Mobile phone

21 Aug 2003

Product: Nokia 3300

Price: €370 without network subsidies

Diversity seems to be the name of the game in the mobile handset industry these days. Long gone is the simple distinction between consumer and business handsets. Instead the market has segmented into a myriad of subdivisions as mobiles increase in power and new services come on stream. No company personifies this trend more than Nokia, whose handset portfolio at present is big and getting even bigger. One of the latest additions is the Nokia 3300, which could be categorised as the ‘music phone’.

Its form is quite similar to the forthcoming N-Gage, the company’s gaming phone, in that the keypad and screen layout are horizontal. However, the 3300 has its roots a bit further back than this. The current model isn’t the first time Nokia has entered this segment. A couple of years ago it launched the 5510, which also featured an integrated MP3 player and radio. That time around the horizontal layout incorporated a full QWERTY keypad, designed to make text messaging a little bit easier. The phone didn’t last terrible long and didn’t seem to make that much of an impact.

This time around it seems that Nokia is trying to learn from its previous experiences. The 3300 is smaller than its somewhat bulky predecessor. Gone is the huge keypad, which has given way to a conventional numeric layout on the right hand side and a circular CD player-style control pad on the left. The other obvious difference is the addition of a colour screen.

While the main interest in the 3300 will no doubt be in its function as a music player, at the end of the day it’s still a phone. Does the unusual layout compromise this? In our experience it didn’t. The keypad is sufficiently conventional to make dialling and texting just as easy as it would be on a regular handset. The only hitch is the initial confusion as to which way to hold the phone. Once or twice we had it upside down while taking a call!

So what about the music? The phone comes with its own USB cable and software suite that allows you to connect it to your PC. Once you install the software and hook up the phone you can then start shipping over MP3 tracks to the phone. The software will look up all music tracks on your hard drive. They’ll then appear in its interface. Transferring tracks is relatively straightforward and involves highlighted the desired songs and click on a button to transfer.

The phone comes with 64MB of memory. Precisely how much music this will hold depends upon a number of factors, chiefly the audio quality at which MP3 tracks are recorded. In our experience it boils down to two albums at bit rates of 96Kbps or an album and a half at 128Kbps. The fact that the memory is in the form of a Multimedia memory card means that it can be changed for a bigger capacity card. It also opens the possibility of switching between cards, but this would be somewhat inconvenient given the fact that the card slot is located underneath the battery. Listening to music requires plugging in the accompanying headphones. Audio quality is good and compares well to other MP3 players we’ve tried out.

However, music isn’t the only feature of this phone. Like most phones these days, the addition of Java and a colour screen allows for a decent level of gaming. The phone’s layout is also ideally suited for this and using the control pad allowed us to amass pretty large Snake scores.

In addition to the usual SMS, MMS is also a feature, which allows for sending and receiving picture messages. POP3 email is sadly absent. Aside from the USB cable, connectivity is otherwise limited with no infrared or Bluetooth.

However, features such as these aren’t really what the phone is all about. It’s strictly a fun handset and users looking for high levels of connectivity should look elsewhere. If these aren’t a priority, it’s definitely worth some consideration. It works well as a standard phone and the addition of its music functionality allows for the possibility of just carrying one device around with you rather than two.

By Dick O’Brien