Tuesday, April 17, 2007

A review of the Nokia 9300 lite

A friend asked me for a summary of the good and bad points on my cell phone, the Nokia 9300 Lite. This soon turned into a little review of the phone, so I decided to share my findings on this phone here. I am by no means a Nokia fan. I think they are generally over priced and under featured, comes with too few accessories, and have a few too many Nokia-specific quirks which are designed to lock you in. When it became time for me to select a new phone, I got this one due to, at least in part, circumstances outside of my control. Despite this, the phone does have some positive features! The good:
  • Sending text and multimedia messages works well enough. It uses your contacts list, including "groups" in the list, automatically, and indicates how many characters you have typed and when/if the message becomes a concatenated message "as-you-type". There is no dictionary or predictive text input however.
  • SMS storage is good. I currently have some 2000 messages in SENT items and Archive. You can search the SMSes, but this is slow (go watch a few episodes of [insert favourite series here]). You can define many folders and sub-folders for organizing messages.
  • The calendar is one of its best features, It syncs perfectly with Outlook and Lotus Notes. I will write more on it at the end.
  • I like the keyboard. This is the feature I bought the phone for. MXit users should all get this phone so they can start making proper use of the cheap messaging MXit gives you by typing sentences.
  • I like being able to see websites in a format that sort-of resembles what they look like on a computer (display is 640 pixels wide)
  • Downloaded apps are good. I got PuTTY, Unzip, and Sudoku :-) I've seen an FTP server. 99% of the software is not free, though, and "free download" is a pain.
  • Built-in backup/restore (to/from memory-card)
  • Recharge is quick. About 2 hours.
  • Comes free with many contract options nowadays
  • The spreadsheet is totally capable, but I've never used the Word Processing application. The display "zoom +/-" feature, (tied to a meta-control like key) works in many applications. I some applications it even switches to a kiosk-like full-screen mode.
  • Copy-n-paste/Cut-n-paste, which is appropriately bound to CTRL-C, CTRL-V and CTRL-X. This works basically everywhere.
  • Text-field navigation by means of CTRL-arrow-key to jump words, and the also CTRL-SHIFT-arrow-keys to incrementally select text a word at a time. These features together helps to make for a great user interface. (Note: These features does not work in some Java applications.)
The Bad
  • I only get about two days on a charge, (three if I'm lucky) and I don't use it overly much. Talk-time is OK, I get the impression that it is using the phone in folder open mode (screen lit up) that uses most battery.
  • Display is only 240 pixels high (under correction) but if they added 20% to the display height it would have made a helluva difference.
  • The default picture viewer sucks. I still need to find a replacement app. I have never tried to view a movie, but the phone includes some version of Real Player (too lazy to check version now)
  • The processor is too slow. The phone becomes laggy easily (searches, Unzip operations, etc)
  • The phone has got too little RAM. Opening a large photo causes "System Error: Out of Memory" This causes the phone to become extremely slow.
  • Some missing features: Camera, Vibrating alert, 3G, Wifi and a dictionary or at least predictive text input. You want to browse the web but the lacking 3G means you only get GPRS speed. This would have been fine if it didn't have such a great interface for browsing the web, which makes you WANT to use the phone to browse the web....
  • Only one user-programmable key. I currently have it tied to the voice/audio recorder app, and I wish for a second one to tie to the File manager application. For me, the Word Processor shortcut key is a total loss/waste.
  • The phone is bulky and uncomfortably in a pants or shirt-pocket. This problem can however be mostly overcome by using a good quality "holster"
  • The menu in the phone (external) display is really stripped down from what you may be used to on other Nokia phones. You can still make calls from the directory, send SMSes, add new entries with basic fields into contacts, and find most "Settings" options, but you cannot compose or view multimedia messages, and you can select a profile, but you cannot change profile settings. You can add a number to an entry in the address book but you cannot access most contact fields. This is really more of a "getting used to it" issue than a bad point, but there it is.
  • Also often some options in applications aren't immediately obvious. For example you don't know that you can cancel just about any dialog by pressing ESC, because it isn't indicated anywhere. The "Menu" button works like the Mac OS menu - some options are global, and other sub-menus are context (current application) specific (Once you get used to looking for functions and options on the main menu this becomes a positive point!).
