My Impressions of the Nokia 7190

The Nokia 7190 has been a long time coming, and to some people, the wait has been too long. Even I was beginning to wonder if it would be worth it, but now that I’ve tried the phone, I can honestly say that it is.

Last Updated: 04-Jun-2001





Photo courtesy of Howard Chui

Word of Warning: Many newer reviews make reference to older reviews, and this sometimes creates apparent inconsistencies in the overall assessments of various models. Reviews are relative by nature, and so what seemed like a great phone a year, may seem only mediocre now because other phones have "raised the bar" so to speak. If you find that I'm being negative about a phone, while saying it's about the same as a phone I once gave positive reviews to, this a perfect example.


Perhaps the best way to describe the 7190 is to have you think of it as a 6190 on steroids. It does everything the 6190 does, but with more gusto, and it has features not found on the 6190, like T9 text input and a WAP browser.

Perhaps the most obvious difference between the two phones is the enormous size of the 7190’s screen. Not only does it display more characters, but also those characters are bigger and clearer. This is achieved by using a higher contrast display with bigger pixels that butt right up to one another.

When it comes to battery life however, I was getting nowhere near the advertised "up to 9 days of standby". Although I didn't try any pure standby tests, I would imagine I'd get more than 2 to 2.5 days of standby. This seems to mirror complaints on virtually all other phones sold in the North American market, so it wasn't something specific to the 7190.

The second big visual difference is the sliding key cover, which also contains an active microphone. Unlike Ericsson flip phones that channel the sound to a microphone inside the main body of the phone, the 7190 has electrical contacts along the inside of the slide, which you can see. This puts the microphone right at your mouth, and it seems to cut down on background noise quite handily.

Some people have expressed concern that the slide is flimsy. While I'm certain that under certain conditions the slide might break off, I didn't find it particularly problematic. Perhaps I'm just more careful with my phones than others.

Otherwise, the two phones are very similar in size and weight. The 7190 can use any of the 6190’s accessories, including the in-car bracket. Oddly however, the 5190 and 6190 cannot use the 7190's rapid charger. The locations and sizes of the hold-down indents along the side are identical to the 6190, and so the 7190 clips into the bracket perfectly. If you already have a heavy investment in 6190 accessories, the 7190 is an excellent upgrade path.

The 7190 does not include built-in vibrator alert, but as with the 6190, it is possible to purchase vibrating batteries. The phone’s software fully supports these batteries, as was the case with the 5190 and the 6190.

The 7190 does support the analog “surfboard” from the 6190. If you already own one of these devices, you can fit one onto your 7190 and begin using it in analog mode immediately. Otherwise, they are available separately for $50.

You can download and store up to 5 ringtones on the 7190. This is markedly better than the 5190 or 6190, which could only store 1 ringtone. However, it does not include the ring tone editor found in the 3390. The ringer volume is about the same as the 6190, but the ringer has been moved further down the side of the phone.

User Interface

The 7190 continues the 6190’s excellent user interface, but it adds a new twist; the Navi-Roller. This is a small roller that takes the place of the up-and-down buttons found on the 6190. It can be moved up or down with your thumb, and it can be pressed to select various functions. It seems a little foreign at first, but once you get used to it, it works quite well. My only gripe is the response speed of the phone. It could do with being a bit faster so that the function of the roller seems more natural.

I didn’t find the keyboard quite as pleasurable to use as the one on the 6190, but it was much better than many other phones. The biggest problem was the difficulty of accessing some of the keys. For example, the * and # keys were harder to press with a thumb due to the key cover. The TALK and END buttons could do with being raised a little.

Storage space on the 7190 is perhaps its biggest improvement over the 6190. You can still use the SIM to store 100 names and numbers if you like, but I believe that most people will prefer to use the built-in memory. You can store up to 1000 names in this monstrous memory, and each name can have:

- Up to 5 phone numbers (with representative icons)
- A street address (like 123 Main Street; Toronto, Ontario M5M 5M5)
- E-mail address
- A text note of up to 50 characters in length

It actually allows two text-type items per entry, which you can store as any of the last 3 types mentioned above. You can even store both as the same type if that suits you.

This sort of storage capacity makes the 7190 an excellent alternative to a dedicated PIM. Not only that, but you can easily insert any of the above information into a text message, as you will soon see.

Like the 6190, 8 entries from the phone book may be randomly assigned to the keys 2 through 9. You can then speed-dial those entries merely by pressing and holding the desired key, or by pressing the key, and then pressing TALK.

