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Spillikins #4. Time for Nokia and…
Have you ever noticed the times when life seems to throw things and events at you one wave after another? When it’s just about time to leave for vacation, out of nowhere, you get a boatload of work that needs to be done, but the bad news is that you’re not in the right mood to do it whatsoever. For me, this period (last month to be precise) has been marked by a multitude, a slew, call it however you please, of phones rushing into my hands; interestingly, all from one source. A couple of week ago Sony Ericsson kept me busy for a while, then I had my hands full again, courtesy of Samsung, and now a pile of boxes of Nokia-branded phones is by my door. So, to make things at least a bit less one-sided, I’m shuffling these bunches of handsets – let another round of spillikins begin.
Without further ado, straight to the chase – phones. Lots and lots of phones. Very different ones at that. To be precise, I have around two dozens of them, some of which haven’t been announced as yet. By the way, one of these “secret” handsets seems to have caught the fancy of my little daughter – she has already found out how to unlock the display and is happily tossing icons around the screen at the moment; and she is really into it. Truly, the future has “touchscreen” written all over it, no matter what you feel about them – kids dig them and soar through touchscreen-enabled phones after several minutes of hands-on, and then seem befuddled once they come across some handset that doesn’t have a touch-sensitive display. They don’t care about explanations, and prefer to feel offended about me giving them some “toys” instead of “real” phones that adults use. Well, there is probably one exception – music-minded phones, that’s where they like to have a music box with some keys under they fingertips (press and button, listen to a tune, move on).
Samsung F400 B&O. Another wunderkind from Bang&Olufsen and Samsung. While design-savvy solutions never manage to appeal to the average consumer, the F400-esque phones are more tailored to the needs of an ordinary man. This phone enjoys dual-slider action and Samsung’s trademark IcePower amplifier, though, the truth be told, they have been stuffing it into almost every phone of late, so it’s not where the F400’s flavor is. Sliding the phone down, you will reveal its loudspeakers – they say B&O’s audio-designers have adjusted them in a way to deliver crystal clear sound. Well, without all this fuss, I can say with all due confidence that the F400 does a good job on this front, probably on a par with Nokia’s solutions armed with two loudspeakers. But just for the sake of it, I put the F400 up against the Nokia 6233, whose sounding, in my humble opinion, is among the finest and softest out there, and was surprised to find out that Samsung’s offspring couldn’t stand up to it. I feel baffled myself, and can’t figure out the “why” – whether it was the way the F400’s speakers are laid out, or their diameter. But the fact is, as a music box, the Nokia 6233 without all these bells and whistles trumps B&O’s fancy technology.
Another thing of note about the F400 – it has a clone, the Samsung F270 (I may be wrong about the index, though) that goes for 25-30 Euros less. So, what are the differences between these two? The latter doesn’t have the “B&O” plate on the casing, other than that they are identical. As I see it, either Samsung price themselves so high, or B&O don’t know their value. Ah, I almost forgot, the F270 has a different design of the loudspeakers too.
Now for bitter news. Retailing for 350-400 Euros, the F400 has no shot. Probably some music aficionados will dig its audio merits, but its spartan feature set will kill its sales. It’s about time they changed something in their conservatoire, to make the phones not only sound great, but also offer a punch under the hood; otherwise, they stand to lose all their audience. By the way, as far as music is concerned, Samsung-branded phone are far from the top of consumers’ short-lists; basically, the maker puts music in the mix of other features without putting any emphasis on it.
I’m also very reluctant to put some photo samples in this review, since the F400’s 3 Mpix camera is nothing to write home about.
Nokia – Beautiful to Use
“Beautiful to Use” is in fact a whole line-up of devices – the top-of-the-line solution, the Nokia 6600 Fold has already been reviewed over at Mobile-Review.com. Those who gave it a look know that we seriously pondered over how similar it was to the Motorola PEBL, and its follow-up, the U9. So I’m not going to repeat myself, and would rather note that I’ve had a chance to play around with all three of them. I have no strong feelings for the folder in this range, which is probably no surprise since I borrowed the unit that was headed for certification and, let’s be honest here, was barely operational. That’s why you won’t see a review of this handset any time soon (at least at Mobile-Review); but for now let’s talk about something not as far-off - the Nokia 3600 Slide. All in all, it’s a fairly interesting solution for those who are not after a mobile powerhouse, but are still drawn towards the brand and would also like to have most hyped features in their pockets. What kind of punch does this handset pack in for 300 USD (175 Euro)? A capable camera (though by no means best-in-class – 3.2 Mpix, fairly good video recording abilities), tactile plastic, no-frills display and the latest version of S40 shipping with Maps (which are of no real use here). On balance, it doesn’t ooze potential, plus it’s more of a feminine solution (in view of the design).
