Infrequently the mainstream mobile phone manufacturers release a handset that is aimed solely at the business user market. One company that has always released these sorts of handsets regularly is the Finnish world leader, Nokia. Their Communicator range of handsets never ceases to bring the latest technology to the business user with a high level of practicality and functionality.
The Nokia 9300 Communicator is the first out of the two new Communicator handsets from Nokia, the other being the 9500 which includes more features than the 9300 handset for the higher level user. They are upgraded models of the 9210/9210i models, released back in 2002. Personal productivity is assured when you’ve got the 9300 in your briefcase.
Compiling both sophistication in looks and functionality, the Nokia 9300 is one of the best companions for the busy, sometimes stressful lifestyle of a business professional.
As I said in the above section, the 9300 Communicator is an upgrade from the Nokia’s older 9210 and 9210i models. There have not been any new Communicator models in about a year or two, and there have been many mobile telecommunications upgrades over this time, and the 9300 has many of them. Higher quality displays, better battery life, increased internal memory, upgraded Symbian operating system, Bluetooth, and faster data capabilities are just some of these upgrades. The same old features found in the 9210/i models are still included too.
The 9210 models had one large 4,096 colour LCD, and a monochrome front cover display. The 9300 now has two 65,546 colour TFT LCD’s, a big upgrade there! The larger displays of both models are still the same size at 640 x 200 pixels, but the 9300 has the upper hand when it comes to quality. The cover displays are still around the same size, at 128 x 128 pixels.
One thing that the 9210/i lacked was Bluetooth Connectivity. It was only the early stages of the Bluetooth phenomenon back when it was released, but being a high-end handset it was disappointing. The 9300 has many connectivity methods, including Bluetooth Wireless Technology! There is also infrared and a Pop-Port™ interface capable of USB 2.0 speeds with a compatible PC/laptop.
While on the subject of data connectivity, the 9300 supports all of the following protocols: EGDE, GPRS Class 10, CSD, and HSCSD. The 9210/i models only had HSCSD and CSD data, so EGDE and GPRS are welcome additions. The WAP browser has also had updates and supports HTML and xHTML, Flash support, audio and video streaming, and OMA and OTA downloads. You can also download more plug-ins for the web browser if you wish.
Both handsets had a Symbian operating system; the 9300 has the latest Symbian version as well as the Series 80 platform from Nokia. With the higher quality display the Symbian interface looks fantastic, and the size of the display also helps. Another feature both handsets have is the Office range of application to handle Word, Excel, and PowerPoint presentations. Advanced PIM applications (ie. Calendar) are also bundled.
An upgrade from 16mB of internal memory to 80mB is another of the 9300’s main upgrades. Both the older version and the newer 9300 model support MMC cards, a 128mB card is included in the sales package; and the 9300 does support hot swapping of MMC cards.
The 9300 has had many physical improvements from its older Communicator brothers. Mainly, the 9300 was sent to a gym before release, making the final cut at 167grams. The older 9210i model from Nokia weighed a monstrous 244grams. The size of the 9300 is 132 x 51 x 21 mm, verses the Nokia 9210i at 158 x 56 x 27 mm. There have also been physical design changes too!
The 9300 sports a new silver-based colour scheme, giving off a much more professional look. You can change the look of the 9300 with Xpress-On™ covers, purchased separately. The entire 9300 is silver with the only other colour being black from the Infrared window on the right hand side. The Nokia logo is printed just below on the on/off button on the right hand side of the cover, and on the back battery cover.
The inside of the 9300 is also entirely silver, including the keys. Keys are printed on with black and blue (for special functions), with a single Nokia logo below the middle of the 640 x 200 pixel 65,536 colour TFT display.
A wrist/neck strap hole can be found towards the bottom right of the handset, with the Pop-Port™ interface located at the very bottom of the handset on the keyboard side of the Communicator “flip”. The two hinges of the 9300 are clearly visible, but don’t make the 9300 feel uncomfortable if being held in your pocket.
Unlike the 9210/i models, the 9300 has an internal aerial. The 9300 gives off a sleeker look than the older devices that had a green-ish appearance. The simple, yet practical design of the 9300 is an eye catcher.
User Interface & display
The Nokia 9300 uses a Symbian operating system, running on the Nokia Series 80 platform. All of Nokia’s Communicator models run Symbian, one of the most used mobile operating systems on the planet. Version 7.0s is used in the 9300 (Communicator mode), with a Series 40-like interface used on the cover of the handset.
The 9300 has two displays, both at 65,536 colours. The first is on the cover, and used for some of the basic (but most used) functions of the 9300 like messaging and call logs. The display measures 128 x 128 pixels. Two soft keys and a 5-way navigational key are used to operate the cover functionality, with a full numerical keypad too. The only other key on the front cover of the 9300 is the on/off key.
