Nokia’s latest smartphone product, the 3650, attempts to perfect areas that its 7650 predecessor may have failed in doing successfully. This next Series 60-based device has as much to offer, while at the same time adding more neat little features that would turn the heads of those that find either 3650 or 7650 as being too big a chunk to carry around! :)
What one needs to realise about smartphones is that “it is what’s on the inside that counts”. If your priority is to have a smaller-sized handset over possibly richer features, then you can probably stop reading this review. However, if you are curious as to what’s so darn special about these big chunky handsets, I welcome you to read on.
The 3650 comes with several enhancements and innovations since the 7650. Some of these include tri-band compatibility (GSM 900/1800/1900 MHz), the ability to record short video clips in addition to simple picture-taking, removable front and back Xpress-on covers, and the ability to add more memory via the MMC memory card adaptor (currently supports up to 64MB).
When using the 3650 for the first time, it requires some levels of patience to get acquainted with its unique circular keypad design. Starting from the “1” button at the top-left and working around in an anti-clockwise direction till it reaches “0”, the circular numeric keypad differs greatly from the traditional 12-key, 3-by-4 layout - with active SMS messengers probably finding it the hardest to become accustomed with this input interface. Thankfully, good keypad tactility is retained and each of the buttons are sufficiently spaced out and sized to reduce input error through double-button pressing.
A 5-way key replaces the joystick navigational device that was used on the 7650. Although I personally preferred the 7650’s joystick, the 5-way key was probably necessary so that the 3650 can accommodate the front Xpress-on covers.
The footprint of the 3650 is actually quite large - bigger than that of the 7650 with its active slider closed. Its length comes close to being 10 millimetres longer than the 7650, with the other two dimensions (width and depth) being reasonably similar. Although larger, the 3650 comes with a noticeable weight improvement at 130 grams - 14 grams lighter than the 7650.
Some other changes in the physical aspects include the relocation of the IR port to the left side of the 3650 (again, to accommodate for the Xpress-on cover), and the “power” button return to the topside of the phone (as compared to the 7650’s one, which was on the right-hand side). You will also find that the standardised power/headset adaptor is used at the base of the phone (see “making and receiving calls” for more details).
User Interface & display
If you’ve previously used the 7650, there’s probably not much difference on the “look and feel” side of things should you upgrade to a 3650. As for those first-timers looking for an easy-to-use smartphone, look no further! The 3650 (and 7650) has one of the easiest user interfaces around, thanks also to the obedient use of colour and physical layout of menus and dialogs. At the end of the day, most of what’s presented are pretty self-explanatory.
But are there really no differences? Well, through personal experience over the past week, I found the use of icons in pop-up dialogs such as missed calls and messages, as well as improvements in the speed that the phone churns out call logs (on the 7650, it could take a long time to have all the call logs displayed especially if you’ve logged up to 30 days of phone activity!) Also, for those people who have been annoyed by accidentally pressing the DELETE soft key after taking a picture with the Camera application, be grateful that has been replaced by the CLOSE option instead! (To delete the last taken picture with the 3650, open the ‘options’ menu instead)
Locking the keypad on the 3650 requires the “menu-star” sequence once again - which is actually the left soft key then star. Previously, on the 7650, the phone requests keypad locking once the active slider is closed, and automatically unlocks on the phone being opened up.
Making and receiving calls
Some much-needed improvements have been incorporated into the 3650. The first of these include the fine-tuning of the speakerphone feature, offering loud and clear calls over the built-in speaker - which was previously a problem on the 7650 even after software upgrades that should have fixed the problem! When using the speakerphone feature on the 3650, take note that the proximity sensor, available on the 7650 that returns the phone back to the standard mode and disables the handsfree speaker, is not provided on the 3650.
To activate the speakerphone or voice dialling feature, you will need to press the “options” left soft key during a call or the right soft key at the standby screen prior to making the call respectively (there’s no speakerphone/voice dialling button on the left alike that of the 7650).
The next big thing is the full Bluetooth support now available on the 3650, which means that all types of wireless connections, including audio, are supported. Current 7650 users may share the same frustration as myself in learning that it did not support the Bluetooth audio profile, which allows audio devices such as headsets and car kit devices to be used, even though it had Bluetooth available.
Lastly, the 3650 uses the traditional two-plug power-audio adaptor base, allowing currently available accessories such as the “Plug-in HF Car Kit” (PPH-1), “Dual Headset” (HDD-1), and “Music Player” (HDR-1) FM/MP3 player to be used.
Once again, typing messages with the 3650 may take some getting-use-to because of the circular keypad design. Alike the 101-key QWERTY keyboard we use on the PC, if someone was to come up with a new design there will be problems for us struggling to accept and use it efficiently. Fortunately, it’s just 12 buttons that we have to get acquainted with and not 101! :)
Similar to the 7650, the 3650 comes with built-in support for basic SMS text, picture, multimedia (MMS) and email (POP3/SMTP/IMAP4 protocols) messages. And if you’re wondering whether you can send those short video clips taken with the 3650, the answer is yes. These are done similarly to how pictures are sent - but be aware that the size of video clips can be several times larger than the typical image sent via MMS.
Camera performance and image quality
Performance of the built-in digital camera on the 3650 showed some improvement when compared with the 7650. Pictures taken with the 3650 using “standard” mode came out brighter and sharper than those of its predecessor, resulting in improved visibility (you can see the bottling effect on the 7650 pictures below). “Night” mode shots were pretty much similar. A sample of shots can be found below.
The recording of short movie clips came out quite good as well - although the inclusion of audio is not yet possible on the 3650 (we will see this feature available on the 6650, due out later this year). A maximum length of between 10 to 40 seconds is possible (the ultimate file size must be below 100 kB) and is saved in 3GP format.
The 3650 feels quite solid overall thanks to the minimal number of moving parts used in its construction. Apart from the front and back Xpress-on covers that can be removed and replaced, there is virtually nothing else that can be actually removed from the outside of the phone. Oh, both the front and back covers can be replaced without breaking your hands, which some may have found to be a problem on either 6610 or 7210! :)
A new type of battery is used on the 3650, which is slightly thinner and improves overall standby performance of the phone. The BL-5C battery has a 850 mAh lithium-ion cell and can power the 3650 for approximately 2-3 days on standby and 2-3 hours of talk time (based on average usage).
Similar to the 7650, activating the LCD’s backlighting system on a more frequent basis will progressively reduce overall talk and standby times for a single charge. It is also a good idea to use the screen saver function, which minimises this drain through less LCD activity.