Alternatively, you can randomly assign any 10 phonebook entries to Voice Dial. The feature worked fairly well, and was designed to be used with the phone held at 6 inches or more from your mouth.

Text Messaging

Here is one area where the 7190 really excels. It is so far ahead of the 6190 that there isn’t really much point in comparing the two. I will instead list the abilities that the 7190 gives you.

You can create and name your own sub-folders into which to store messages. You can store 100 messages in the phone, and being able to move messages freely from folder to folder is a great plus if you plan to archive quite a few messages.

When viewing a summary of messages in a folder, the first 10 or 12 characters of each message is displayed (rather than the originating phone number, as was the case on previous models), but only if the sender's number doesn't appear in your Phone Book. You can also “rename” a message, and have any text you like appear in the summary list. That name will also appear at the top of display (in place of the sender’s name or number) while you are reading the message.

If you routinely send messages to a common destination (such as Fido’s E-Mail gateway at 003436, or eXcell's at +393334774753), you can specify a default address that will appear in the destination edit box automatically when you send your message. I personally send almost all my messages through eXcell, so this is a great time saver.

However, if you need to send a message to an alternate destination, that can easily be done by choosing a different send option after composing your message. This option actually allows you to specify multiple destination addresses, one after another.

The 7190 also includes “Templates”, which are a series of pre-written snippets of text that can be pasted into an SMS at any time. The templates are editable, so you don’t have to stick with the ones provided by default. If you have various phrases of sentences you often append to messages, this feature will make it a breeze. You can also store pre-written messages into any folder in your phone, and then send those messages direct without having to edit them first.

Not only can you paste template text into your messages, you can also paste any information you want from a phone book entry. This includes the person’s name, street address, e-mail address, phone number, or text note. You can randomly select any of this information at any time during text entry.

Although you cannot randomly paste information from the calendar while entering your message, you can begin a message from the calendar. For example, I chose the birthday reminder for my 4 year-old nephew, and I told the phone to send it as plain text. The 7190 began a new SMS, and it pasted the following text into it for me:

Birthday note: 05-
29-2001 00:00
Michael 4

I can do the same from any entry in the To-Do List. And of course, I can edit this text to suit my requirements.

Another timesaving feature can be accessed directly from the phonebook. Just select the stored E-Mail address for one of your contacts, and ask the phone to send E-Mail. Doing this takes you directly into the SMS editor with the E-Mail address pre-entered into the editor.

For that reason, I entered all my E-Mail addresses with the word “EMAIL” in front of them, since this is what I would have to type at the beginning of an SMS to send E-Mail through eXcell. Once you’re in the editor, you just type your message and send it.

As if all of this text pasting wasn’t enough, you also get the power of T9 Predictive Text Input. It support English, French, and Spanish input, and it has a fairly sizeable user dictionary for adding new words. I found that using T9 in conjunction with the Navi-Roller was a pretty rewarding experience.

While most of my words were the ones chosen right off the bat, finding alternatives was easy. Changing incorrect words during proofreading was also easy, as the Navi-Roller allowed me to move from word to word. Anytime I reached one that was wrong, I just pressed the “*” key to flip through the alternatives.

Unlike the 3390 however, the 7190 does not support multipart SMS or Picture Messaging. However, I always felt the usefulness of those two features was rather dubious, especially since Fido doesn’t directly support multipart messages in their iFido services, and neither do any other gateways.

Computer Interface

This huge memory also expands the space available for the calendar, which can hold up to 660 entries. Also added is a new “To-Do List” feature that stores a further 100 text items.

Entering all that data would be a mind-boggling experience if you had to do it from the keypad. However, the 7190 ships with a DLR-3P data cable, and a free copy of the FoneSync software. Typing all those names, addresses and E-Mails is a lot easy on your PC.

The CD that comes with the phone also includes the necessary drivers to treat the phone as a wireless modem. This includes Windows 95, 98, ME, NT4, CE, and 2000, as well as 3Com Palm devices, and Macs. If you’d rather not bother with the cumbersome cable, the 7190 also supports a working IR port, which you can use to communicate with your computer.

With GPRS just around the corner however, the idea of buying a phone to use for data that doesn’t support GPRS might seem a bit odd. Until we find out how much GPRS will cost, it might still be a viable alternative to those people who don’t have heavy data requirements.


