Since the first 3G network was launched in Australia, many have thought that 3G capable handsets are reserved for those with a lot of money – and not for the average user. This stereotype has begun to diminish with entry-level 3G handsets like this one from Nokia – the 6233.
The 6233 aims to bring a balance of business and lifestyle features into the one handset, with high-speed 3G network connectivity.
The Nokia 6233 doesn’t bring any new features to the board, but does include those that other current 3G handsets have – a 2mpx digital camera, microSD memory card support, Bluetooth and USB 2.0, and a QVGA 262k colour display. There is one feature that the 6233 doesn’t include though… an internal camera for video calling!!
The feature that will appeal to the biggest market would be the 2mpx digital camera on the 6233. I see the Nokia 6233 being a big hit with the younger generation because it’s one of the cheapest on the 3G networks at the moment. Camera-phones are all the rage with the younger generation and they’ll love the idea of a 2mpx camera in their pocket to catch all the happenings when they’re out and about with friends.
Perfectly matched with the 2mpx digital camera is the QVGA (320 x 240 pixel) TFT LCD, with support for up to 262,144 colours. It’s great to see the same displays in entry/mid-level handsets as we’re seeing in the high-end handsets, because it just shows that the manufacturers aren’t leaving new comers to the market left behind with yesteryears features.
Sadly the 6233 only has 6MB of internal shared memory, which I see as one of the major down-sides of the handset. It does have a microSD memory card slot (up to 2GB supported), and a 64MB card is included in the sales package.
For synching with a PC or transferring files to/from other supported devices, the 6233 offers Bluetooth wireless technology, infrared, and USB 2.0 via the Pop-Port™ interface.
The Nokia 6233 feels just like your regular candy-bar handset from Nokia, but is a bit thicker than most 2G handsets (which is to be expected with any 3G handset). The total measurements are 108 x 46 x 18 mm (110g), so it’s not large at all. The handset has a snazzy stainless steel finish around the perimeter of the face, and the rest of the handset is made from plastic that has a soft coating on the top which feels great in-hand.
The 6233 follows the usual style with the display occupying just over half of the front, then the numerical keypad utilizing the rest of the space. The buttons on the 6233 are extremely tactile and push down quite far into the handset so you get that real ‘click’ feeling. The 5-way navigational pad is a little square which has an indent in the middle where your thumb sits nicely.
You can get the 6233 in two different colours – black or grey. The black looks a lot nicer (I received the grey version) and a lot more professional. There are two keys on the right hand side of the handset for volume up/down operation, and they also double as zoom keys for the 2mpx camera. Towards the bottom of the handset on the same side is the dedicated camera key for capturing still images or starting/stopping video recording.
As always the bottom of the handset houses the all-in-one Pop-Port™ interface and mini charging port. The left hand side of the handset has the Infrared port for close-range, low-speed wireless transfer.
User interface & display
The latest version of the Nokia Series 40 interface (3rd edition) is programmed onto the Nokia 6233. The Series 40 interface has really come a long way since the first edition back in the days of the Nokia 6610, and now looks more like a Symbian OS with Series 60 interface than a Series 40 (although it’s not quite as powerful as a Symbian OS).
The main menu has small icons in a grid layout, which animate when hovered on. I found the menu to look really tacky though, because when you hovered on an icon and it started to animate it looked like it had been awfully resized, and none of the edges of the icon were soft, they looked all pixelated. If you don’t like the grid look you can also choose to display it in a list or by horizontal tabs.
The standard idle display shows signal strength, battery life, provider name, time, and date. The clock can be displayed in analogue or digital format. All of these details are positioned towards the top of the display which leaves a lot of space for a wallpaper of your choice. The two soft keys on the idle display can be assigned your own function, but by default they are given “Go To” and “Names” (aka Contacts). The 5-way navigational pad can also be assigned specific functions of the directional keys, just not the ‘in’ part of the key. A four-way image of what function you have selected for the directional presses can be displayed in the middle of the idle screen if you wish.
The 6233 offers full user-interface themes which can change the wallpaper, start-up/shut-down screens, screensavers, and other specifics to the UI. Four themes are pre-installed on the handset, and my favourite part about selecting a theme is when you hover over a theme file the phone automatically applies it to the UI while you’ve got the theme selected, so you can get a quick glimpse of what it’s like.
One feature of the 6233’s customizability you don’t see very often is the ability to change the font colour for the idle screen. This helps if you’ve got a dark wallpaper and can’t read the text labels, just change the colour to white!
If you’re not a big fan of an empty standby screen you can activate the Nokia 6233’s active standby screen, which puts a list of favourite applications, any notes you have stored, today’s calendar information, and music functions on the display. This is much like the feature by the same name for the Series 60 Symbian handsets from Nokia.
