Nokia's no stranger to innovative and groundbreaking designs. But that doesn't mean it's too proud to take a few style tips. Nokia's latest N series phone, a symphony in metal and glass, pays tribute some of the best elements of Mototorola's RAZR design and incorporated them into an elegant and extremely desirable device that's equipped equally for work and fun.
The resemblance to Motorola's hugely successful RAZR range, in its slimness, the way the flip nestles into the body of the phone and the keypad layout, is certainly not coincidental, but it's also got a few Nokia N-style tricks all of its own.
For a start, that mirrored outer screen is a beauty, though of course it's a smudge magnet. The colour screen within the mirror is actually much smaller - the 160x128 pixel screen measures 22x28mm to the mirror's 36x51mm.
With 262,000 colours though, plus an ambient light detector to establish just how bright it needs to get, it's certainly no afterthought and is great for viewing pics as wallpapers or when you're using the music player with the phone closed. But more of that later.
It's a sleek-looking package alright, with the glass front framed by chrome-look metal and shiny black (or red) plastic, with a practical little rubberised pad on the back to prevent slippages.
Not too slim
But while it's certainly slim, it's also broad - not disastrously so, but it will probably lend itself more to the average male palm than female. That said, we're talking about a 3G-powered Symbian S60 smartphone here, and in comparison with most of its 'N' brethren, it's Kate Moss to, say, the N95's Marilyn Monroe.
With the flip open, the RAZR comparisons become even more obvious with a similar flat, metallic keypad layout, and raised section at the heel of the phone, which the flip slides into. The inner screen is similarly large too, at 38x50mm, but it sports up to 16 million colours and looks stunning.
One of the most obviously fun things about the N76 is the music player controls mounted on the front. They can be locked by clicking the RWD and FFD controls in quick succession, but a simple press on the play button activates the player. Then it's easy to navigate through the menus using the volume controls on the side.
There's a standard mini-jack plug on the top of the phone for headphones, which also means you can easily upgrade the standard Nokia headphones supplied. There's nothing wrong with them, but if you prefer full-ear headphones or you want better quality, it's much better than being stuck with a proprietary connection.
If you don't bother with headphones at all, there are two stereo speakers at bottom of the phone - they won't get much of a party atmosphere going, but they're a cut above the usual tinny speakerphone fare.
The RealPlayer music player onboard can handle MP3, WAV, MIDI, AAC, eAAC, eAAC , M4A, and WMA formats - pretty much all you need, in other words. Transferring music files is straightforward using Nokia's PC Suite software and if you upgrade the supplied 256MB microSD memory card to the maximum 2MB you've got a very decent MP3 player in the phone.
Still with music, the N76 also includes one of Nokia's rather excellent FM radios, and there's some extra good news in that you don't need to use the supplied headphones as an aerial - any wired headphones will do.
The 2-megapixel camera has a 20x digital zoom and offers up to 1600x1200 pixel resolution. It has one of those nice Carl Zeiss Optics Tessar lenses which Nokia has been including in its Nseries phones, and which will no doubt find their way into standard models before long. It's easy to access too, with a long press on the side-mounted shutter button, loads up quickly in about three seconds and you can use it in landscape or portrait mode.
The camera will work with the phone either open or closed, with the inner or outer screen doubling as viewfinder. Closed feels more natural, tipped on its side with the shutter button moving to the top of the camera, but opening it up means you get to use the whole of that big inner screen as a viewfinder - especially useful for video.
There's also a proper LED flash that gives reasonable results even at a distance of 3-4 metres, unusual for a cameraphone flash.
There's a host of features on board both for taking pictures and for tweaking them afterwards. There are various settings for all sorts of light situations, plus you can adjust colour tone (just the usuals though - sepia, black and white, and negative), white balance and exposure compensation, plus there's a self-timer and you can set it to take six pictures or more in sequence mode.
After you've taken your snaps, you can rotate, crop, resize, adjust brightness, sharpness and contrast, add frames, text and clip art. There's an option for reducing red eye and you can create a 'muvee' using animated clip art - all before you send your pic on by MMS or email, or save it to your PC. Nokia's Lifeblog application is also included as standard, so you can take a pic, caption it and upload it to your blog in a flash, all without the need for a computer.
The camera will record video too - for as long as you have memory on your MicroSD card. You can edit videos, merge them with other videos or still pics and add sound or text. It's one of the most versatile, quality cameras to be found on a mobile phone - only Sony Ericsson's K-series really compete.
The N76 runs on the Symbian 60 operating system and has all the usual accoutrements, including POP3 and IMAP4 email and Nokia's own, pretty decent full web browser with 3G connection, though there's no Wi-Fi built in to this model. It's got the mapping software last seen on the N95, which makes it easy to find your way from A to B, but without built-in GPS you'll need to know where you're going, or use a Bluetooth GPS add-on.
There's an Adobe PDF reader onboard, and of course Symbian allows you to add all sorts of additional programmes, including Java games, plus there's Bluetooth for headphones (stereo), transferring data, attaching a GPS receiver or even a wireless keyboard.
And with a tiny VGA camera just above the inner screen for video calling, this quad-band phone is one of the most versatile communications devices currently available. It's not cheap, but as a do-everything smartphone with bonus good looks, it takes some beating.