Nokia Surge

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The Nokia Surge is something of an ugly duckling among the inexpensive, full-QWERTY messaging phone set. Actually, it's not even that ugly, and with its Symbian S60 smartphone OS, it's definitely more swan than duck. If you skip the junk that AT&T has piled onto this phone, you're left with a powerful device with business-class e-mail, contacts and calendar sync, a respectable, full-HTML Web browser and suite of multimedia options that were capable of handling our basic music and video needs. We loved the keyboard.

It's our new favorite among compact messaging phones, and even though the aging Symbian interface doesn't compare to new-fangled, top-of-the-line smartphones, it still outclasses other, simpler messaging devices by a mile. We wish the phone had more built-in options for our favorite messaging addictions, like Facebook, MySpace and Twitter, but that Symbian S60 OS means an intrepid user will find third-party options available. In the end, some messaging fans might prefer a friendlier QWERTY feature phone like the LG enV3 on Verizon Wireless or the LG Lotus on Sprint, but the Nokia Surge is the best compact messaging phone on AT&T's lineup, and a solid choice all around. Release: July 2009. Price: $80.

Pros: Great keyboard. Full smartphone OS in a small package. Nice Web browser, especially for a compact device.

Cons: Aging Symbian OS not as friendly as other smartphones, or simpler feature phones. Lacks advanced IM and SMS options.

Call quality on the Nokia Surge was very good. Our calls sounded clean and clear, and callers were equally impressed with what they heard. We got occasional background static and a bit of muffling in our voices on our callers' end, but it was minimal, and for the most part the Nokia Surge sounded great. Battery life was also quite impressive. Though Nokia claims the phone won't last a full 5 hours, we tested the phone and got more than 5 hours of talking time out of it, probably thanks to the high capacity battery included with the device. Nokia phones also sip power very slowly, so you can leave this phone in standby for more than a week and it will hold plenty of charge.

AT&T doesn't include any sync software with the Nokia Surge, so new buyers should head directly to Nokia's site to download the Nokia PC Suite. With the PC Suite, the phone synchronized perfectly with the address book on our desktop, and though the software may be a bit buggy, it was certainly packed with features. You can also sync the phone's address book with a Microsoft Exchange server using the Mail for Exchange app.

For calling features, the Nokia Surge packed all of our favorites. Conference calls were easy to connect on the phone. The Surge uses speaker-independent voice dialing, and it was surprisingly one of the most accurate Nokia phones we've used for voice dialing. The speakerphone could be much louder for our tastes, and it wasn't loud enough to carry on a conversation in a fast moving car. The Nokia Surge had no trouble connecting to our Bluetooth headsets.


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