Nokia 6310: sore thumbs

Review What Mobile first previewed the 6310 in April 2001, and it was expected at the end of last year. After all the software issues that plagued the 6210 (every owner I know needed a software upgrade) I think we can forgive Nokia for not rushing this model out.

Let's just hope they've got it right this time. In fairness I used the phone for ten days and it didn't crash once. By the time you read this it should be available on Vodafone and BT Cellnet for £150 with a contract.

The main talking point about the 6310 is its Bluetooth capability, allowing a wireless connection to a PC or other device without a line of sight. For more on this see What is Bluetooth? and Bluetooth Devices. Another innovative feature is the virtual wallet, which allows you to store credit card details securely on the phone.

Additional key features include a WAP 1.2.1 browser, GPRS, HSCSD, voice recorder, and timed profiles. As you'd expect from a Nokia phone, it also has an alarm clock, calculator, calendar, currency converter, T9 predictive text, vibrate alert, stopwatch, countdown timer, good games and downloadable ring tones and graphics.

As you would expect from a business phone, the 6310 looks stylish rather than funky. Nokia has attempted to update the dreary 6210 and give it a fresher look. At 129x47x17mm and 111g, it's slightly smaller and lighter than its predecessor, but you can barely notice the difference. The soft keys, scroll keys and start/end call keys are separated from the main keypad. The model I saw was a brushed golden beige colour. The phone will also available in black and bronze.

The supplied super-slim Li-Polymer battery gives a quoted talk time of up to five and a half hours and standby time of up to 18 days. Those are impressive figures, and pretty realistic-I used the phone for a whole week before having to recharge. On the idle screen there are no less than seven bars to depict signal strength and battery power. Some might say seven is a bit much but it does give an accurate reflection of how the phone's faring.

Thumbs down

It's official - Nokia phones give you sore thumbs. I think it's about time Nokia developed some kind of joystick/jog-dial for more comfortable menu navigation, especially after the success of the roller key on the 7110. It's a pain when you're constantly pressing buttons to scroll through long lists. The number buttons on the 6310 are a bit cramped together and do not protrude enough. I reckon that trying to write a text message with your eyes closed is a good test of a phone's usability. Using touch alone it's difficult to discern individual buttons on this phone.

Extra, Extra. Read all about it

Some of the most useful features on this phone can be found under the sub-menu Extras. First up is a voice recorder. This acts like a dictaphone and allows you to record up to three minutes of speech. You can save as many different recordings as you like within the three minutes. Each one is date stamped and can be assigned a name of up to 14 characters. You can even assign an alarm to a particular recording, so at a pre-defined time the alert tone sounds and you're offered the chance to play it back. It's a novel way of saving yourself reminders, and quicker and easier than writing a text memo.

Next is an item called 'Wallet', which surprisingly enough acts as a virtual wallet. It's basically a password-protected area that allows you to store credit card details. The theory goes that whilst shopping or paying bills over WAP (as you do), if you want to buy something and are asked for credit card details, you don't have to spend time and money typing them in.

You just access your 'wallet' and use the data to complete the purchase. There's room to store details of up to five credit cards. For each one you can input not just card details, such as holder's name, card number and expiry date, but also a billing address and a delivery address. You can also store personal notes in this secure area.

Also in Extras is Voice commands, which allows you to assign a voice activation tag to five menu features- Profiles; Voice mailbox; Infra red; Voice recorder; Call Register. So you can record a voice tag saying 'Silent', for example, to switch to this profile. To activate this feature you press and hold the right soft key, then say the voice tag. It's a pity you can't choose for yourself which menu items to assign a voice command to. Voice commands cannot be activated whilst a GPRS connection is sending or receiving data. Up to 10 numbers in the phonebook can be assigned voice tags which are activated in the same way.

Finally in Extras there's a countdown timer, which is handy for boiling an egg, and a stopwatch that allows split timing, which is handy for, er, boiling two eggs.

The 6310 is high-speed data compatible, supporting HSCSD and GPRS, giving download speeds of up to 28.8Kbps in HSCSD mode, or up to 56Kbps in GPRS mode. The GPRS data runs at one slot transmit and three receive or two in each direction, which I'm reliably told is class 4.

The WAP browser is extremely user-friendly. Four lines of text can be viewed on screen. Pressing the green soft key whilst on a link takes you directly to that page. Up to 25 bookmarks can be stored. Simply press options/add bookmark whilst viewing the relevant page.

