Original URL: https://www.theregister.co.uk/2005/08/05/review_nokia_3230/

Nokia 3230 smart phone

Business or pleasure?

By Trusted Reviews

Posted in Personal Tech, 5th August 2005 11:30 GMT

Review Whereas a few years ago Nokia was big enough to see off the likes of Ericsson and Siemens, it's not quite the giant it once. Part of the reason for that is the fact it's made some odd decidedly odd handset design choices in recent years. It let Sony Ericsson overtake on styling, its early 3G offerings misfired and its more quirky designs rarely convinced, writes Benny Har-Even.

Nokia 3230This brings us to the 3230, a phone that seems to have something of an identity problem. It's a candy-bar handset, with an angular top half, curved button area, and a grey and silver two-tone finish. It weighs 110g, so while it's not as thin as Motorola's Razr V3, it's not thick either. It has a smart business-like look and runs the Series 60 version of the Symbian operating system. Yet its feature list contains some decidedly non-business applications, which left me a tad confused as to how to take this phone.

The handset is a standard 2.5G phone with tri-band coverage with GPRS so it makes sense there's only a single camera on the back. This has a resolution of 1.2 megapixels rather than the now more common 1.3 megapixels. All this means is that maximum resolution pictures are 1280 x 960 rather than 1280 x 1024. The former is actually a standard 4:3 resolution, though I'm not sure why Nokia has gone for one and not the other. Indeed Nokia itself seems a bit confused, as on its site we found a picture of the 3230 showing a 1.3 megapixel label, which it clearly isn't.

There's no built in flash, but there is one as available as an accessory, though I can't imagine that anyone who's into taking pictures with their phone that much wouldn't just go for a phone with a flash in the first place.

The photo results aren't too bad in outdoor light, though in bright sunlight the highlights are very overblown. Indoors, pictures also showed a criss-cross line pattern but then again it was only a picture of a kettle, so no great loss.

The long top-half gives the impression that the screen is extra large but in fact the 176 x 208 resolution is no bigger than previous Series 60 phones. It's bright enough to be viewed outside though the display does dim rather quickly and there's no way to adjust this.

The power button is at the very top of the phone. Press this once and you get a menu that gives you the option to power off, select a profile or lock the keypad. There's no auto lock function that I could find though, which is something of an omission for a phone with an exposed keypad - it's a pain that it has to be done manually every time.

While Nokia's menu system is well known for its ease of use, it actually took me a while to get used to it, as I'm very used to Sony Ericsson phones. Indeed, I've never actually owned a Nokia mobile phone myself, though I did get one for my better half once. The joystick is used to navigate around the icons but once inside some options you then need to move the joystick to the right to get to tabs containing other options. It makes sense once you realise this but if you don't know this you could find yourself hunting round for options in frustration.

Nokia 3230

However, what really ruined navigation for me straight away are the keys. The central joystick isn't large, but the seven keys round it are simply far too small to be used comfortably. Not only that but there's a plastic feel to the keys that totally destroys the sense that this could be a classy choice of phone. It's not badly made, but small plastic keys aren't what you want from a professional tool.

Additionally, the labels on the keys aren't directly positioned above the soft keys they apply to. This is worse than counter-intuitive - it's actually misleading. This meant that I was at first constantly pressing the wrong buttons. Below the soft keys are two dedicated keys for starting and ending calls - a doubling up that Sony Ericsson seems to manage without - with the soft keys used for the same function. The problem is that Nokia has defaulted the left soft key for the camera.

The reason for this is probably that the button at the side is dedicated to activating the Push-to-Talk function. Why this is a potentially great technology it's not yet available in the UK so as it stands it's a wasted key. Being able to programme this key would solve this issue, but it's not possible; a real shame. The right soft key, however, accesses a list of programmable shortcuts to frequently used applications. Old Symbian hands will be able to change the soft keys, of course.

One thing that I found quite difficult to get used to is the fact that if you hit the centre joystick, you're not taken to the menu but instead go into Contacts. Instead, the 3230 has a dedicated menu key on the left-hand side. That said, after a while I got used to this arrangement. Pulling down on the joystick also brings up the contacts menu, while pushing up activates the camera. To the right, displays the calendar, while to the left launches a blank text. One odd key on the far right of the joystick is the labelled with a pen - the edit key. This is used to turn Predictive text on and off and to insert a symbol. This is fine but the key only has a function when in text mode, and it seems something of a waste to dedicate a key to it.

The menus on the phone consist of fairly dull icons - I would have expected something a bit more jazzy for a new phone. The phone also seemed to be a tad more sluggish than I would have liked.

Nokia 3230

As I implied earlier the list of applications included seems more geared towards entertainment and fun though you can get many useful business applications for the Series 60 OS separately. Three games are included, two of which are good fun. Agent V in particular is noteworthy as it overlays Tron-like 3D images over the camera making your targets appear as if there really in there - it's really very cool. Muvee is another fun application that automatically mixes images and videos on the phone to create mini movies complete with effects and music. It's great fun at first but you'll get bored after a while. I've also never seen a image and video editor actually on a phone itself - enabling you to perform limited cropping, rotating and cutting your content without a PC.

Despite the relatively slender housing there's an integrated FM tuner included though you have to use the bundled headphones as they act as the aerial. The application is called Visual Radio, which is intended to supply synchronized images to the music, but it requires station support that hasn't arrived yet in the UK. It's listed as coming soon to Virgin Radio. Sound quality was decent enough but I had to move outside to get most stations, and the tuner function didn't pick up stations automatically - I had to enter the frequency manually.

Nokia 3230

The 3230 also has features that I've never seen before called Presence and Positioning. The former offers Messaging-like awareness status of friends while the later offers the ability to track your phone down via triangulation - a kind of GPS-lite. Neither is supported currently on UK networks, however, so I couldn't test them.

The 3230 offers a claimed talk-time of four hours, a standby time of 150 hours, and full charging in and hour and a half. Battery life was just about reasonable and I had to charge every second day or more frequently with heavy use - call quality was fine. There's 6MB of internal memory and the phone uses hot-swappable RS-MMC cards for extra storage, with a 32MB card provided.

Bluetooth is included and I was able to pair with my Motorola HS850 without difficulty. However, to get it to answer calls automatically when I opened it, as I do with my V800, I had to tell the phone to connect to the headset automatically without prompting, even after pairing. This is an extra step that isn't necessary with Sony Ericsson phones, and seems redundant to me.

I have to admit that my initial scorn for the 3230 was worn down by the wealth of features. However, thanks to the Series 60 OS, it can be used as a serious tool and applications such as Navicore's GPS system could be used with it. However, some of the included applications have only novelty value, and others are not supported in the UK. There's also no getting away from the fact that the phone looks and feels more like a toy than a tool. This is probably why it's already available for free on contract form Vodafone and O2. _

Nokia 3230


If you ignore the smart-phone tag, the 3230 impresses as a fun 2.5G phone with reasonable battery life and a wealth of features. On that basis it's worth considering especially as it's available on contract for free. However, as a business phone it falls short - the keys are far too small and it just doesn't feel like a quality product.

Review by

Nokia 3230
Rating 70%
Price £220 SIM-free; from £0 on contract
More info The Nokia 3230 site

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