Last updated: 2008.05.01

Nokia 8890 World Phone Review

This review contains my user experience of using my Nokia 8890 world phone in United States, Hong Kong and Frankfurt. I use T-Mobile (used to be Voicestream) as the provider in the United States with a country wide plan (free calls anywhere to anywhere within the US) and roam with them in Germany. In Hong Kong I switch to a prepaid SIM card from Orange because their rates are so much cheaper.

There are two main reasons that I bought this phone, back in early 2001. First is it one of the few world phones available. (Read my explanation of world phone/global roaming here). Secondly I have a 6160 and I liked the Nokia user interface. I tried a Sony phone, and a Phillips phone before. They are just not as easy to use. So Brand loyalty worked.

2003/8/8 update: I finally switched over to a Sony Ericsson T610

2008/5/1 update:You can't believe it. I have switched phone six times by now, currently running a Verizon Treo. But on my trip to China, I pulled out the trusty 8890, pop in a local SIM card, and the phone works very well. What a classic!

User Interface

This is one phone that I see people can just pick up and use. There are six special keys on the phone. A central pair of up/down scrolling buttons. They function as, well, scrolling buttons. On the left and right there are a button on each side that is really two buttons. The top ones on each side are soft keys. Their meaning changes depending on where you are in the workflow or menu structure. The actual functions are labeled on the display. The bottom ones on each side have an actual icon on them. The left side is a green telephone. (guess - it means, dial, connect, etc). The right side is a red telephone that has a little marker on the bottom. (guess - it means hang-up, stop, etc). To dial a number then, it would be, dial the number, then hit the green button, right? and it works.

The more advanced but useful functions are activited by holding a button down for longer than a split second. For example, voice dialing is initated (as an option) by holding down the right top button (soft labelled "name") for a little time. Make sense? Hold down "name" for a while, and you get voice dialing by "name".

Summary - Pros

  • This phone is just too cool looking with the brush alumium finished body
  • 3.2 oz according to the spec, 3.3 oz according to my postage machine.
  • bright blue backlight is really bright, I used it as a flash light once or twice
  • Voice tag (voice dialing) is very useful when I am driving or walking -- tip -- if you are using the headset, you can start voice dialing by pressing and holding the "anser/hangup" button
  • Infrared port -- now I can connect my palm pilot or my laptop to the net without wires, literally
  • While travelling, I use my phone as the alarm clock. You can switch the phone off and the alarm still works. In fact after the alarm goes off, it asked you if you want to turn the phone on. Nice touch.
  • I like the Nokia user interface design.

Summary - Cons

  • No matter what people say, the keypad is a little on the small side. (That's why voice tag is useful). This is becaues the keys are little bars instead of round or oval buttons. Now -- It is possible that with the little bars it is harder to press the wrong key by default.
  • Putting a call on mute is NOT the default action on the right button. You have to do:
    option : up: mute
    The default button is to put the call on hold.
  • No web browser
  • of course, price. Although you get a better deal in Hong Kong, and it is a little cheaper now, since the latest world phone is the Sony/Ericsson T86i with a color screen.
  • I continue to have problem with the display. According to my dealer it is a known problem. So the display blanks out now and then. I had the same problem with my old Nokia 6160 as well. I think this is because they insist on using plastic on the top of the phone above the LCD. (See picture -- the black area on top of the phone). I had it fixed once and I now get the problem once a month or so.
  • The display is "broken" yet again -- it tend to happen when it is under some pressure if I put it in my laptop bag, this time I had it fixed at a "Club Nokia" place in Frankfurt, for free.

The Famous Screen Blanking Problem

The 8890, like the 6160, have a problem with the display LCD getting loose, breaking contact with the circuit board and the display fading out over time. There are good instructions else where (see the list below) on how to fix this. One thing that I observe, from the guy in Frankfurt fixing mine in under 1 minute, is that you do not need to completely disassemble the phone to get to the padding. You just need to remove the battery, remove the anntenna assembly, and get to the four screws in the back (two under the antenna assembly, two behind the battery). See below

Superglue repair

updated 2003.07.15

I dropped my phone a few times and each time it must have landed on the same spot, on its' head. I found that the loudspeaker is no longer working because the top front part of the phone is loose. Turned out one of the two screws behind the antenna assemble that holds the front of the phone to the body is broken. More precisely, the hold/recepticle that the screws go into, which is a metal thread in a plastic assembly broke off. The loudspeaker makes electrical contact with the PCB by pressure. I superglued the screw hole back, held it down to set with a mini clamp, and it now works.

Infra Red Communication (with Palm Pilot)

To enable IR, menu 9.

On Palm -- add new connection and add new Network. Best instruction can be found here.

One of the best use of this connection is to do AOL IM chatting with the palm. You can download the Palm Pilot AOM IM cient from AOL.

Infra Red Communication with Windows 2000

You need to download the modem driver from Nokia. Install the modem driver so that the IR port appears as a modem on your windows 2000 machine. Configure the modem by setting the modem init string to : AT&F+CBST=71,0,1;&W

Create a new network/dialup connection, set the phone number to +1913-244-0821, user id set to your VoiceStream phone number, and password set to blank.

These instructions can be found at the GSM Info center, look under VoiceStream and VS ISDN.

Writing Emails

Use the # key to switch between T9 input and normal text input, to enter words that you know T9 will not picked up, like email addresses.

Send the email to "500". The format of the email has to be email address, a space, then the body. Note that on the 8890, the Option/Save command save a copy of the email to the outbox, not save it for later editing. Each time you hit save you creates a new message for sending.

Receiving Emails

your email is either or better still, register at and get a user name that is easier to remember, i.e. NOTE: Switch on your phone and when you register, they send your password to your phone -- cool!

International Roaming and Dialing

Call them to enable international dialing (and roaming) -- they have to email international department or something, takes 24 to 48 hours?

SIM Card Not Found Problem

Well, my Hong Kong Orange SIM card works, my Germany DT SIM card works, but the United States Voicestream SIM card does not fit the phone very well. I have to insert an extra piece of plastic to push the SIM card against the contacts so that it can be read. Does this mean that the Voicestream cards are thinning then everyone elses?

Buying in Hong Kong

I bought mine from "Telecom Telecom" in Tsim Sha Tsui area of Kowloon. The full address is:

Shop B, G/F, 39 Carnarvon Road, Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon

This place has great service. When I purchased the phone, I wanted to use it right away since I was only there for a few days. The owner lent me a charged battery while he charged mine, and I dropped back to pick up my own battery the next day. I also needed to fix my display screen after 6 months of rough use. They fixed it in the shop in four hours. In fact they offer to fix it while I wait if I go at a non busy time, but I chose to just leave the phone for a few hours during the day time.

Misc GSM tricks

To get to the IMEI (International Mobile Equipment Identity), i.e. he serial number of 15 Digits of your mobile, enter *#06# . It should also be on a sticker somewhere on your phone.

Nokia Phone Numbering Scheme

xx90 -- world phone: GSM + North American GSM, e.g. 8890
xx30 -- GSM except North American -- EGSM900/EGSM1800, e.g. 3330
xx50 -- GSM except North American -- EGSM900/EGSM1800, e.g. 8850
xx65 -- North American phones, AMPS/TDMA800/TDMA1900 ATT Network, e.g. 6165
xx85 -- North American phones, AMPS/TDMA800/TDMA1900 ?? Verizon network

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