Review: Nokia 7705 Twist
Nokia puts a new twist on the messaging phone with the 7705 Twist for Verizon Wireless. What it lacks in performance, it makes up for in personality.
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If you fall into the category of people who value messaging over any other function in a phone, the Twist from Nokia may be up your alley. It is the latest in a new breed of squarish-shaped devices that hide full QWERTY keyboards within. It certainly has personality and that Nokia flair for design. Verizon is up to its old tricks when it comes to the software, however. Is the Twist twisted enough to overcome its quirks?
Huey Lewis would be disappointed in me, but not the Twist. I'm not hip to be square, I guess. Phones like the Twist just aren't for me. The Twist resembles a make-up case more than it does a phone. In fact, it would be easy to mistake one for the other.
The Twist is compact and features shiny surfaces all over. It is smooth, and feels pretty good in the hand, though it's a bit heavy for its small size. Pockets are no problem for the Twist. It'll worm its way into pretty much any pocket you care to shove it into. When open, it feels solid, balanced and comfortable.
The front face of the Twist has a decent sized display. Under it is a D-pad. The D-pad feels excellent. For my money, it's one of the best D-pads from Nokia in recent memory. All the directions feel good and have satisfying travel and feedback. It's easily found and just works. The soft keys to the left and right of the D-pad are touch-sensitive. They were very responsive and I didn't experience too many instances where I needed to re-press the buttons. In the lower left corner of the Twist's front fascia is a larger touch-sensitive key that serves as the back/clear function. There are no send/end keys on the front face of the Twist when it is closed.
To the right of the D-pad is the hinge that allows the Twist to, well, er, Twist. What's novel is that the hinge is actually a hole. You can see through the Twist. Not a lot of phones have holes in them like that. The hinge is super solid. It feels exceptionally well designed and manufactured. I felt no weakness in the hinge at all. The top half of the Twist will rotate open with just a little bit of pressure from your thumb. It is spring-loaded and will pop open once you get it past a certain point. Same goes for closing it, it will spring shut, too.
Opened, users have access to the full QWERTY keyboard. This is, perhaps, the best keyboard ever made by Nokia. The odd shape of the Twist gives the phone the right amount of width to comfortably fit a QWERTY keyboard in that's not too wide and not too narrow. The keys themselves are all covered in a soft-touch material that prevents your thumbs from slipping all over the keyboard. The keys are well spaced, and have the perfect amount of travel and feedback. The top row of keys is filled with shortcuts to the messaging, music, browser, voice commands speakerphone and camera apps. The Twist's keyboard easily bests the N97, the N97 Mini, the N900 and, yes, even the E71. It's simply more usable. Well done, Nokia.
When open, the back of the top portion of the Twist doubles as a mirror, which really underscores the make-up kit appeal of the Twist.
The microUSB charge/data port is on the left side of the phone. It's easy to open, but the hatch is placed a little too close to the port itself, forcing uses to squeeze the cable into the port. Below that is the volume toggle. The toggle is easy to find and use, and has good travel and feedback in both directions. The microSD card slot is on the right side of the phone. No problems there, it works well. There is a 2.5mm headset jack below that, which means most stereo music headphones won't work without an adapter.
The battery cover comes off no problem, but you won't really need to remove it unless you're going to replace it with one of the colored covers that comes in the box.
In sum, if you don't mind the odd form factor, the Twist is one well-put-together phone.
The Twist has a 2.4-inch QVGA display. It looks OK, but not super fantastic. I had no problems reading it indoors or out. It is very colorful, and images, icons and graphics appear smooth and free of pixelated edges. It gets the job done, no doubt, but it isn't going to knock any one's socks off.
As with most Verizon phones, the Twist has two signal indicators, one for 1X and one for EVDO. In my tests, I'd rate the Twist with a "mediocre" when it comes to signal performance. The EV signal indicator never made it above 2 bars, and the 1x indicator never made it above 3. More to the point, I had at least two dropped calls, and saw some goofy data performance; specifically, failed and/or stalled connections. Nokia's phones generally perform very well as phones. Sadly, that's not the case with the Twist.
Users can set the Twist's ringers to be plenty loud. You're not going to miss any calls as long as you're even remotely near your phone. That includes in places such a moderately noisy coffee shops and restaurants. Similarly, the earpiece is loud enough for most calling environments. I had no problems hearing those I was speaking to, and neither did they have any problems hearing me. Quality of calls (those that weren't dropped) was very good. Very little noise, interference or other cellular nonsense.
The Twist performs well when it comes to battery life. I easily and consistently made it through three days using the device. I'd say if you're going to limit yourself to sending messages and some calls, and skip the heavy Web use, the Twist will make it through a weekend no problem.