The QVGA 320 x 240 pixel TFT LCD is wonderful with the Series 40 user interface, and with the support for 262k colours you really can’t go wrong.
Making and receiving calls
One of the biggest let-downs of the Nokia 6233 was the lack of video calling. In my eyes, if a manufacturer is going to make a handset with 3G network compatibility, they have to include one of the main highlights of the network: video calling. The 6233 doesn’t have an inward-facing camera nor does it even support the video calling protocol. The only benefits of the 6233 supporting the 3G network is high speed data transfer for things like WAP, MMS, e-mail, and streaming media.
The 6233 does support the standard voice calls, with use of the earpiece, the loudspeaker, or the included stereo headset. The loudspeaker and earpiece are very loud and even when driving the loudspeaker could still be heard. I sometimes have a problem with handsets where loudspeakers are great in quiet situations but fail when it comes to a loud environment – the 6233 isn’t one of these.
If you need to adjust the volume just hit the side volume keys during a call.
A stereo headset is included in the sales package which can easily be plugged in to the Pop-Port™ and used for audio calls. You can also use the headset to utter voice dialling names, just hold down the button and say the name you wish to call.
It’s really interesting to note that while mobile handsets get more and more advanced, some things just stay the same – messaging is a prime example of this. I remember when SMS was all the rage, and telco’s would advertise their plans with “SMS Support!” Then we moved into the MMS rage where images, video, and sounds could be sent to friends and family direct to their handset or to their e-mail. Dedicated E-mail support came soon after, and now we’re seeing some of the bigger telco’s like Telstra advertising their own Blackberry services. Other than that, things have remained stagnant for quite a while.
If you were hoping to see something new in terms of messaging on the 6233 (after that introduction!) you’re going to be a little disappointed to hear that the 6233 has the regular set of messaging tools. SMS, EMS, MMS, and e-mail are all fully supported. The handset (as always) has T9 predictive text.
The 2mpx camera is great for images and video, because when the images are selected to send via MMS they are re-sized and you can’t notice some of the problems the camera had (focus, etc – see page 2). The camera application has some settings which will ensure that videos recorded can fit into the 300KB MMS message limit.
For local connectivity the 6233 offers Bluetooth, Infrared, and USB 2.0 (via the Pop-Port™ interface). When it comes to over-the-air data you can use the 3G WCDMA protocol, or in 2G reception areas there’s GPRS, EDGE, and HSCSD/CSD protocols. The 6233 has a built-in WAP 2.0 compliant browser for checking out the mobile Internet.
When I opened up the 6233 box I was quite disappointed not to find a USB cable inside. Most handsets these days, especially from Nokia, come with a USB cable for quick and easy connectivity to a PC. If you don’t have a cable already you’ll have to go out and spend around $60 to purchase one.
The Bluetooth connectivity on the 6233 is really easy to use – just browse to Connectivity under the settings menu, browse to Bluetooth and turn it on. In the same menu you’ll have access to things like the device name, visibility to outside devices, and a list of paired devices. Finding a new device is as easy as going to the discover option, which will scan the frequency for active devices.
The infrared on/off settings can be found under the same Connectivity sub-menu of the Settings section. Although not really used that much anymore, infrared is great for connecting to older devices you may have.
The WCDMA 3G protocol on the 6233 is capable of maximum speeds close to 384kbps, hence the name ‘mobile broadband’ by many vendors. The 6233’s WAP browser can be used to browse internet pages and the built-in media player is capable of playing back streaming video and audio.
When you’re roaming out of 3G coverage or use the handset for plain 2G usage (which is quite possible), the handset does have the EDGE (not supported in Australia... yet) and GPRS (fully supported) protocols. Although not nearly as fast as WCDMA, they’ll still get the job done for browsing simple text pages and sending/receiving MMS, e-mail, and instant messages.
The Nokia 6233 is built extremely well, nothing but what we’d expect from one of the biggest mobile phone manufacturers in the world. The handset feels solid in hand and everything other than the stainless steel outer rim, the handset has a soft power-coating which is a change from the usual hard plastic most handsets have.
The back cover slides off relatively easy (although putting it back on is a completely other story), and reveals the battery back. Underneath this you will find the SIM card slot. The microSD memory card slot is on the left hand side of the handset behind a hard plastic cover.
The Nokia 6233 uses a Lithium-Polymer 1100mAh battery, which (according to Nokia) offers 340 hours stand-by time, 4 hours of talk time (GSM), or 3.1 hours talk time (WCDMA). The Nokia 6233 doesn’t have support for video calling so the WCDMA estimates are just for talk time when on a 3G network.
I found the battery life estimations by Nokia to be very close to the battery life in a real-life setting, with about three and half hours talk time as much as I could get out of the handset (2G) before having to recharge. For an entry-level handset this is quite reasonable.