To say that Nokia's 7110 is an easy phone to review is something of an understatement. This is the first handset to ship running the company's Series 40 OS, but it also packs a dual-band GSM modem and a WAP browser. All of that is shoved into a handset no larger than your average candy bar. Of course, for all of its technical achievements, you're likely to be too busy focusing on its similarity to the customized Nokia 8110 used in The Matrix. The spring-loaded phone in the movie was merely the fever dream of art director Owen Paterson, albeit one that's now brought to life. But is its famous exterior a boon or a burden and does all that style detract from the substance? Pop a red pill and follow us down the rabbit hole for a closer look.
Nokia 7110 reviewSee all photos
The 141-gram device sits comfortably in your hand and is far stouter than a Galaxy S II. The only visible controls are two shoulder buttons and the Naviroller, a clickable scroll wheel. Beneath it is the spring-loaded keypad cover and mouthpiece, which snaps down into position when you receive a call. The display isn't touch-enabled -- you'll have to get used to a backlit keyboard with dedicated answer and end-call buttons. If you can't commit to a fixed input process, you'll be missing out on keys made of heavy duty rubber.
At the head of the device is an infrared sensor, but forget about using it as an IR-blaster like the Galaxy Tab 7.0 Plus, it's only designed to work with 6100-series handsets and compatible printers. A 14.4kbps modem is available for use, but be warned: it'll cost you a pretty penny to use it. There's also no WiFi or Bluetooth available on this handset, and the storage isn't expandable. What this phone has going for it, however, is durability: this unit was purchased on its 1999 release day 13 years ago. It was then used for three years non-stop, before being consigned to a box for a decade and yet, if you excuse some lint that refuses to come off, some dents in the bodywork and the now geriatric slide of the keyboard cover with its broken spring, it's nearly fully functional.
You'll be spending your time staring into this high-contrast display with a resolution of 95 x 95 pixels. That translates into six lines of text, although it will render dynamic fonts with lowercase letters. The battery and signal indicators flank the screen. Don't expect to be viewing videos, because you'd be lucky to get a .GIF working on this. That said, it more than compensates for its shortcomings when used in bright sunlight. Under the midday sun, it'll make an iPhone 4 on full brightness look anemic compared to its minimalistic green and black setup.
This handset is the first to run Nokia's Series 40. It's certainly less capable than MeeGo or Windows Phone. There's no app store, and its applications and web browser are basic, to say the least. What it does have in in its favor is speed: boot-up time takes around 12 seconds, and there's never any lag when flicking between its on-board applications. As there's very little else to use (not even the standard ringtone composer), you'll spend a lot of time playing games, but you'll find no Angry Birds here: just old favorites Snake 2, Rotation, Tennis and Reversi. Each are controllable with keys, but are much more fluid and enjoyable if you use the Naviroller, which is very accurate despite its limited technology. It's also used to enter text and cycle through lists, which makes it less immediate than a touchscreen, but also far less likely to engender mistakes.
So, has history been kind to the 7110? From a hardware perspective, unequivocally, but even at the time, its software was severely limited. It straddled an awkward line, priced and aimed at business users and yet clad in a body that could only appeal to nerds. What impresses is that the flashy phone is still working today, something that probably wasn't expected at the time. There's also something intrinsically cool about answering calls with something more tangible than pressing some toughened glass -- those dents and chips are more like battle scars of a proud and noble phone, and if our smartphone died tomorrow, we'd have no qualms about taking this as a replacement -- which is surely the highest praise.