Anyone familiar with Verizon Wireless phones knows what to expect when it comes to the user interface. Users can choose to interact with the typical grid- and/or tabbed-style menus that have been a part of Verizon's vernacular forever. These menus are easy to learn and get the job done, though many find them to be kind of annoying. Or...
...Users can choose to activate the "Habitat" user interface. I get what Verizon is trying to do here, but in my opinion, it is poorly executed and feels sophomoric.
Essentially, Habitat attempts to bring a graphical representation to messages and call notifications on the home screen. There are two different skins within Habitat. One looks like a bad Cartoon Network show and the other look like it comes from an inner-city sneaker commercial. Hip, it ain't.
Anyone who's taken an art class probably remembers the lesson about perspective. Pick a point in the distance and have all lines on the page lead to that point to provide a realistic representation of how objects change in size relative to their distance from the viewer. Habitat has a perspective line that runs from the bottom right of the screen diagonally back to the top left of the screen. When you receive new messages, missed call alerts, and so on, they will be displayed on this line in the order that they are received. Users have to set a hot key to activate Habitat. Once the key is pressed, the D-pad lets you interact with the icons (AKA, messages, etc.) and see all pertinent information in each alert.
It's a neat idea, but Verizon and Nokia failed to make it truly useful. It's clumsy to use, requires too many clicks, and in the end, it is simply easier to use the regular (albeit boring) Verizon menu system. Of course, some Phone Scoop readers have noted that they really like Habitat, so perhaps it's just me...
When not using Habitat, calls with the Twist are really no different from that of any other Verizon Wireless phone. With the phone open, hitting the send key brings up your recent calls list. Using the D-pad, you have a few limited options.
Only with the phone open do you have full access to a list of options. When in calls, you have complete access to your messaging, contacts, and notes applications, which is always useful if you need to look up information during a call. With the phone closed, you can't make phone calls at all, which is kind of weird, especially since you can access all the details about missed calls from Habitat. What's also weird is that even with the phone open, you have to unlock the capacitive touch buttons to interact with all the options. The extra steps make it rather clunky.
The contacts application always places your "In Case of Emergency" contact at the top of the list. This is a thoughtful touch, and lets you - or someone who finds you in need of help - find the most important person in your life and contact them quickly.
With the contact app open, the default is a search mode. Start typing a name, and the app auto-sorts through your contact database to find the appropriate person. Each contact stores at least 4 phone numbers, two email addresses, plus fax numbers. With a contact open, initiating a text message or call is a simple tap of a button away.
The Twist supports SMS, MMS, IM, email (including Microsoft Exchange-based work email), chat and visual voicemail.
You'll be happy to know that the Twist supports a form of threaded SMS messaging. Users can choose to view SMS by "Time" or "Contact". The Time setting will show each message in a long list according to when they arrived. The Contact setting will lump messages together from each person so you can see all of the messages from a given contact in one conversation. The Twist has a keyboard shortcut that brings up the SMS/MMS composition screen, so sending text messages is quick and easy.
The mobile IM client is the same as on other Verizon phones, and supports AIM, Windows Live and Yahoo.
Emails can be set up two different ways. You can use Verizon's email service, or access your POP3 accounts via the Web browser. The included email application, which costs $5 extra per month unless you have subscribed to unlimited data, is easy enough to use for setting up and accessing POP3 accounts. You can also use Verizon's RemoSync service to sync with Microsoft Exchange-based corporate email.
Wait, what, you wanted a Twitter and Facebook application, too? No such luck, at least not out of the box. There are no social networking clients on board of any kind. Nor can you download any from Verizon's web portal.
Weak, Verizon, weak.
Oh, look, everything here is brand new. Not. The Twist uses the tired old music software from Verizon Wireless. This software has been around for years and is in serious need of a refresh. I am mostly talking about Verizon's V CAST music app here. The discovery process is painful, the navigation slow, and it could be much more intuitive to use.
The player will show you the song information and a progress bar. Thankfully, the music player can be launched with a quick press of the music button on the keyboard. It lets you search for the music you want to hear by sorting via album, genre, artist, song, etc. The Twist does work with Verizon's Rhapsody service. Discovering new music isn't too, too painful, but it could sure be a lot better. The one change in the player itself that I was able to find is a new set of EQs.
With music playing, you can go back to the home screen and do almost anything on the phone that isn't network dependent. In other words, you can sort through your pictures, look up contact information, etc. The minute you fire up the web browser or other network-dependent feature, the music dies.
Despite the drawbacks of the player and associated software, music playback sounded good through the speaker, wired headphones and Bluetooth headphones.
The Twist has a 3 megapixel camera with flash, autofocus and a dedicated camera launch key on the keyboard. Unfortunately, the Twist has to be open to launch the camera. The camera software is exactly the same as on previous generations of Verizon camera phones.
The camera launches quickly enough, and actually shoots pictures pretty fast. Focusing takes about a second, and then the picture is captured and processed immediately. This nice speed means you have a better chance at catching the image you want.
