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Nokia Arte or 8800 will never die
Every manufacturer secretly dreams of rolling out something resembling the Nokia 8800 one day. A premium solution with low production costs, tremendous image of a fashion-savvy phone and sales that are way beyond expectations. However, nobody has managed to repeat the trick pulled off by Nokia, and all attempts have been getting cold welcomes from consumers. The end of 2007 sees a new twist in this story – phone makers are getting serious about precious metals and stones in their offerings. Remember the Motorola RAZR2 Luxury Edition with its 18- and 24-carat gold parts and the rear finished in snake leather. This beauty will set you back about 1000 Euro, just like its league mate, the Nokia 8800 Sirocco Gold.
However it is not Nokia’s primary offering – the Sirocco line is a sub-class of the Nokia 8800 family, and that’s all to it. What it really is aiming to accomplish is take everything one step further and increase the phone’s price, otherwise, Nokia portfolio for the top price-bracket won’t be seeing a substantial sales growth. And on top of that the arrival of new and steeper models justifies hefty price tags of junior offerings, especially as far as fashion-savvy phones are concerned. This is a decent trick that boosts prices for this particular maker’s products in general and drives them up to a slightly higher price segment. This worked out for the 8000-series, why shouldn’t they believe it will do the job these days as well?
From the empirical point of view, the price of any premium model can grow up to the level when it goes for as much as 1\2 of a junior Vertu-branded model, in other words – 2000 Euro or so. Past this watermark, the price might get consumers thinking – whether they are willing to wait some time and get a Vertu, since its life cycle will be longer anyway (Vertu doesn’t tend to revamp its line-up with never-ending announcements, depreciating original solutions). That’s why we have all reasons to expect the company to start making its way in this direction.
On November 13 Nokia officially launched two new offerings – the Nokia 8800 Arte and the Nokia 8800 Sapphire Arte, which are the steepest Nokia-branded offerings to date and will remain in this position at least for 6-8 months to come. The launch events for these two phones were held at the world’s most glamorous venues. Moscow saw the duo in a night club known as “Most”.
Speaking of the official part of the event, it was quite curtailed and lackluster – pretty much standard robotized speech delivered by an invited celebrity and several minutes of waiting before the handsets got showcased. However the entertainment part employed a sublime and, more importantly, original idea – every glass of champagne served to the guests had a crystal on the bottom, and one glass was truly special, for it contained a real one-carat sapphire. Somewhere in the corner there was a jeweler who checked all crystals people were bringing to him to find out who was the luckiest person of the night. Suffice it to say, in 2007 actually there were several “diamond hunts” like the one from Nokia – a couple from LG, then one from Samsung and probably someone else. Nevertheless, it sparked no craze among the guests – everyone cast a couple of short glances at the phones and moved straight on to the drinks.
Let me be honest with you – no matter what Nokia releases under the name of the 8000-series, this thing will be all the rage. No one cares about meager battery life or omission of most cutting-edge features, or some other “tiny” details. This product has long since turned into an icon, and that’s the way it is perceived on the market.
However the Nokia 8800 Arte (nothing more than “art” to this Arte prefix here) comes preinstalled with the latest and greatest S40 5th edition FP1. In order not to go over the same basic things again, we have a dedicated write-up on this platform’s core features and functionality.
And here we would rather focus on the cornerstones of the new model, what has changed in the sense of performance and suite of features, and how different it is from the Nokia 6500 Classic.
The casing still enjoys stainless steel design, and the Nokia 8800 Sapphire Arte shows off leather finish of the rear and the front fascia on top of that. This leather is imported exclusively from western India, then gets proper treatment and attached to the casing. Vertu’s leather insets are normally described in a pretty much similar fashion. However as soon as someone gets his mitts on this leather coating, its beauty doesn’t last too long – usually it grows pale and worn in 6-9 months’ time. No idea whether the Nokia 8800 Sapphire will share the same fate or not, but I don’t really believe in miracles.
The owners of the Nokia 8600 know from their own experience how easily their phones pick up fingerprints and grease all thanks to its glass finish. The original Nokia 8800 and all its editions never had problems with this. And all the more surprising it was to find a mention of “Anti-fingerprint coating on metal and glass” in Nokia’s official press-release. What the maker himself starts outlining these things beforehand, then it is no good at all – some real problems are coming.
And here it comes - the scene when the company’s representatives holding cleaning cloths in their mitts and convulsively rubbing the phones down every second minute was quite spectacular. Let’s be honest, the Arte is a marvel in terms of looks, and it will literally radiate beauty and status from a store’s shelf. However after spending a mere minute in your hands, it turns into a greasy and grimy monstrosity.