Open the 9300 up from the side and the Symbian interface is displayed on the second display, measuring a massive 640 x 200 pixels. The “Desk” display is started when you make the change into Communicator mode, which consists of icons and any shortcuts or note files you have made. The default icons are Personal, Office, Media, Tools, and MMC Apps. These folders are self explanatory and open up to another set of icons. You can zoom in and out on the icons in any menu using the “Chr” key on the keyboard and the up or down key, which is labelled with a magnifying glass and plus or minus icon.
To the right of the 9300 are four unlabelled soft keys. These keys can be used for the specific functions listed on the right hand side of the display. The Symbian interface has been specifically redesigned for the Nokia 9300’s 640 x 200 pixel display. Most of the time the bottom left of the display shows the time, battery level, and reception level. When more space is required on the screen for other things, this is made smaller or each icon is positioned on top of another. The selected folder or function is known at all times thanks to a large icon on the top left of screen with text label.
You can navigate around the 9300’s communicator mode in two ways – using the 5-way navigational stick on the bottom right of the keyboard, or by using the up/down/left/right keys on the QWERTY keypad. The navigational stick is the much easier choice, and being 5-way allows you to push it “in” to select or accept a function. There are several short cut keys on the top of the QWERTY keyboard (Desk, Telephone, Messaging, Web, Contacts, Documents, Calendar, and My Own). The My Own key allows you to define your own function for the key, it’s entirely your choice.
The settings menu is where you will find all of your customization options. Under “display”, you can change contrast, brightness, brightness period and screen saver time out, as well as the colour scheme, and cursor settings (mainly used in the Web Browser). Wallpapers can also be set for the desk view and the cover display from the Settings menu.
I found the Symbian interface on the 9300 a perfect choice, but it was quite aggravating due to severe lag in some functions. When opening applications like Settings or Messaging, the handset is very slow and the screen remains white with just the battery/reception/time indicators on the left hand side of screen visible. After a moment the requested function will load. Even when the brightness has timed out and you move a key to reactive the display there is a delay. When typing in text with the QWERTY keyboard there is no lag, which is great.
Making and receiving calls
You can receive and make calls when the 9300 is in Communicator mode and also when it’s not. Your contacts are accessible from the cover as well as the Communicator mode. The 9300’s cover has a hang up and pick up key, so when calls come through these keys can be used. When a call comes through and the handset is in Communicator mode, a small window appears with the details of the caller, including photo ID if you have this attached to the contact. The top soft key will accept the call, the 2nd from the bottom will silence the ringing, and the very bottom key will decline the call.
When you answer the call in communicator mode, the loudspeaker is activated. It’d be a little bit difficult to hold the 9300 to your ear in Communicator mode, wouldn’t it!! Loudspeaker mode isn’t available when in the cover mode, so you will have to open up the handset to use the loudspeaker. As soon as you open the handset the loudspeaker is activated.
The 9300 supports Bluetooth Wireless Technology, so if you have a Bluetooth headset this can be used with the handset. It’s very easy to pair a Bluetooth headset (or any other device for that matter) with the 9300, straight from the tools menu. A Pop-Port™ headset could also be used but one is not supplied with the handset.
To change volume during a call, use the soft keys to the right of the display when in Communicator mode, or use the navigational stick in the cover mode.
The quality of audio from the 9300 was perfect, I couldn’t have asked for better! The loudspeaker quality was also just as good. Overall, I was very impressed.
The 9300 offers the same set of messaging capabilities than most other handsets, but, being a Nokia Communicator model, there’s got to be something extra, right!? The 9300 Communicator has both a numerical keypad on the cover and a full QWERTY keypad inside. Therefore, you’ve got two ways to compose all your messages. Use the front cover, or the keyboard! SMS, EMS, MMS, and e-mail are all supported on this Nokia beauty.
Those who have used, or seen a picture of a 9210/i will know that they keys on the keyboard had quite a bit of space between each one; the 9300’s keyboard keys are all next to each other, mainly because there are some more keys and space is limited. It does take a while to get used to the keypad on the 9300, mainly because they keys don’t have much “push”; they only needed to be pushed a tiny amount to respond, unlike keyboard keys which have a larger workable space. The best way I found to get used to the keys is to open a new document and just ramble to your hearts content! You’ll know the position of all the keys in no time ;) The 9300’s keypad was probably one of the best QWERTY keyboard’s I’ve used in a mobile device.
When in Communicator mode there is no need for T9 predictive text as every letter has it’s own key, and symbols can be applied using the shift key (the up arrow on the left and right side of the keyboard). There’s even a caps lock button, tab key, esc key, enter, and backspace key. You can navigate around using the navigational stick or the arrow keys on the bottom left of the keyboard.
