The fast-paced evolution of smart phones has created high expectations among mobile aficionados, who view each new release with a critical eye. Although Nokia's 3230 falls short of some of these lofty standards, it has much to offer the average user. "Look on my screen, ye mighty, and despair", bellows the 3230 when you glance upon it for the first time. The phone is striking for the way its 176 x 208-pixel, 65K screen dominates the phone, forcing the navigation and number keys to cower in its wake. While the LCD is sharp and lush -- especially when playing one of the three impressively rendered games -- the poor old keypad has been a bit neglected. The navigation keys above the number pad, including a small joystick, are packed in so tightly that users with large hands may require a pair of tweezers to make a phone call. Similarly, the number keys, being squished at the bottom of the phone, must be pressed with care, and furious texting may cause some serious thumb cramps.
Overall, the phone is solid and slick, although a little on the heavy side at 110 grams. Like an amnesia-stricken fashionista, the 3230 is stylish but lacks memory. Internal memory is a surprisingly small 6MB, and the included 32MB RS-MMC card also comes up a little short. With competitors like the Samsung D500 offering a spacious 92MB, it's surprising that Nokia has chosen to scrimp on the space.
One plus relating to memory is the fact that the MMC card can be removed without having to switch off the phone. That's if you can manage to remove the stubborn battery cover without assistance, a task which, as with a lot of Nokia phones, feels suspiciously like an intelligence test.
As with its fellow megapixel phone, the Nokia 7610, the 3230 features the way-too-cutely named "muvee" editor, which allows users to add sound clips, transitions and styles to their movie clips. Additional styles such as "romance" and "sci-fi" can be downloaded from the Nokia Web site. Taking advantage of the ability to record up to an hour of video, it's a fun inclusion that takes personalisation to a new level.
The Connection Wizard, fast becoming a standard smart phone feature, allows pain-free access to e-mail and GPRS. Downloading add-ons and sending files worked a treat, with minimal delays and no drop-outs.
PTT, or push-to-talk, is one of the more exciting recent developments in mobile phones, and it's great to see it included in the 3230. While it may take some effort to configure initially, the thrill of being able to use your phone as a long-range walkie-talkie is worth the fuss. One puzzling feature of the 3230 is the fact that a loud beep precedes every incoming phone ring and message tone. Perhaps the team at Nokia felt it necessary to give advance warning of the need to dive into your bag and scramble for the phone, but that discordant beep will negate the cool factor of having the latest Top 40 ringtone.
Menu navigation can be slow-going, with applications often taking several seconds to load. Delays are often a necessary evil of feature-packed Symbian phones, but the wait is quite noticeable for this model. The phone also takes approximately a minute to spring to life when switched on, and photos taken at 1.2 megapixel resolution will keep you waiting for several seconds while they are saved.
Something to be aware of if you're trying to squeeze out every last drop of battery juice is the need to exit from every application after using it. Features like the power-hungry camera will languish in the background if not shut down, and will suck the life from the battery very swiftly. Assuming you keep a tight leash on your applications, the battery should keep the 3230 alive for 2-3 days between charges.
Sound is a mixed affair - while the radio tuned in to stations easily and sounded impressive, MP3 playback was on the shonky side, and louder tones tended to distort at high volumes.
While the 3230 does disappoint in some areas, such as sound quality, an awkward keypad, and that mysterious pre-ring beep, it is nevertheless a good choice for those in search of a lot of features without the heart-stopping price of a fuly-fledged PDA phone.
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