Even today, both versions of the Nokia 8800 Arte can be considered for “The most grease-prone handset ever” title hands down. Really, I can’t remember a phone that was so easy to grime. Both the Motorola U9, and the Sony Ericsson Z750i, although they both employ glass-like finishes, are in a completely different league. Obviously, beauty knows no pain, but I have a feeling that THIS pain will get through to it.
And as far as other differences from the current models are concerned, there aren’t too many of them. The handset’s foremost trick is “tapping” (similarly to the Nokia 5500) – basically, you tap the steel surface below the display two times to bring up the clock (digital or analogue – up to you to setup). No other departments can benefit from this technology, however.
On an incoming call you can mute it by turning over the phone, screen-side down. However to quite down the prototypes showcased at the launch event we needed to slightly hit the table with their displays, otherwise, the volume wouldn’t turn down. An interesting and pretty quaint feature.
The phone utilizes a 240x320-pixel OLED display measuring 2 inches from corner to corner, capable of up to 16 mln. colors. Unlike the Nokia 6500 Classic, here the user is enabled to adjust display brightness. Maybe they have solved the battery life issue in the new model, so it now runs longer on a single charge. The display found in the Arte is pretty good and puts up a relatively bright picture.
Just like they usually do for the 8000-series, Nokia has armed the Arte with a pack of very exclusive ring tones from DJ Kruder&Dofmeister. Personally, I loved only a few tunes out of those 17 you will find in the handset, but this matter is very taste-dependant. What really should concern us is that while the launch party wasn’t the loudest place around, the new phones played music and ring tones softer and quieter than the Nokia 8800. I don’t know why this is so, let’s opt to think it has something to do with the quality of the phone’s prototypes. But given that it starts shipping already in December, these two should be release candidates. Let me clarify this, the Arte handsets are by no means too quiet, their volume levels are average – pretty much in line with the Nokia 6500 Classic, yet not as loud as the Nokia 8800.
The phone comes in with 1 Gb of storage space onboard, no memory expansion slot, however. The entire memory bank is divided up into two parts – for storing music, video and images, and for PIM applications (22 Mb), specifically its Organizer, Phonebook and SMS messages. The Arte’s casing houses no other sockets but microUSB. By and large, it can be employed as a music-minded phone, but its mediocre storage for these purposes and microUSB slot for headphones limiting the number of compatible wired accessories doesn’t make for a particularly gratifying experience. At the end of the day, it is a premium phone with no real focus on functionality.
The functional keys may appear to be touch-sensitive at a glance, but in fact it is a Nokia N81-esque slab with embedded buttons. The number pad is quite average ergonomics-wise. All keys are well-lit in white.
On of the Sapphire Arte’s highlights is its OK button that has been replaced with a synthetic sapphire color-keyed to the casing’s trim. While it looks like a marvelously sparking beauty in the official photos, in real life it seems somewhat recessed into the casing, and I assure you, nobody will ever tell the difference between a piece of polished plastic an a synthetic sapphire. Furthermore the hosts of the launch were quite sincere about that, demonstrating that only a professional jeweler could discern a precious stone from a knockoff (that “sapphire hunt”). That’s why this sapphire inside is just another sweetener for fashion-conscious buffs, since it brings no other apparent benefits and doesn’t look much different from plastic. No, really, I can readily believe that tomorrow we’ll see a crowd of experts who can tell for sure whether it is a piece of plastic or a sapphire after having a mere glimpse of the phone. Certainly, some owners of the Nokia 8800 Arte will be a hundred percent convinced that their phones house a sapphire instead of the center key. But don’t mistake someone’s wild dreams for something a bit more real.
When the Nokia 8800 Sirocco debuted, one of the questions major concerned its battery life – whether Nokia had improved it, and if yes, what the gain was. As far as I remember, back then the company’s officials got away with a very simple answer: “The users won’t be disappointed”. Indeed, the Sirocco worked longer hours, but the improvement was so subtle that it is hardly made any sense. A day of use and the phone would start crying for some juice. For the Arte Nokia claims twice as long battery life, thanks to a 1000 mAh Li-Ion cell (BL-4U). Looking at the official spec sheet you will find out that the battery life is rated for 300 hours of standby and 2 hours 45 minutes of talk time. Now recall the Nokia 8800 Sirocco Edition’s figures – it can’t be, 240 hours and 2 hours 45 minutes respectively. Divide it, subtract it or multiply it, you will never get “two times better” battery life. Also, keep in mind that the Nokia 8800 Arte sports 3G connectivity, and normally this means a more power hungry device. No doubt, we still shall run it though our battery of tests, but there is no reason to believe its battery life has increased dramatically. The most we might squeeze out of it are 1,5 days instead of the Sirocco’s 1 day of operation, and that’s the best thing we can hope for.