The messaging interface from the cover is just like that of Series 40 handsets, although there is no T9 support! This annoyed me a lot, considering sometimes you just want to write a quick message on the 9300 and not open up into Communicator mode. You have to multi-tap all messages, which doesn’t make it a quick message at all! Messaging in Communicator mode is simple, just input a name (or number), move the cursor down and type your message!
The message menu is first in the menu list on the cover, and once opened you can choose to write a message, go to your folders, voice messages, or enter service commands. Inside the folders option is inbox, outbox, drafts, and sent. When you’re sending a message you don’t have to sit and wait for the progress bar to complete, you are taken back to the idle menu and the message automatically sends itself.
In Communicator mode the messaging menu is found under the “Personal” folder. The same folders on the cover mode can be found to the left of screen, with the messages contained in the folder (if any) on the left hand side. You can select options with the right soft keys, if you chose to “open folder” the entire screen is changed so that just the messages from that folder are shown. An extra folder is in Communicator mode, which is the PC Suite Profile. You will find your remote inbox and remote outbox in this folder.
Being a business-person aimed handset; the 9300 comes with many different connectivity methods, as well as all the software you need on the included CD. Speaking of what’s included in the sales package, you will also find a USB data-cable especially for the 9300, and a desk stand which can be used with both the USB data-cable and charging adapter to both charge and sync your handset. It also looks much nicer than just a black cable shoved into the bottom of the handset!
The 9300 has a Pop-Port™ interface at the bottom of the handset, which is used for connecting data-cables and other peripherals to the handset. It is USB 2.0 compatible, making it very high speed for data-transfers. With the, as mentioned, included USB data-cable you can transfer files to and from the handset using the PC Suite software, synchronize, install applications, and backup files & other information in seconds. With 80mB of internal memory and a 128mB memory card to start off with, you can store heaps on this baby!
If you don’t wish to use the USB data-cable, and prefer a wireless connectivity method – you’ve got two choices. There’s the older (and unfortunately because of this it’s being removed from some of the newer handsets) infrared connection, and also Bluetooth Wireless Technology. The Infrared port on the 9300 is located left side of the handset, on the bottom “flip”, in the centre of the handset; perfect location for an Infrared port, just like ones at the top or bottom of a handset.
Bluetooth Wireless Technology can be used to communicate with wireless accessories like audio headsets, and also adapters for your PC/laptop which allows connection for data-transfer, like synchronizations. You’ll need to purchase a USB Bluetooth adapter separately however. I had no problems with Bluetooth on the 9300, connection with headsets and PC adapters went smoothly!
When it comes to over-the-air data, the 9300 also has heaps of options for the user. For starters, there’s the expected GPRS Class 10, which is currently the only protocol supported in Australia at this time. The other protocols on the 9300 can’t be used in Australia but if you travel to another country that uses it (the 9300 is tri-band, after all) you can use them. The other protocol supported is EGDE, also known as (E)GPRS. This protocol is much faster than GPRS, which currently sits at around 48kbit/s.
The 9300 can be used as a modem for your PC or laptop, with built in support for HSCSD and CSD data. When you’re out on the road and need to dial up, connect the 9300 to your PC and you’re set!
I was very impressed with the quality of the 9300. During my trial I opened the 9300 and tried to bend it at the hinge, but it is very strong and didn’t give in to the slightest. There are two metal bars on either side that keep it attached, and the thin piece of silver extends from the bottom of the handset to the display (in Communicator mode) is very well protected, given that it is the wires that enable you to use the display and the four soft keys on the top section.
The handset is a bit on the heavy side, weighing in at 167grams. But, when you look at all the features it has, including two function modes, two displays, two keypads including on QWERTY keyboard, the weigh doesn’t really need to be factored in as much as a regular handset. The 9300 measures 51mm x 132mm x 21mm, larger than most handsets. But then again, the 9300 isn’t most other handsets, is it!
The keypad on the cover of the 9300 has large, tactile buttons and is comfortable to use. The navigational key is a little hard, but there’s no harm done to your thumbs from using it. The keys inside the 9300 are of course flat, and even though there are so many of them they’re not extremely tiny – I didn’t get any P910i flashbacks when using it. The keys are all rounded on each side, giving each key its own “space”. The navigational stick is small but has rings etched into the top which allow your thumb to grip it.
The only issue I had with the 9300 that could be put in this section is that there is no keypad backlight on the QWERTY keyboard! This was very disappointing Nokia!
The battery life on the 9300 Communicator was amazing. The battery is a lithium-ion BP-6M lithium polymer battery at 970mAh. The standby time is around 150 – 200 hours, and I managed to get around 5 days of light phone usage (mainly SMS messaging), with around 3 hours of talk time before the handset started beeping at me to recharge the battery. The talk time from Nokia is 3-7 hours.
With the included desk stand in the sales package, when you get home from work or even when you’re at work you can charge the 9300 by just placing it onto the stand, not to mention transfer data to and from the handset at the same time.