- Good battery life
- very good keyboard
- No Wi-Fi
- proprietary expansion system via the Pop-Port connector
- no camera
Compared to Nokia's high-end 9500 Communicator, the 9300 Smartphone is smaller, lighter and lacks a few of its features.
Announcing the 9300 Smartphone, Nokia suggested that it has both 'beauty and brains', and is 'the best all-in-one device for users, regardless of workstyle or lifestyle'. The inference is that professionals for whom the 9500 Communicator seems bulky may prefer this new model; it may also appeal to consumers who are considering a handy mobile data device with built-in communications features. The 9300 Smartphone certainly looks small and neat next to the 9500 Communicator. The latter's 148mm by 57mm by 24mm dimensions and 222g weight is reduced to 132mm by 51mm by 21mm and 167g. By way of comparison, T-Mobile's MDA III, for example, weighs in at 210g, while O2's xda II is a slightly more pocket-friendly 190g. The reduction in size is accompanied by a different look, with the 9300 Smartphone clad in a two-tone silver livery that we find more appealing than the three-tone grey, black and silver 9500 Communicator. However, the basic premise remains the same: the 9300 Smartphone has a number pad on the front and opens up to reveal a keyboard and wide-format screen. The device is designed to work both as a data manager and a mobile phone.
The 9300 Smartphone relies on Symbian Series 40 for its phone-related functions and features. The external screen is a 128-by-128-pixel, 16-bit colour display, with a cursor and softkey buttons for navigation. The 9300 Smartphone is a tri-band GSM/GPRS phone with support for high-speed EGPRS (EDGE) connectivity, although no UK network operators have yet adopted this mode. The phone can be turned on and off independently of the data features, which are the real draw. This side of things is handled by Symbian OS 7 and Nokia's Series 80 platform, and becomes available when you open up the device in clamshell format. A 640-by-200-pixel screen occupies the upper part of the open clamshell, with QWERTY a keyboard beneath it. The screen arranges the bundled applications in groups identified by icons -- the 'home' screen is called the Desk. All the applications you'd expect are here: contact book, diary, word processor, spreadsheet, presentations manager, file manager, calculator and Web browser. A messaging tool takes care of email, SMS and faxes. There's also a voice recorder, a music player and a movie player, plus a separate telephone dialler that uses the 9300's loud and very effective speakerphone. Microsoft Office compatibility with appropriate applications extends to Office 97. On the right side of the screen is a column of four buttons, just as that found in the 9500 Communicator. These buttons allow quick access to up to four options, which vary depending on the application being used. As with the 9500 Communicator, some applications can be stretched across the full width of the screen, in which case these button-based options are not available. The lower part of the clamshell is occupied by a keyboard. This comprises a set of qwerty keys with a number row above and above that a row of wide, narrow buttons which act as shortcuts to applications. One of these is labelled 'My own' and can be customised. In addition to the keys there is a small joystick which acts as a means of navigation within and between applications. Applications generally have a menu system which is activated using a dedicated key, then navigated with the joystick, though there are also many key combination shortcuts which can be used as alternatives. A number of the keys have second functions. Nokia's PC Sync desktop software manages data sharing via a wired connection, and the package comes with both a cradle and cable. There is 80MB of built-in memory for the storing data and applications, and this is non volatile – that is, it will be retained if the battery runs completely down. There's also a MultiMedia Card slot under the battery cover that can be swapped without the need to remove the battery itself. Nokia provides a 128MB card to boost the memory quota. If you want to add peripherals, you'll have to use Nokia's proprietary Pop-Port interface. Bluetooth is built in, and we successfully paired the 9300 with a Bluetooth headset. Two notable absentees from the feature set -- both present in the 9500 Communicator -- are Wi-Fi connectivity and a camera.
The 9300 Smartphone's keyboard is remarkably good considering it's packed into such a small device. Typing was equally successful when single-finger prodding with the device sat on a desk, or two-thumb typing with it nestling in the hands. That said, data entry speeds are obviously slower than they would be with a notebook keyboard. The processor, a Texas Instruments OMAP 1510 running at 150MHz, delivered well when applications were running, but we found them a little slow to load; we noticed this most when opening our contacts database, which is admittedly rather large. Battery life was impressive. We instructed the device to play MP3 music from the MultiMedia Card continuously, and it did so for 12 hours and 42 minutes. We generally like to force the screen to stay on during this process, in order to work the battery hard, but in this case there is no 'always on' option for the screen, so we allowed it to go off after 6 minutes. Consequently the test is not really comparable to those we carry out for other mobile devices. Our real-world everyday usage test indicates that Nokia's claim of 3.5 - 4 hours of talk and 150 to 200 hours of standby time is about right. The lack of Wi-Fi and a camera, along with a smaller overall device size, are the key differentiators between the 9300 Smartphone and the 9500 Communicator. The handset-only prices are split by a hair and not really relevant when comparing the two products. If you can live without the camera and Wi-Fi, the 9300 Smartphone will definitely be easier to carry around in a pocket.