Nokia 6220 Classic – Christmas has come early this year for all you snappers out there, in case you haven’t picked the fabulous Nokia N82 for some obscure reason yet. The 6220 Classic comes with exactly the same camera specs (as they claim), flaunts a xenon flash and FP2 that has undergone a lot of minor tweaks and enhancements on many fronts. But the lack of WiFi negates all its positives. The N82’s adjusted price (now available for 350 Euro and even cheaper) doesn’t make the newcomer’s price tag of 325 Euro a particularly lucrative offering. On top of that, it has nothing to shout about, and I really dislike its cheapish plastic. While it feels like a robustly built phone, I can’t say the 6220 Classic has lived up to my expectations of a 300 Euro handset. All in all, I don’t feel excited about the pared-down edition of the N82. Things will get really interesting when the original device’s OS will get kicked up to FP2.
Nokia 6210 Navigator – the next iteration of the Nokia 6110 Navigator that was a flat-out flop, and has never garnered any following. But what are the draws of the 6210 Navigator? That it enjoys Maps 2.0, plus it comes packaged with free navigation package and turn by turn navigation, so you won’t need to shell out for extras. Do consumers really need this, and will they pay a premium for these add-ons? Well, maybe in some regions, but I have some strong doubts about that. For instance, it won’t be craved for in Russia for sure, won’t even see moderate sales. The bundled motion sensor allows for shake-based control of the device (for turning down calls or muting the alarm clock), but are these gimmicks really essential? Again, I’m not convinced that many will really go crazy about this feature. But, there is one obvious drawback to the 6210 Navigator – it comes preinstalled with the already long in the tooth FP1, rather than a state-of-the-art OS.
I’m sure many will say that my imagination has taken center stage here – it seems I don’t like anything about this phone. But, the bitter truth we must face is that creating a navigation-savvy device, Nokia has somehow overlooked the fact that they have built this feature into an array of other phones, making it widely adopted, and the 6210 Navigator isn't a particularly capable phone when it comes to other departments, like camera or music. Or design and quality, if you like. They charge too much if it is a specialist device, it’s quite insipid as a hybrid (in fact, Nokia themselves offer a ton of alternatives as far as convergent devices go). So, it turns out that I’m spot on – the 6210 Navigator aims at a very narrow niche at 300 Euro.
Sony Ericsson C902. Fashion-savvy flagship coming equipped with a 5 Mpix camera from Samsung, fancy sliding design and exorbitant price (400-450 Euro). What can I say? I like the idea of this phone – a slim handset bent on fashion – but it has very little to do with technology. The touch-sensitive shortcuts flanking the display are an interesting touch, but it’s very easy to brush them by accident, so it definitely hurts the experience. For some vague reason, I encountered more spontaneous transitions between still images and video recording than with any other mode.
The camera’s socket is a true dust magnet. And I mean it – it gathers more dust than we’d expect it to. Regrettably, there is no way to avoid that. Even my clean pockets, where I haven’t seen dust or particles of any kind for ages, can’t save the day. Nevertheless, there is a way-out – a cleaning brush, but it is so troublesome!
The C902’s image quality is another big topic – we are going to put it face to face with the Nokia N82. But, realistically, what else should we compare it with? The N82 is the man to beat these days; but we will also throw in a couple of images taken by the Sony Ericsson K850i to make the different even more apparent.
All in all, the C902 is a potent fashion-savvy solution, but don’t think of it as a flagship in imaging. It’s a pity that having developed a knack for designs and software, more often than not Sony Ericsson ends up behind Nokia hardware-wise. Much like with music phones, where Walkmans are far ahead in terms of software, but don’t have the goods when it comes to hardware, Sony Ericsson branded imaging-centric solutions don’t deliver either.
Sony Ericsson W350i. I’ve heard a lot of things about this phone – that it runs an old platform, that it’d make more sense to go for some dated Walkman, that it’s slim, yet expensive and the premium is charged for its design. Probably, all opinions are correct. As I see it, though, the W350i has surprisingly turned out to be a fairly decent phone, a good addition to Sony Ericsson's slender phones (W880i and W890i). Its active flip is by no means a “hello” from the past, the W350i feels great with it, and after some quality time you won’t even notice it or be bothered by its presence. In spite of its dated platform (A100), this phone is extremely user-friendly. Probably the only rub here is the price (250 USD or 175 Euro), but it's fascinating enough to make you forget about this nuisance.
Of all phones I’ve had a chance to twiddle with lately, the W350i is the only one that spent over a month in my pocket, which is quite an achievement given its no-frills features and very basic camera. I just dig it.
Stay tuned for more reviews!.
Published 28 May 2008
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