A couple of years ago, when the second Matrix movie came out, the producers came up with a pretty slick tie-in. They had Samsung design a phone for the movie, and then sold a limited number to the general public. Being the design freak and gadget fetishist that I am, I (of course) had to get one; fortunately, I acted quickly enough before the phone sold out. Since I was already a Sprint customer, it was fairly easy to get everything transitioned over, and I was very happy with the phone. The pop-up slider design was not only unique, but user-friendly; I hated fumbling to open a flipphone, and, unlike most candybar phones, the phone is locked when the slider is closed (so no accidental dialing). It had a nice loud ring, and was a great conversation starter; the only thing I missed was web access (which, in retrospect, did save me some money on my plan). However, after a little over a year, the battery had trouble charging--and, near as I could tell, it was the battery and not the charger. Unfortunately, this being a limited-edition phone with a bespoke battery, I was pretty much out of luck in terms of finding a replacement. Last fall, I made the jump to AT&T Wireless and a nice but rather vanilla Nokia 6200.
Now, the Nokia was nice--great display, decent size, good web capability, and (very important for work) no camera. A few months ago, I found a Siemens SL56 on eBay and discovered the wonders of SIM card swapping. For those unfamiliar with the concept, most (or perhaps all) GSM phones come with a SIM card--a small metal-and-cardboard item, about half the size of an SD card (or a little smaller than a dime), which stores your account and phonebook info. The idea is that, as you upgrade phones, you simply take your SIM card, put it in the new unit, and voila--you're connected. And, aside from having to call Cingular to reconfigure the web access, that's exactly what happened--I opened the package, pried open the battery compartment, popped in the card, and I was good to go. The Siemens was pretty slick from a form-factor standpoint--very compact (though a bit thick), with a slick slide-out keyboard. Sound quality was good, ergonomics were good, and, overall, I was pretty satisfied (although the display was a little on the low-quality side).
Now, I had read about and seen photos of the Nokia 7280 on the web, and was quite taken with it. However, at the time, it had a camera, and I was unfamiliar with the SIM card concept. Then, last month, I had dinner with a friend in NY who shared my interest in cool phones--and he had a 7280. I then saw it ran on the Cingular network (which has by now assimilated the AT&T Wireless network), and thought, "Aha! I must have this!" So, it was off to eBay, where I got a good deal on a barely used, unlocked (e.g., suitable for use by any network) 7280. After a few glitches with UPS (who said they had 'lost' the package but then delivered as scheduled, with an envelope that looked like it had been attacked by a sabertooth tiger), the phone arrived. I popped the card in, and I was instantly connected. The only other thing I had to do was configure the web access; unfortunately, in this case, as the phone was not officially supported by Cingular, they were completely useless. Fortunately, I got a friendly and brilliant support person on Nokia's helpline, and he walked me right through everything.
I've had the phone for about a week, and, with the relative ease of card-swapping, it's become my evening/weekend/vacation phone. As you may note in the photo, the phone lacks a significant feature--a keypad. You can either use voicedialing (a service well worth paying for on Cingular, by the way), or use the iPod-style rotary control to select numbers. The included VGA camera takes some pretty nice photos, the graphics and sounds are outstanding, and the screen is much better than the Siemens.
The only downside? The battery is fixed; hopefully, it will last a couple of years until the next cool phone comes along...