Sunday 7 November 2021

Nokia 7650 (2001)

Launched November 2001

It’s easy to think that smartphones didn’t exist before the original 2007 iPhone, but they most certainly did. Nokia had launched a hybrid PDA/phone as early as 1996 with the Nokia 9000 Communicator, or there was the Ericsson R380 from 1999… or going even further back was the IBM Simon from 1994. But these were all scaled-down computers, bulky and complex. But in 2001, Nokia released the 7650 which took the form factor of a phone and squeezed as much as possible into it.

Nokia 7650
Nokia 7650

This was a much more pocket-friendly device than some of those that had gone before. A slider phone weighing 154 grams and measuring a comfortable 114 x 56 x 26mm, it felt like a normal phone… one noticeable thing was the larger-than-normal 2.1” 176 x 208 pixel display which was much bigger than the type 1.5” 128 x 128 pixel screens that other early colour phones had.

It was also Nokia’s first phone with a built-in camera, a modest (by today’s standards) 640 x 480 pixel resolution, and photos could be sent to others using MMS or email. The 7650 supported GPRS data, had a WAP browser plus a somewhat limited Bluetooth implementation. Inside was a relatively powerful 194 MHz ARM processor with 4MB of storage, modest by today’s standards but much more powerful than a standard “dumb” phone.

The heart of the phone though was the Symbian Series 60 OS, which allowed the user to install – and if they wanted, even write – native applications directly onto the phone. In fact, the 7650 was the first Nokia Symbian smartphone to market, followed by a long line of others. Symbian itself was derived from Psion’s EPOC OS which was originally designed for the PDAs that the 7650 strove to replace.

Not a bad looking device by 2001 standards
Not a bad looking device by 2001 standards

This being the golden age of smartphone design, Nokia felt free to innovate. With the slider closed, the minimalist design seemed to make the screen dominate the handset  -although in reality it was only about a quarter of the size of the footprint of the phone. The minimalist buttons were also a precursor of what was to come. Nokia didn’t stick with the slider for the successor though, instead they went for a pair of weird monoblock designs with the 6600 and the whacky 3650.

The 7650 was relatively successful… not Nokia 1100 successful, but it sold well amongst gadget fans who were impressed enough for Nokia to persist with the smartphone idea. In one form or other, Symbian dominated the smartphone market with relatively few challengers until the first iPhone and Android devices appeared. Today the 7650 is quite collectable, with prices for good ones being in excess of £100.

Image credits: Nokia

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