: Their model 6270.
First the bad news.
• The handset is not aimed at the international business traveler, who, experience has taught us, cannot carry a camera phone. 18 While there is a lot of virtue to widespread availability of cameras in every form – we urge you to go to http://www.witness.org/ to see what can be done for the common good with cameras – cameraphones are simply not a good fit for business travelers. We therefore consider that a handset appropriate for international business travelers must minimally be a camera-free quad- band device.
• The 6270 sells for between $300 and $450 on eBay, which is a lot of money if your goal is to make phone calls. We would guess from its feature set (camera, flash, video, stereo speakers, MP3 player, FM radio…) that it is aimed at the affluent teen and college market.
• While the user interface on the 6270 is as good as we have come to expect from Nokia, the device we tested was unable to hold a signal when walking between the Ninth and Tenth avenue entrances in the Port Authority Bus Terminal here in Gotham (our highly-standardized and very accurate albeit non-scientific test of real-world RF ability).
18 When we tested the Motorola V-600 cameraphone, it was vouchered 11 times in the fortnight we had it: We had to carry a second handset with us and switch the SIM when this happened.
• No American service provider – at least at the time we write this – is planning to carry the 6270.
• It has a SAR of 0.74 (we prefer it to be under 0.5).
Now the good news!
The good news is not the 6270 itself. It is, rather, that the 6270 demonstrates that Nokia is finally moving into the quad-band world. For those who prefer the Nokia user interface (which we prefer above all others), this hopefully this means that they will, in the near future, run through their supply of outdated tri-band chipsets, and start producing quad-band terminals instead.
Nokia has, in the past, produced some of the world’s best GSM handsets. The 6150, the 6190, and the 8310 all come to mind. For the business traveler, the Nokia 6310i handset (arguably among the best GSM terminals ever made) was flawed only by the puzzling lack of the 850 MHz band. The 6310i had good RF, the great Nokia user interface, the very useful wallet feature (which allowed you to store information with password protection), Bluetooth, IR, wonderful use of internal memory, and a great selection of batteries. Indeed, the 6310i is so well thought of that it still sells on eBay, outdated as it be, for up to $250. While we will never see a quad-band version of the 6310i (they have long abandoned that form factor), we hope that at some point in the near future Nokia will again have its design staff address the needs of the international business traveler.