Tech brief: Nokia 3100

Quick look

Small, full-featured inexpensive cell phone

Price: $50

Phone: 1-888-NOKIA-2U

Online: www.nokia.com

Nokia 3100

Cell phones keep pushing the envelope by delivering longer battery-life and more logical user interfaces in smaller form factors. In the past, these features would be limited to high-end cell phones that cost as much as $500; now you can get them in inexpensive phones that are sometimes free when you sign up with a new cellular service provider.

Nokia Americas Inc. of Irving, Texas, takes its place on the edge of the envelope with its 3100 cellular phone.

The 3100 squeezes a lot of juice out of its 820mAh lithium-ion battery, enough to last six hours of talk time and seven days of average standby time. What makes its battery life more impressive is that the phone is loaded with normally battery-consuming qualities such as a color LCD screen, Java games and animated screensavers.

The LCD is can generate up to 4,096 colors at a resolution of 128 pixels by 128 pixels. Bright white lights behind the screen add depth and clarity to the images.

The 3100's barely noticeable 3.5-ounce weight complements its internal antenna and makes it easier to carry the 4-by-1.68-by-0.77-inch phone in almost any pocket.

Its tiny frame makes the vibrating alert stronger than with most cell phones. I nearly spilled my coffee the first time I received a call and I have yet to miss one with the vibrating alert on.

It's also nice that the 3100 is not crowded with the thousands of rings you get with many phones. It gives you a modest 10 to choose from. Likewise, a simple interface makes it easy to navigate through the phone and customize it.

Perhaps its most useful feature is a powerful loudspeaker that lets you communicate hands-free. And if you want more privacy with hands-free communication, the 3100 also comes with earphone cables.

The Nokia 3100 goes in the right direction for cell phone technology. It's easy to use, tiny and about $50.

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