It was upgrade time again for me recently. The obligatory phone call came from my mobile phone provider. Just like last year the bloke on the other end of the line was there to make me think he was doing me a favour comparable to offering me his first born, when in fact he was trying his damnedest to keep me with my existing network with the promise of a little sweetener for my trouble.
Free phones from your provider can be something of a poisoned chalice. Last year I got palmed off with the cellular equivalent of a Lada that was so bad I actually splashed out my own cash to get a model that was actually usable (for the interested the bad phone was a Sagem, the good one was a Blackberry).
This year after I had chastised said bloke on phone for last year’s crap offering. We settled down to discuss what I was going to get this year. The Motorola models on offer were appealing if only cos they look sexy but stories of suspect build quality put me off. The option of another Blackberry was out because they wanted money (not that I’m tight mind…) for the privilege. I ended up settling on the Nokia 6320i, not the latest model in the range but one that will still cost you the better part of ?100 if you buy it outright and the feature set looked half way impressive.
If you’re interested in the aesthetic quality of the phone you carry then this one doesn’t score that highly. It’s got that staid somewhat frumpy look that seems to have adorned a lot of the Nokia range up until recently. Granted the buttons have been squared off stylishly and there is the centre-mounted joystick that is commonplace these days but there’s nothing radical or remotely pretty about it. If anything it feels slightly cheap and the silver finish which looks so good in photos doesn’t cut the muster in the flesh.
Under the hood however it’s packing quite a hefty set of features. For starters the screen has been updated from the previous models coming in at 208 x 208 pixels, that feels quite “roomy” for a mobile phone. The usual scrunched up collection of icons onscreen is replaced by a well spaced layout that will accommodate those people who like to add lots of different bolt on packages later. The internal memory is provided by a 32Mb MMC card, for the average user this should be enough but for the “power users” out there you can take this memory up to 512Mb.
On first glance this might seem like a ridiculous amount of memory to be packing in a phone but when you see what else the phone can actually do then it does become somewhat more understandable. You see this phone not only boasts a 1.3 mega pixel camera but it also boasts a video recorder which memory permitting can record for up to an hour. How many people are going to take advantage of this I don’t know. Videos of your pissed mates in the pub don’t usually have that kind of longevity.
In terms of quality the camera is something of a revelation. I took photos and recorded film and both were of impressive quality. At its highest resolution the phone can chuck out images of 1024 x 768 dpi. And the films could stand been blown up to full screen size (21” in this case) with only moderate loss of quality. The phone also comes with a host of music related features, the FM radio is nothing new and is of reasonable quality although getting a signal was a bit tricky at times (your mileage may vary of course). The onboard music player comes armed with the ability to play both MP3’s and AAC files. Sound quality on both radio and player is reasonable considering the form factor (it’s a bit metallic but I can forgive this, it’s a phone after all) and you can push sound through the loudspeaker, the included headphones or Bluetooth devices.
The sound quality of the phone when it’s being used for taking calls however is as good as you could expect from Nokia. The speakerphone feature (which is one thing I always loved about this brand) provides you with a clear and clean sound that can be heard while you are driving (phone was in the centre console I just pressed the answer button, no slapped wrists here).
As a web handling device it supports the new EDGE high speed data format. I’m told this is just below 3G in terms of transfer speeds but in all honesty I couldn’t really tell the difference (they’re all painfully slow). The phone also supports email but after the Blackberry using it on this phone just doesn’t feel right and it wasn’t easy to setup either. For the texting generation this phone offers nothing new but the buttons seem to cater for those with lightning fast thumbs. The T9 predictive option of course means you can as always respond very quickly.
The real jaw dropper for me was the synchronisation features. PC users of course will be used to the bells and whistles integration through Bluetooth but this is the first phone I have owned which talks well with a Macintosh. Bluetooth pairing means I can dump files back and forth from the phone while its still in my bag (sheer novelty of course). Alas there is no voice gateway option for the Mac as of yet but using third party software I could send text messages from my laptop while the Nokia was in my bag.
One thing I did like in the novelty stakes was dumping MIDI files to the phone and hearing them as ringtones (I could make my own if I so desired). Speaking of ringtones the 6320i as you would expect supports a wide range of formats (AAC, MP3, MP4, AMR, True Tones (WB-AMR), MIDI). So annoying people on the bus is still an option.
So as you can gather this phone really has got the features (and I’ve not even mentioned the custom graphics, changeable faceplates, push to talk “walkie talkie” function the JAVA based games, the voice recorder function).
Yet for some reason this phone didn’t blow me away like it should have done. I think in this instance the problem was down to the fact that the phone simply offered too much. Most phones now have an identity, a leaning towards a certain area of functionality (for example Blackberry’s are very tech based, Motorola’s however go for a fashionable image branding). Yet this phone doesn’t seem sure where its appeal should lie, as a result using it takes some getting used to, navigation can quite frankly be a pig.
The traditional Nokia menu method that is usually the best system you could hope for is suddenly overburdened with all these features. You find yourself lost in a maze of menus and sub menus and sub folders and the vaunted ease of use factor is lost on you. And that my friends is the killer, the steep learning curve for me far outweighs the joyous bounty of hearing Bizarre Love Triangle as my ringtone or playing Speed Racer when I should be doing something constructive (ahem…like watching Big Brother?).
Undeniably you get a lot of phone for your money but in the end this is the old 6320 model with a lot of bells and whistles bolted on for good measure. If it’s a freebie that you get offered at upgrade time then you could do a hell of a lot worse but if you are parting with cash for something like this you might want to have a look around and see what the competition have got on offer.