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CTIA 2008

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The Nokia 1606 and 3606 are Nokia's first CDMA phones to support AWS, the new 1700 MHz frequency band that carriers like Cricket and MetroPCS are launching new markets with. Unfortunately, they won't be hitting the market until the 3rd quarter, putting Nokia quite a way behind Samsung and UTStarcom in bringing AWS phones to market. Still, it's nice to see Nokia coming back to CDMA, slowly but surely.

Like the 6555 and 3555, these new phones hail from Nokia's new San Diego design center. You'll notice they have the same clamshell styling that creates a sleek, smooth back when open. They also incorporate a glossy black key surface that reminds us of the new N96 and N78. From these and other subtle design elements, it's clear that these are 100% Nokia-designed phones (unlike some Nokia CDMA models of recent years where they just slapped their logo on another company's design.)

The 3606 is the higher-end model. It has a nice large display and spacious keypad. The single sheet of semi-flexible plastic - with little or no dividers between keys - looks like trouble, but works well enough. It doesn't feel great, but we didn't have any trouble actually using it. The wide spacing between keys helps a ton.

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Nokia 3606  

The 3606 is a tad on the tall and wide side, but that allows the display and keypad to be large. More importantly, its thin-ness and light weight more than make up for it. It's very much like the RAZR that way, but lighter, and more rounded, enhancing the thin feel.

The camera is in a somewhat-unusual location, being on the back. A large color external display with media controls rounds out the physical attributes.

The 1606 is a much more basic phone, lacking music, camera, and the large displays. This of course allows the phone to be much smaller, too. The 1606 is impressively small, thin, and light. Putting it in a jeans pocket, you can't even feel it.

Nokia 1606  

The 1606 has a keypad similar to the 3606, just a bit smaller. To make up for the decreased key spacing, Nokia put grooves in the keypad to help you feel the different keys, and they do the job well.

The 1606 does have one neat feature: a flash light (not to be confused with Flash Lite from Adobe!) A bright white LED on the top is activated by pressing the small silver button at the top of the front face. You point and aim it just like a key-chain LED flashlight. It's a handy feature. Some camera phones have this, but you have to know the "secret trick" of holding down the up key, or something similarly unintuitive. By putting a dedicated button right next to the light, Nokia has made it a feature more users are likely to discover and use intuitively.

Both phones sport industry-standard 2.5mm headphone jacks and microUSB connectors that support charging. We saw this trend toward standard connectors on a lot of phones at this show, and it's a wonderful thing to see. It looks like 2008 might finally be the year we say goodbye to proprietary accessory connectors.

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