  • Finally, some Java applications assume that the hot keys are below the display, and draws the function indicators in the bottom left and right hand corners of the screen, but the buttons are situated along the right-hand side of the screen.
The Ugly: I like making audio recordings for later reference. But I cannot seem to find a way to convert these files to a format that is playable on a PC, and I absolutely hate anything that uses legacy formats or standards as a means of locking you in to a specific vendor's products. Worse, if you set the Log to record everything and wrap after 999 days (the max), the log rapidly becomes big. When this happens, accepting of incoming phone calls becomes laggy, only if the caller number is hidden (private number). After a few days, the lag becomes longer than the time that the phone rings before answering the call. To be a bit clearer, what happens is the following: The phone receives a call and starts to ring. You press the "Accept" button, and the ringing tone stops, but the display continues to show a flashing indication of the new incoming call. The phone lags in this state, while the person on the other end continues to hear that you have not yet picked up the call. After some lag, the connection is eventually made. This lag increases as the phone's log gets longer, until it exceeds the time that the network will let the call ring before diverting to your voice mail. This only happens for calls from private-numbers, and I am hoping that a software upgrade will fix or at least make it better. Note: The log records all communication events, eg, Data calls, Phone calls made, received and missed, GPRS connections, SMS and MMS messages sent and received, etc. The Calendar deserves a paragraph on its own - It has got ample options to satisfy the most demanding user, including a Description and a Notes field on each entry, setting of the Alarm time before each event can be adjusted in minutes, hours or days. Repeating events can be Weekly, daily, monthly-by-day (3rd Wednesday), by date (27th), yearly (3rd Monday in Feb) etc. Repeating events can be indefinite or up to an end-date. Events can have a status (crossed out, public synchronization, etc). You can color-code events, and events can be either "all-day" or "timed". You also have various views, e.g. Day, Month, Week, Yearly schedule, etc. The Contacts area is another strong-point. You have the ability to set up profiles, e.g. for friends, family, business contacts, etc. These "profiles" allow you to basically "hide" certain unused fields, eg You may not care about the birthday field for colleagues. Another feature that I like is that you can add duplicates of fields, and it will then name them sequentially by default (Email Address 2), or you can rename them. You can turn searching on specific fields on/off, but not all fields are indexed. If you turn on searching on non-indexed fields, you get warned that searches will be slower. In my experience the impact of turning on searching on these non-indexed fields are not worth the performance overhead, which is quite severe. Searching is incremental and matches on any start-of-word, in any field for which searching is turned on. So if you type "Mic" it will find "Sun Microsystems" (company Field) as well as Michiel (First name field) ... The organizer interface could have been better integrated with the phone, e.g. if you search for a person in the contacts you cannot make a call immediately. Fortunately if you then switch to the telephone application, the last person from contacts will be highlighted automatically. Not all aspects of the phone is customizable either. For example you can select a color scheme to use on the main part of the interface, but the "notes" background will always be a light tan/brown color. I use the phone to log in to my Desktop PC, using the free PuTTY client. The keyboard does not have a pipe (vertical bar) character, but pressing Shift-Control-P will send the pipe character. Similarly pressing Shift-Control-Q will send a back-quote. The phone works well enough for this purpose. I need to just also mention the PC application suite which is included with the phone. It syncs well enough with outlook and with Lotus Notes, but beyond that it is pretty basic, and barely worth mentioning. I'll call it minimally functional. For me personally the single biggest detracting factor is that the phone is under-powered in terms of memory and processor speed. Sometimes after going to the "Desk", the phone initially lags before you can move the highlight to select another item using the arrow keys. Then when Entering to open that item, the phone once again lags. For a comparison test I timed the opening of some Java applications on this phone and compared it with a Sony Ericsson K800. Both the MXiT and the Opera Mini client were about 10 times faster to open on the K800. Maybe I am just impatient, but I thinks that the slow performance and laggy interface makes for a generally bad experience on an otherwise very usable phone. Do you have any thoughts, opinions or ideas on this phone? If so, feel free to comment!

1 comment:

selly said...

Worst phone I have ever had and I reckon I have had 70. Unreliable and poor functions. Blackberry was inconsistent and constantly turned itself off and locked up.
nintendo dsi r4