Nokia's 6230i is the successor to the popular 6230 model from last year. To look at the handsets side-by-side, one of the only noticeable differences is the increase in screen resolution from 128 x 128 up to 208 x 208 pixels. The higher resolution display makes for sharper text and graphics on-screen as well as enhancing the usability of the screen as a viewfinder when using the camera. On a whole, the phone still measures a very comfortable 103 mm x 44 mm x 20 mm and weighs in just under 100 grams.
Buttons on the keypad are square, flat and equally sized, making text messaging a pleasant experience. Below the screen are two shortcut keys, as well as the call and end keys. In between these is a four-way rocker with a selection button at its centre.
While we generally found navigation straightforward, thanks in much part to Nokia's intuitive menu system, the close proximity to of the rocker to the shortcut keys caused the occasional erroneous selection. Animated icons liven up the Nokia 6230i's interface, which gives you a choice of a 3x3-grid or list-based structure.
A feature that's slowly but surely making itself known in Australia's mobile phone landscape is push-to-talk. Essentially, it turns your phone into a walkie-talkie. No dialling, ringing or answering -- just push a button, say your message and have it blare out of your recipient's phone almost instantly. As voice is sent in data packets over the mobile phone network, push-to-talk is not limited by range like a normal walkie-talkie or two-way radio.
Push-to-talk, or PTT as it's also known, has the added benefit of being able to send bursts of voice to many phones simultaneously. So far in Australia, Optus and Telstra's GSM network (and the latter carrier's CDMA network) support PTT. Pricing rates for the feature vary, but generally include billing per second, per day or a monthly flat-fee for unlimited use.
Nokia's 6230i supports this walkie-talkie-like functionality via a button on the side of the handset, which you hold down to transmit a message to a PTT group (set up through the push-to-talk menu option). As a relatively new addition to mobile phones, push-to-talk hasn't taken off in the same way SMS did years ago and interoperability between networks is going to take a while. Currently to use the service, you'll need friends or colleagues to be with the same carrier as you, on the same network (GSM or CDMA), subscribed to the service and have a PTT-capable handset.
For connectivity to other devices, such as PCs, PDAs and other phones, the Nokia 6230i supports Bluetooth and infrared, both of which are easily accessible by pressing the left softkey for a list of shortcuts. Nokia has a range of wireless accessories available such as a Bluetooth hands-free car kit as well as a clip on wireless headset. Bundled in the sales package is a wired headset, for making hands-free calls and listening to the 6230i's FM radio.
With 32MB of internal memory and a 64MB MMC card included, there's enough storage for about twenty MP3s straight out of the box. Unfortunately removing the card is a bit of a pain as it's housed under the 6230i's battery, although we did find our card pre-loaded with '80s Brit-pop band Tears For Fears' album Everybody Loves A Happy Ending. The music player is rather rudimentary, with the only play options being random or repeat. While the 6230 can list all tracks, you can't sort by album or artist; only filename. There is also an equaliser with pop, rock, jazz and classical settings.
Messages, whether they be SMS, MMS or e-mail, are easy to compose using the 6230i's T9 dictionary mode. Business users looking for enhanced e-mail functionality should consider PalmOne's Treo 650 or a BlackBerry, instead.
Photos taken with the 6230i generally came out in focus with vivid colour depth. Image sizes range from 160 x 120 pixels up to 1280 x 1024. The camera's night mode assisted slightly in dark surroundings but photos came out grainy compared to those taken with a flash. Video clips taken are recorded in the 3GPP format and come out slightly pixelated and choppy.
Nokia's 6000 series has generally been a line of no-nonsense business-style phones that aim to couple stellar battery life with high-end features. The 6230i continues with this tradition by offering travellers tri-band operation, up to 5 hours talk time and 300 hours standby time. In our tests, we found the 6230i lasted around 3-4 days of average phone and SMS usage with Bluetooth switched on.