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Review of Nokia 8800 Carbon Arte
Live photos of Nokia 8800 Carbon Arte
As far premium phones go, the Nokia 8800 has already become the timeless icon, and Nokia don't even try to bring fresh touches to its design with numerous modifications of the original phone. All they do is throw in some new materials in the mix (and naturally, metallic accents aren't going anywhere), tack on several exclusive themes and ring tones, and that's about it. Speaking of the latest iteration of the 8800, the Arte series, not much has changed, except for the Sapphire Arte, that boasted some glamorous additions to its looks - that is, a synthetic crystal and leather pads mounted on the front and rear.
The newly released Carbon Arte expands the range of available colors in this range, plus its steel-and-carbon casing freshens up the series a little bit. In fact, the Nokia 8800 Carbon Arte has carbon exactly on the spots where its predecessor, the Sapphire Arte featured leather inserts. Also contributing to the Carbon Arte's looks department is the fibrous nature of this material that adds a whole new dimension to the phone. Apparently, these carbon pads are coated in a transparent lacquer that manages to hide a good portion of fingerprints and ear grease, however its durability is on the lower side - our unit picked up quite a few scratches during our quality time with it. But they aren't discernible at all thanks to the fibers underneath that simply blend with all scratches and nicks on the front fascia of the Carbon Arte.
As you probably remember, our main niggle with the original Arte was its coating that, in theory, had to be smudge-resistant, but in practice the whole phone turned out to be one huge fingerprint magnet and this alone could ruin the Arte's otherwise stunning looks. As for the Carbon Arte, Nokia also claim that utilizes the same type of finish, but due to a much more light-coloured casing, grease from your hands and ears won't be all that visible. Effectively, the only area where they come to the surface is the phone's display.
According to Nokia, at 109x45.6x14.6 mm the Carbon Arte is exactly the size of the original 8800 Arte, but in truth this is one of those few instances when Nokia is actually wrong. Why? The Carbon Arte has grown ticker by a bit less than half a millimeter; but probably it's only part of the reason why it feels bigger overall - you should also factor in the carbon inserts and the phone's color scheme.
Of all Arte-branded phones only the Carbon version has some semblance to the Vertu Constellation and other models in this range. It's not even about the handset's weight - in fact they are all somewhere in the neighborhood of 150 g. The main factor is how the Carbon Arte's titanium casing looks and feels (even though there is no titanium in it per se - the whole phone is made of stainless steel). Since I do take the Vertu Constellation with me on certain occasions, I can say without a doubt that the Carbon Arte comes very close to it. Obviously, there is no way we can compare them directly, simply because the Constellation costs almost four times more. But pricing aside (although it certainly gives the owners of Vertu phones a lot of comfort), I find these two phones pretty similar, including weight, call quality and that robust feel these phones always have.
All phone makers have already realized that when it comes to premium solutions, weight is synonymous to reliability, and this approach has been around for a very long time. In fact, most exclusive items, such as pens, wristwatches and cigar cases, use this trick in order to appeal to their target audiences. Another signature feature of luxury items is a mix of special materials, and in this sense titanium is second to none. Carbon is another material of this breed - really, it's about the third most frequently used synonym of Formula 1 racing.
Developing designs for their phones, Nokia take cues from the tendencies unfolding in the world of fashion, and when it comes to premium offerings, such as the Arte, they focus primarily on luxury brands. So, what we are getting at is that some might argue that Nokia have stolen the idea of carbon inserts from the LG Secret, but it's not quite true. While these two phones were designed at one time (give or take), LG don't use carbon on their phone in a particularly creative fashion, to put it simply, it doesn't lend the Secret that luxury feel the Carbon Arte oozes.
But the reason why they are using carbon this time goes 2-3 back in time and should be credited mainly to pen makers. Probably the most striking example of this trend is the Carbon series delivered by Caran D'ache (a Swiss company) - the octahedral casings of their pens and key rings featured lacquered carbon inserts, similar to those employed in the Nokia 8800 Carbon Arte.
People who claim the Carbon Arte can't possibly retail for that much are right in their own way. Indeed, this phone doesn't offer any technological breakthrough or mind-blowing functionality, nor is it made of gold. All in all, its production costs are way below its retail price of 1100 Euro. But the reason why the Carbon Arte is so steep is that it comes along with the status of the "chosen one" for you. And you will be indeed - as a rule, when there is a more "affordable solution" available (the Nokia 8800 Arte in this case), the top-of-the-line offering usually enjoys significantly smaller sales. In other words, the Carbon Arte is the only option for those who have always wanted to jump into the circle of the owners of 8800 phones, but never really wanted to end up in one line with some student who borrowed from everyone he knew to pay for this phone. Essentially, mobile phones are becoming the indicators of your status, along with shoes, cars and watches. In this sense the Nokia 8800 Carbon Arte is spot on with its color scheme and very fitting carbon inserts. If you are in the market for an Arte-branded handset, this phone is ought to be on your short list. And if you want to be literally on top of the heap, then the Carbon Arte is the only way to go for you - while the Sapphire Arte wasn't much different from the original 8800 Arte, this phone feels like a major revamp and nobody will ever mistake it for a cheaper and less prestigious version.
Speaking of how the new Carbon Arte compares to the original Arte in terms of tech specs, its bundled storage has been beefed up to 4Gb. On the other hand, its sales package hasn't changed a bit.
It'd seem that the Carbon Arte is nothing to shout about, being just another iteration of the timeless 8800 design. However, for some people in its target audience this solution has what it takes to become their most beloved phone. It's a stunning offering that has all the makings of a luxury item, plus it's been designed by the world's leading phone maker. All these things put the Carbon Arte above all other fashion-savvy offerings out there. Don't even think of comparing it with Mobiado - these tasteless and lackluster phones are no match to the new 8800 Carbon. Also, let's try to overlook the fact that all Mobiado do is dress up Nokia's mid-end phones into the same aluminum casing over and over again.
Another thing of note about the Carbon Arte is that Nokia have turned to the ecological aspects of phone making. That is, they are now emphasizing the fact that all their phones are made of completely safe materials - coming with the Carbon Arte is a lengthy list of substances it doesn't have. At the end of the day, it's another argument aimed to persuade people with enough cash on their hands that the 8800 Carbon is truly special in every way.
The bottom line on the Nokia Carbon Arte is this. If you are looking for top-notch fashion-savvy phone, than look no further. Moreover, it won't be that much steeper than the Nokia 8800 Arte in Europe, so there is absolutely no point in going for the original Arte, since some 150 Euro will buy you a Vertu-grade phone, and in this way the Carbon Arte is beyond competition. Another thing all prospective users of the Nokia 8800 Carbon will be pleased to know is that Nokia don't have a habit of dropping prices for their premium solutions, so this handset will never get beyond a very narrow and privileged circle of owners.
If I was to imagine where the Arte series would go next, I'd say that Nokia should probably release a milky-white phone with some fancy signature symbol either on its front or rear panel, plus it should be coated in enamel, allowing for various color schemes. Even though these are only my speculations, who knows, maybe we'll see a couple of phones like this some time in February.
Published 10 September 2008
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