We were on Highway 101 outside Los Angeles when my partner finally lost patience with California traffic and took matters into her own hands. Which was fine, except that while she carved out a high-speed swath, I was trying to read the Web site of the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas (we needed a room).
Surfing the Internet at 70 mph can give you a big headache. But when you have Nokia's new über-cell phone, the 9000i Communicator, it's difficult to resist. The 9000i looks just like any other mobile phone, albeit one from the late 1980's. You may even hear the odd snicker directed at your chunky new friend. But all of that changes once you flip it open and start using the mini qwerty keyboard and 4 3/4- by 1 1/2-inch LCD screen. It's like holding a baby, or a puppy— strangers approach and start cooing.
Weighing in at just under 14 ounces, the 9000i will amaze you with all it can do. It sends and receives faxes and messages, and will allow you to put together a five-way conference call or start a second call while still on your first. What's more, it has eight megabytes of memory powered by an Intel 386 processor, and a built-in Web browser; it offers E-mail service through your existing Internet provider; it can exchange files with a PC (though not a Mac) and will run for three hours before recharging. Naturally, all the personal organizer tools— souped-up calendar, address book, calculator— are also there.
Not that the 9000i is perfect. For such a sophisticated and expensive device ($1,000), it seems a major oversight not to have provided a backlight for the LCD screen (Nokia says it would have sucked away valuable power). The battery-charging adapter is flimsy and easy to lose. Finally, cell phones are only as effective and affordable as their service providers. Nokia is coordinating a digital network that can fully support the 9000i's impressive array of functions— existing cellular networks can't— but at present, service is not available outside major urban areas.
Still, for those who have long dreamed of true wireless communication, the 9000i delivers with style. Try logging on to the Net and checking your E-mail while sitting, say, at the end of Santa Monica Pier, and I guarantee you will giggle with glee.
dialing for dinner
The revolutionary smart phones are bringing along with them a whole new range of services. On your Nokia 9000i Communicator, for example, you'll soon be able to access Zagat restaurant reviews for 40 major U.S. and Canadian cities. Besides the trademark reviews, you can also get maps, directions, and prices— and with the push of a button, you can call and make reservations. Don't even try it with your regular cell phone: only smart phones will work. For availability in your area, contact your regional cell operator. They'll also be the ones determining the monthly rates, which should range from free to $3.
— Jesse Stagg Lawrence