While the Nokia 8800 Arte boasts a 3.2 Mpix camera with auto-focus, it is not even close to the level of, say, the Nokia 6500 Slide. Being a pretty mediocre camera with nothing out of the ordinary specs, it also shoots video in the resolution of 176x144 pixels. You will be pretty content with this camera as long as you are not going to transfer your snaps to a PC.
The phone ships with a leather carrying case, although its usability was questionable, since taking the Arte out of it proved to be a pretty hard task. Again, let’s think it has something to do with this case’s being a prototype… of a carrying case, apparently.
Also in the box is a cradle, designed after the handset itself, that doubles as a charger. Pass your cleanup man a message – it could use some cleaning. Every day. Or it will look… greasy.
The maker’s thirst for polished surfaces will never fade out, and the BH-803, which is a headset, is just another proof of that – a fingerprints-prone proof. The headset also has a quaint feature to it – its outer side houses a touch-sensitive pad, allowing you to move your finger back and forth to adjust the volume level. I suppose the trick won’t work in winter, but on the other hand, the status of people owning the Arte (and therefore the headset as well) doesn’t imply they should even know what winter is.
Release dates, price tags and brief conclusion
Unlike most other models, like the Nokia E61, the Nokia 6500 Slide that normally start shipping in Russia much later than in the rest of the world, the Nokia 8800 Arte will be widely available here already in December. And in this connection how can we not remember the black edition of the Nokia 8800 that was designed exclusively for Russia? Nokia does realize that this local market is a pure goldmine for top-notch products like this one. The Arte’s official retail price for European countries makes 1000 Euro. Let’s see what its price tag will look like in Russia.
Wholesale price, plus customs duty, plus VAT, plus retailer’s 5-percent interest. Around 1100 Euro. But the real question is whether you believe in such a generous retailer’s interest when the Christmas sales are all but here and there is a hot premium handset to capitalize on? I don’t, honestly. When I was going back home from the launch event, I called a handful of distributors and wondered how much they were going to charge for this phone. “We’ll keep it at 2000 Euro per unit, very unlikely that we’ll cut the price, only if we have no buyers at all. We don’t think we’ll have enough of these phones for everyone”. Another point of view – “We are going to stick with the market, but won’t let the price go lower than 1500-1600 Euro, depends on what other retails will be doing, though”. So you might even get one for 1500 Euro, with some luck and some friends working for these retailers, of course. Now let’s take a good look at the market – the Nokia 8600 Luna goes for around 700 Euro, the Nokia 8800 SE Gold – 1100 Euro. Someone is still in doubt whether the Arte will be at least somewhat cheaper than the Gold version of the Nokia 8800? I think the distributors are about to hit pay dirt with this phone and its tremendous margin. At least, for now.
The Sapphire Arte is coming out in February and will set you back around 150 Euro more than the original Arte, and for Russia this gap will make 300-350 Euro.
This phone is an icon, and judging it on its technological talents makes no sense at all – people have always been buying it as a symbol of their status, or at least that’s what owners of all iterations of the Nokia 8800 have come to believe. That’s why the Arte’s extremely grease-prone casing is not going to mar its success. The only thing the maker has to worry about is the audience’s sudden mood swing, when they might decide that the Nokia 8800 is out of fashion, just like it happened to Mercedes Benz 500 and 600, when at some point in time the high society started to think of them as obsolete and vulgar. The same thing is currently happening to the Nokia 8800 owned by students, businessmen, doctors etc, in a word, it has made its way to way too many social groups, and it no longer signifies a thing. What’s interesting is whether this model will finally get to the mass market – its hefty price tag is not much of a limitation in a country where loans are so readily accessible, especially if you don’t pay back (which is the way most backwoodsmen got their 8800).
The European market, however, has never been crazed about this model – basically, it is pretty competitive and reasonably popular (for instance, in Italy, where it is all the rage) over there and that’s about it. No other country has ever hyped this phone so much. And that’s why we are very excited to see how the things will develop for the Arte.
Published 16 November 2007
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