Nokia 8801, The Porsche of Phones?

To get an idea who Nokia had in mind when it designed its sleek, stainless steel encased 8801, consider this: The 8801 is available for pre-order from Neiman-Marcus, and rings in at a wallet-busting $900. With its arrival, expected here in the US in the next few weeks, Nokia is signaling its intention to pursue the same flighty Hollywood starlets that helped make the Sidekick one of this year’s biggest mobile phone success stories.

So what else does the 8801 deliver besides a hefty price tag? While it can’t match some of the latest high-end phones for features, the 8801 delivers a surprisingly good tri-band radio—no dropped calls, clear call quality throughout the Bay area (on the Cingular network)—in addition to some basic, if necessary, features including Bluetooth, an integrated SVGA camera and both a FM radio and integrated digital music player (it plays AAC and MP3 files).

The included Nokia PC Suite software made it easy to synchronize contacts and calendar information between a PC and the 8801 via Bluetooth. Apple Powebook and iBook owners looking to synch PIM data will need to buy PhoneDirector for $29.95, which will make synching up data a cinch. Finally, the 8801 offers EDGE-speed downloads and 64 megabytes of memory to store Java apps, pictures and even video clips.

Ultimately, the goal of the 8801 is to be seen and heard with it. The brushed steel exterior gleams, a unique slider-design that hides the 8801’s (too small) keypad, and the crisp 256K TFT display let the 8801 rival the RAZR and other design-first cellphones for sheer visual appeal. And every detail—down to the ringtones that Ryuichi Sakamoto composed for the 8801 at Nokia’s request—screams luxury. At nearly a grand, it’s not cheap, but if you want to fit in with Hollywood’s A-lister’s this may be just the phone for you.

Review by Matt Maier, wireless and gizmo correspondent for Business 2.0 magazine. Subscribe to his Weekly Wireless Report.