Nokia 6310i

Review The 6310i is the new top-notch business phone from Nokia, with Bluetooth, GPRS and Java. It’s £100 with a contract, £300 without, and replaces the 6310, which has only been out for a brief time.

At 111g with the supplied ultra slim battery and 129x47x17mm it looks and feels just like its predecessor, except the green screen and the keypad both now light up faintly blue. It’s actually the same screen as earlier Nokias but with blue LED backlights. Nokia quotes a talktime of 3-6hrs or 17 days standby.

WAP is version 1.2.1. The spec for the phone claims email, but it doesn’t have a pop3 email client, just a clever form of SMS that won’t work on UK networks. This all rather smacks of playing catch-up, as the Ericsson R520 had all this nearly a year ago, plus real pop3 email. What’s more, the addition of a ‘fake’ email option has added to the button presses to read a text message.

The 6310 and 6310i have both done away with the infuriating Nokia problem whereby you had to choose between phone or SIM memory and couldn’t search both at the same time.

If you are upgrading and have had your SIM for a long time, watch out when you SIM-swap, as recent Nokias only support 3V SIMs. Put an old SIM in the new phone and it won’t recognize it. This means you can’t even copy the contacts out of the old one when your service provider sends you a new SIM. This is a good reason to check out the phonebook backup service from Carphone Warehouse, or indeed buy your own PhoneFile Pro phonebook backup software complete with SIM card reader, from www.pipistrel.com.

The Nokia 6310i supports T9, which can be toggled on and off with a double tap on #. It is usually set to on, but defaults to off in WAP. The WAP browser comes with two bookmarks already set, one for 6310i software downloads and one for Club Nokia.

The phonebook is comprehensive, but not intrusive. When you add a contact it only asks for the name and number, but if you want, you can save up to five names and four items of text (email address, web site, postal address and a note). You can also add a voice tag to ten names, and associate ring tones and icons with caller groups, as with most recent Nokias.

The downloadable ring tone options are classic Nokia. Combined with GPRS and a Club Nokia account it’s very tempting to spend a fortune. There are 35 standard ring tones and space for ten downloads. They’re not polyphonic.

The phone comes in three different colour schemes, Mistral Beige, Jet Black and Lightning Silver, aka sandy, black and silver. The letters and numbers on the buttons have been changed from hard to read black to easy on the eye white, a tiny change that makes a huge difference to the ease of use.

The ergonomics are generally good. The phone is big enough to give a comfortable distance from ear to mouth and the keys are easy to press. You can’t change the covers but there is a little panel below the 0 key that can be personalised and swapped in.
The phone has the usual good Nokia games—Snake II and Space Impact as well as the pinball game, Bumper. You can download levels and upload high scores if you are a member of Club Nokia. You can also download whole games for the first time. As a demonstration there is a version of the Racket game that was almost unbeatable on the 7110, which is still as difficult.

It’s well worth joining Club Nokia just to get a year’s free tech support and the ability to send WAP settings over the air by text message. But the best thing is Java, which means when you get bored with a game you can download another. The networks love this because it’s a source of revenue, unlike Snake. Download a new hole for your golf game and they make a few pence. Multiple that by 10 million people and it’s worth having.

There must be other uses for Java apart from downloadable games. All those I’ve heard, such as expenses calculator, sound very made-up-in-a-marketing-meeting—things like lottery predictors, and acupuncture guides. Unfortunately there is no over the air option for downloading games, something you’ll find on the Motorola A008 or Siemens SL45i.
The call register is excellent as ever, listing ten missed and received calls and 20 outgoing calls, and if you miss a call, it is listed on screen until you check the number.

The option to send email is at first exciting. I assumed it was full pop3 email as found on the Sony CMD-Z5 two years ago. It isn’t, it’s just a way of using an SMS to Email gateway—if your network happens to have one, which if you are reading this in your native language is highly unlikely. All it is really is a way of sending a text message.

This is a shame, because GPRS and pop3 email are made for one another. A system which checks your email every five minutes and only costs fractions of a penny to do so unless there is mail to read, is excellent. Most Ericssons do it, the Motorola A008 does it and the Blackberry makes its living out of it. You can of course link to a Bluetooth PDA and do the email on that.

There are however some problems here. When you set up a Bluetooth link on an Ericsson phone you can initiate it from either the phone or the PDA. The 6310i (and its predecessor) can’t do this. You can initiate a link to something like a car kit or headset, and it works with the Ericsson Bluetooth headset, but you can’t initiate a link with a non audio device. This means you can’t print text messages to a Bluetooth printer, and you have to initiate the paring from the PDA. Even when you do this you get some messages saying the connection has failed. Then when you ‘dial’ from the PDA it asks a couple of times if you really do want to pair and in the end it gives up asking and just does it.

This is slightly more successful than my experience with the 6310, which also worked in the end, but I can’t be sure if this was easier because I’d done it before, or because the network has become more tolerant over time, or because I had newer drivers for the Socket Bluetooth card, or because Nokia has improved the Bluetooth handling. It still asks for a pairing every time the iPaq wants to do it and so is pointless for seamless mail.

Suite dreams

With the 6310i you get a CD with a suite of PC programs which lets you make backups of data and settings. There’s a WAP manager which lets you edit your bookmarks and settings using a proper keyboard and is great for using the web to find WAP addresses and then pipe them into the phone.

A phone settings editor, contacts and calendar sync graphics editor and ring tone composer are also on the supplied disk. It doesn’t yet have a program to help you install Java applications, but that is promised.

It has a good selection of optional accessories including a Bluetooth headset and the loop set that allows you to use the phone with a suitable hearing aid. There’s a car kit, a Bluetooth PC card and an RS232 lead, which is a bit three years ago. Most notebook manufacturers expect USB, which is much, much neater. It was a mistake not to have USB on the 9210 a year ago; this is something Nokia should have got right by now.

So is the 6310i the phone to buy? If you already have one of its predecessors and a set of accessories, particularly a car kit, it’s hard to make a case against. Nokia has an excellent record on backward car kit compatibility; you could upgrade to this even from a 5110.

If you are starting with a clean sheet, on the other hand, the Ericsson T68 is a lot cuter and has POP3 email and fancier accessories, including a Bluetooth headset and (eventually) a USB cable. It's a tough call and comes down to personal choice.

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