As expected, the 7190 supports games. You’ll find the updated Snake II (also found in the 3390), Rotation (that found its way onto later 6190s), Racket, and Opposite. I was really impressed with the Opposite game, which is actually Othello. You pay against the computer (the phone). The implementation is neat and tidy, and the computer opponent is a very competent challenger at level 4. You can even play this game totally from the Navi-Roller, which makes it a pleasure to use.

The Snake II game also supports two-player mode. If you are in the same room with another 7190 owner, you can point the phones’ IR ports at one another and play against each other.

The 7190 allows the backlighting and/or sounds to be turned off during games, which should do wonders for battery life (and the tempers of those around you) if you get carried away playing. This feature is probably available on many other Nokia phones, but it wasn’t available on the last version of the 6190 that I tried.

WAP Browser

The 7190 constitutes only the second phone Fido offers with WAP capability. The other is the rather lackluster Motorola V2282. The implementation on the 7190 is about as good as I’ve seen so far, but WAP is far from convenient to use.

The big display really helps here, since it allows for greater quantities of text than many other phones. If you hate having to scroll sideways to read long input prompts however, you can turn on “word wrap”. I personally liked the WAP experience better that way, but not always.

The phone includes 5 connection-setting profiles, though only one is configured when you get the phone. If you want to connect to other WAP servers other than Fido’s, it’s fairly easy to launch the browser with a completely different configuration.


There has also been a vast improvement in the Caller ID feature. On previous Nokia models, phone numbers that weren’t in your phonebook would show up in the tiniest font with no spacing, such as:


Trying to figure out what this number was before answering the phone was near impossible. On the 7190 however, that number shows up in a relatively large bold font in following format (on two lines):

1 416
661 0123

Now that’s more like it. Even when the name of the caller is found in your phone book, the display of that name (which can be up to 50 characters) is displayed in the same bold font. The size and legibility of the Caller ID font is very important when the phone is used in a car. It requires far less of your precious attention to see who's calling.

The call log has also been expanded. The phone now stores the last 30 dialed numbers, the last 30 received numbers, and the last 30 missed calls, for a grand total of 90 log entries. As before, each of those entries can store 5 different dates and times. All calls that appear under the same phone book entry are grouped into a single entry in the log. When calling back people from these entries, the phone will display all the numbers that it logged under the current name, with the most recent set as the primary number. If you simply redial an entry from the log therefore, the most recent number will be used if it has stored more than one.

Plenty of other features carry over from the 6190 unchanged (or with very little change). These include: Profiles, Caller Groups (with Group Graphics), Calculator, and Calling Cards (though 4 are now provided, instead of 2).

For those who just have to have it, the 7190 also supports Field Test Mode. Nokia has finally recognized the popularity of this feature, and it can be initially activated from the keypad. Just type *3001#12345# and select Field Test from the menu. After turning it on however, you must reboot the phone. From that point onward, Menu 13 handles all the familiar test screens.

 Caller ID is now visible while Field Test Mode is on, but I can’t find any way to alter the volume. You win some, you lose some.

RF Performance and Audio

Now we get to the all-important aspect of performance. In terms of RF capabilities, the phone is a huge improvement over the 6190. It can hang onto service under the most severe conditions, both while idling and while in conversations. The 7190 easily rivals the RF performance of the Ericsson T18z, which I had previously chosen as the top contender amongst the phones sold by Fido. 

During my drive tests, I found that the phone performed extremely well in real-life situations. It provided solid audio virtually all the time, and dealt well with weak signal conditions. It held on to service long after my 6190 and G310 has lost it. It was difficult to compare directly to the T18z, since that phone continued to indicate that it had service when in fact it was unable to establish a connection with the network.

Sound quality isn’t quite what I hoped when testing the phone using canned recordings as a reference. However, in any of the real-life calls I performed with the phone, it actually sounded quite good. Voices are generally clear and crisp, though they do sound a little bit harsh sometimes. Overall however, the 7190 was a pleasant phone on which to carry on a conversation.

Audio volume is excellent, and right up there with the 6190. The phone also includes the 6190’s “Audio Boost” feature, which increases the volume by at least 3 or 4 dB when the background noise exceeds a certain level. This applies even when you have the phone cranked to level 10. It puts the 7190 on par with the 6190 as the loudest phone on the market. Considering the number of complaints I see about low volume on most other models, this feature alone should impress many people.


I really like the 7190. There are certainly things about it that I would improve if I were in charge of such matters, and there are a few bugs lurking in the firmware. However, it has so far been a fairly stable phone with relatively good RF and audio characteristics. I certainly plan to keep mine, and use it as my primary phone.