There are various enhanced features available through the 1.2.1 browser. Like a PC it supports cookies, which means that when you revisit a WAP page it will remember relevant information, eg. a password or user name. If your SIM card is GPRS enabled you should be able to make voice calls without terminating the WAP connection. Business cards and calendar appointments can also be downloaded into the phone's memory direct from a WAP site.

Under the menu item 'call register' there are useful counters which allow you to keep tabs on internet usage. A GPRS data counter records how much data has been sent and received in your last session and on the phone in total. This is helpful because using GPRS you are charged for how much information you download, not how much time you spend online. A connection timer also tells you the duration spent online, in your last session and in total.

There are five profiles to choose from, allowing you to quickly change the audio settings if you switch environment. These are General, Silent, Meeting, Outdoor and Pager. You can quickly access the list and change profile by pressing the standby button at the top of the phone, rather than going into the menu system.

The 6310 adds a new dimension to these profiles with the introduction of a timer. You can set a profile to end at a certain time, for example if you know a meeting is going to last an hour you can set Meeting mode to expire after this time. This is a really innovative feature because it's easy to forget you've switched profiles and miss calls.

The 6310 has a huge memory. In addition to the 90 names and numbers that can be stored on a SIM card, there is space for 500 names in the phonebook. Each entry can be allocated three numbers, plus an email, web and postal address. Text addicts will be more than satisfied with the 150 text message or 50 picture message capacity. These can be archived into different folders that can be personally named. The calendar function has room for 100 notes- 'Meeting' 'Call' or 'Birthday' can be allocated an alarm, 'Memo' cannot. There's space for a further 30 notes in the To-do list.

Games are good but there's nothing particularly new. Snake II and Pairs II survive from the 6210, also included are Space Impact and Bumper which both appeared on the Nokia 3330. The first is a classic space invaders game in the Defender mould, you control a space craft and have to shoot down alien ships through levels of increasing difficulty. Bumper is a very playable pinball game where you control the flippers on a virtual pinball machine. True to life you can even nudge the table left or right. Both games are fun and help to while away tube journeys. Under the Games menu there's a 'Games services' option, selecting this takes you directly to the WAP pages of Club Nokia, which gives members the option to download game extras, such as new levels for Space Impact and different style tables for Bumper.

Text messaging is well supported with T9 predictive text input, you can also attach picture messages. The ten images stored on the phone are pretty dull so my advice is to get on the Internet and download some more. There are 35 ring tones, all pretty standard. Again you can download up to ten more.

Bluetooth

Infra-red has been the standard way to link mobiles to laptops for some time. Time is up and it is being superseded by Bluetooth.

Marconi described radio as being like the telegraph 'a system where you put signals into one end of a cable and the come out the other end' but without the cable. Bluetooth is also a wireless cable replacement. It has the huge advantage over infra red in that you don't have to line the phone up with the computer or PDA to get it working. The phone can stay in your pocket while you surf the net from the top deck of a bus. The phone you use might also be in the pocket of the person in the next seat-someone who doesn't even know you let alone want to pay your phone charges. To stop this happening you have to type a PIN into the phone and the computer to get them to bond.

When using the 6310 with a Socket Bluetooth card in a Compaq iPaq we had problems getting bonding to work. To bond you have to tell one end to announce its presence (discoverable in the jargon) and the other end to look for any discoverable Bluetooth devices. Both ends then ask for the passkey. Our problems were at the Compaq end.

There are also different types of bonding. You might want to have a Bluetooth car kit, a portable hands-free and PDA. With a single point device you have to choose between them, with a multi point device you can have more than one connection at a time. The 6310 is single point. This will not be a problem until there are lots of devices and with Bluetooth taking off horribly slowly the 6310 is likely to be superseded by then.

The Pama Bluetooth Carkit costs £299 from Carphone Warehouse. If you want to use it with a Nokia 6310, you need to make sure you get the Nokia version, as there is more than one version of Bluetooth around. Or you could try the HDW-1 wireless headset. It costs about £200 and fits snugly round your ear.

Then there's the Toshiba Bluetooth SD card for a Palm m505. With this you could then connect your Palm to a 6310. TDK has a number of Bluetooth devices, a USB adaptor and PC card for connecting computers, BluePaq to iPaqs, Blue5 for Palm 5s and BlueM for Palm M devices. There's always the Compaq iPaq 3870. Anato is making a pen which in theory would allow you to handwrite text messages.

IXI is planning Bluetooth devices including PDAs and cameras.For the seriously rich: the Sony DCRPC120 is a £1300 Bluetooth video camera.

For buying info see Store 21 at www.expansys.com or BluetoothUnplugged.com

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