For such a small device, the 770 is loaded with features. In the original release, its system software packaged with items such as a web browser, an e-mail manager, a news reader. It's built-in media player and Internet radio are great for listening to MP3s you transfer from a memory card, or to radio programs from the net, just by pasting a station's streaming link into the player. Subsequent system updates will ship other programs, but 770 owners can already download a universal instant messenger program plus a bunch of utilities and games, all for free at Maemo.org, the 770 developers' site.
Web browsing and instant messaging are the two areas that highlight both the strengths and weaknesses of the 770. The browserfrom a "third party"is powerful. Most sites showed up without a hitchalthough it stumbled slightly with the Java on AOL's website. The screen resolution is an impressive 800x480 pixels, which means if you have great eyesight you can see entire webpages across the 4-in. widescreen. If you're having trouble, fear not, for two buttons on top will zoom the picture in and out. Although Nokia clearly thought the screen issue through, it still represents a tradeoff.
The instant-messaging program from the developers' site (mentioned above) also had some quirks. While I liked the interface more than that of many PDAs and most phonesthat is, I could easily jump between conversations and other windows; however, I had to peck in every letter like a chicken. It might not be as labor intensive as texting using a thumbpad, but unlike texting, it doesn't get much easier with practice. If you want to use a 770 for instant messaging, you may want to spring the $100 to $150 for a Bluetooth keyboard to go with it.
The Bluetooth connectivity can help you in other ways, too. If you don't have Wi-Fi access, but have a Bluetooth phone with a good data plan, you can easily connect the 770 to the Web through the phone. Right now, the 770 doesn't have any built-in telephony, but Nokia says that they will soon make it compatible with some voice-over IP services. When that's fully operational (and it could be any day now), a Bluetooth headset would come in handy, too.
There's no getting around the fact that, for just a wee bit more, you can buy a laptop with a nice keyboard, a big screen, compatibility with all websites and e-mail providers, and access to other stuff the 770 can't pull off just yet, such as Windows Media 10 audio and video content from Yahoo! and others. The 770 is a bit of a geek's toy, but one even a borderline geek could get the hang of. Just make sure you've got great eyesight, and a willingness to periodically update system software.