The typical options to adjust resolution, timer, flash, brightness, effects, capture mode, sounds and so on are all present and easily accessed from the menu. The Twist's camera will not zoom when set to the highest resolution, but can if you dial it back to 2 megapixels or lower.
The gallery application is unchanged from other phones that use the Verizon UI. It can be opened by jumping through the menu system or by hitting the camera button and then using the left soft key to load the gallery. The latter of these two options is much faster. The gallery is locked to a three-column view, and lets you see six different pictures at a time. When viewing the gallery, hitting the right soft key brings up the expected set of options for moving, renaming and otherwise interacting with your pictures.
Opening up each picture is as simple as hitting the center of the d-pad. Once open, the right soft key opens an editor tool and lets you do all sorts of things with the pictures, such as cropping, zooming, adding frames and so on. Unfortunately, the Twist automatically downgrades any edited images to a lower resolution. It does, however, keep the original intact.
Considering that the Twist has a 3 megapixel camera with flash and autofocus, I was expecting better photos. Don't get me wrong, they're not bad, but they don't live up to what I've seen from other 3 megapixel shooters in the market. Images looked a bit soft and grainy, no matter the lighting conditions. Thankfully, color and white balance were accurately captured. As always, outdoor shots fare better than indoor shots. The flash seemed to be worthless in my book; it barely improved lighting at all.
Video is incredibly grainy. I thought the quality was pretty bad. It's not even YouTube worthy. Sure, you'll be able to capture events, but the quality was so poor, I'd hardy recommend even MMS-ing videos to friends, because they'll hardly be able to tell what's going on. Even spending some time with the settings didn't do much to improve video quality.
3GPP2 / MPEG-4 format (viewable with QuickTime)
File size: 432 KB
The Twist is using new browser software. It runs Infraware's Polaris 6.1. I don't know why Verizon decided to switch browsers, because I sure don't like it. The basic architecture of Verizon's portal is the same, but the way the browser behaves is not. There's on on-screen pointer that users move around the screen with the D-pad. It is amazingly unresponsive. it either barely moves at all, or zooms to the far side of the screen. This was very annoying.
The left soft key is labeled "Navigate". It serves as the basic controls for the browser, allowing users to go back, forward, enter URLs, view favorites and so on. The right soft key is labeled "Menu". Some of the items in this menu duplicate what's in the "Navigate" menu, but there are a few more controls for adjusting the browser's behavior.
Browsing speeds were inconsistent. I couldn't tell if it was the browser software or the network that was hindering performance, but whichever it was, there were definite hiccups. Slow load times, hangs and other browser-based weirdness made the Twist one of the worst-performing Nokia devices in terms of data that I've seen in a long time.
Users can do all the normal things to make the Twist a bit more their own. As already noted, users can choose to activate Habitat and choose from two different skins. The back plate can be removed and replaced with different colored plates.
The Twist's hinge actually hosts a fully customizable light inside. Users can choose from an array of different light colors, effects and behaviors for the hinge light. It's pretty cool if you're into that sort of visual thing.
There is a rudimentary browser-based Apps Catalog available to the Twist. Users can choose to download applications such as WeatherBug, WikiMobile, Guitar Tuner, and a handful of others.
The Twist supports mono and stereo Bluetooth headsets. Pairing with either kind was a snap. Sound quality through both was decent, though I thought the sound quality via mono headsets was poorer than I've heard on phones in recent memory.
The clock on the Twist is awesome! When in sleep mode, a quick press of the D-pad will wake the phone and the digital clock fills the entire screen. It's HUGE! I love it. So, so, so easy to read.
The Twist has GPS and works with Verizon's VZNavigator software. In testing, I found the GPS to be very accurate and it was quick to locate me when outdoors. Verizon's GPS software hasn't changed, and it works well. Plotting routes is a snap, and it picked logical and quick routes.
The Twist is a mish-mash of good and bad. Though the form factor is a bid odd, it is well put together and offers a fantastic keyboard for typing. Some, however, may be put off by the swivel style hinge and goofy square shape.
I'll give Verizon and Nokia credit for attempting to conjure up a novel user interface for the Twist, but the result is a stultifying experience via Habitat, which is clumsy at best. Thankfully, users can revert to the tried and true (and boring as all heck) standard Verizon user interface.
The Twist handles most messaging features well, and threaded SMS is a major plus. The lack of social networking, however, is a major detraction from the Twist. Why there's no native social apps on board, — or available for download — is beyond me.
The multimedia features nearly all fall a little flat. The music experience is "meh", the camera performs only so-so, and the video not so much. What's worse, the new browser software is weird and slow.
Despite some of these faults, which many will overlook, the Twist is a different twist on what cell phones are all about. The Twist is most likely to appeal to those who prefer personality to performance.
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