If being understatedly stylish is at the top of your handset wishlist, then Nokia's 8800 might call out to you. Its stainless steel casing and lack of an immediately visible keypad are the first signs that style is integral. The sliding mechanism that extends the handset's length and reveals the keypad brings it home.
But this is not a pocket-money handset. We found it SIM-free for a jaw-dropping £600 and the best contract price (as of August 2005) was £340 on a £20 per month contract.
The trade-off of the Nokia 8800's sleek steel finish is its weight. At 134g this handset weighs about 33 per cent more than is typical for a regular handset. The weight adds a certain gravitas to the Nokia 8800, but you'll certainly feel it in your pocket.
The sliding mechanism is a thing of beauty. There's a ridge beneath the screen which you flick with your thumb. You only need to push this about halfway towards full extension before the handset takes over and completes the job. This extending facility means the handset puts on a sudden, teen-like growth spurt, going from 107mm to 140mm in height when you need to use the keypad. This makes it very tall for a mobile, but it does feel sturdy in the hand during calls.
It's only when you've extended the phone that you can see the camera lens, which sits on the upper back of the casing. Its specifications are the first sign that, for all its expensive price and flashy looks, the Nokia 8800 isn't state of the art. There's no flash and no self-portrait mirror, and the maximum image resolution is 800x600 pixels.
There isn't a dedicated button to launch the camera, though the up section of the navigation button does the trick when the keyboard is visible. In fact, largely because of the need to accommodate the sliding system (and to deliver the sleek looks), the only button on the edges of the casing is a very discreet power switch on the top edge. In addition there are two buttons on the front that are visible and usable with the Nokia 8800 in its closed position. These are the two softkeys, heavily disguised as style features, and they sit under the screen. You can use these to answer calls without bothering to open the handset, and to put a call on hold. Sliding the keypad away closes whatever application you are using at the time.
The screen is very small, but its 262K colours are vibrant and clear, and the material used is scratch-resistant, so you should be able to keep it looking like new for some time.
The sliding mechanism means the battery cover is fiddly to remove, and there isn't quite as much room as usual for the battery itself, which is necessarily rather small. You get a spare battery in the box, along with a suede pouch to keep the 8800 scratch-free. Nokia also provides a desk stand, complete with a slot to charge the spare battery.