Nokia 2115i Shorty
If all you want is a phone as inexpensive and nontechnical as possible without the expense of a monthly bill, just so you can make the occasional cell phone call, the Nokia 2115i Shorty from pay-as-you-go provider Virgin Mobile is the phone for you. This phone makes a Cracker Jack prize seem high tech and is so lacking in bells and whistles that it barely makes any noise even when it rings. But we know there are folks who need and want only the minimum, which this $39.99 phone offers. Considering Nokia's usually flamboyant cell phone industrial design, the two-toned gray 2115i Shorty is positively dull-looking. There's little to distinguish it from other basic candy bar handsets, and it's one of the last new models to offer a monochrome display (just 1.25 inches diagonally). The construction feels a tad flimsy as well, but at 4.99 by 1.66 by 0.85 inches and just 3 ounces, the handset is quite compact, making it comfortable to carry in a pants pocket.
The mobile offers a relatively pedantic (for Nokia) keypad layout with a slightly confusing navigation array. You get the normal Send and End buttons, as well as two soft keys, but the toggle moves only up and down and not to the side. It didn't hamper menu navigation, but it was quirky. The keypad buttons are composed of four white translucent bars, with three numbers on each bar. Number and especially letter labels are tiny and will be hard to read by anyone with less-than-perfect vision. Backlighting for the screen is a pale powder blue, while the bars brightly light up like a fluorescent photo light board. We didn't like, however, that there are no spine-mounted volume controls. As is normal for Nokia phones, the power button is located on the top of the phone rather than the red End key.
Interestingly, you are told to avoid touching the internal antenna area, a warning that is difficult to obey, since this area is not marked or indicated except in a general illustration indicating the top area of the phone. Since keeping a finger or two at the top of the phone is not only a natural hand position but also almost required to keep the earpiece securely over your ear canal, this was a difficult warning to obey. Fortunately, we did not suffer any of the call-quality consequences mentioned in the manual.
You can buy one of four replaceable covers (blue, cocoa, teak, or red for $14 each) to brighten up an otherwise pale phone. To swap a cover, the instructions say to "gently pull the bottom of the front cover away from the rest of the phone." Gently or roughly, the front cover refused to move. We came closer to losing a fingernail than removing the front cover.What's surprising about the Nokia 2115i Shorty is that for a phone this low tech, you get a fair number of features. There is a 250-contact phone book, but you are limited to one-word name entries with no spaces. Initial entries allow only the insertion of one undesignated phone number, although you can add specific home/mobile/work numbers in the Edit function. Confusingly, e-mail addresses can be added but only through a completely different menu. You can, however, assign one of eight polyphonic ring tones to individual contacts.
While the Nokia 2115i Shorty skimps on the phone book, it paradoxically includes a variety of functions, such as an alarm clock, a vibrate mode, a currency calculator (odd on a phone that can be used only in the United States), a voice recorder that can record up to 60 seconds of memos, a countdown timer, voice dialing, a speakerphone, a stopwatch, a calendar, and a scheduler. All the additions seem more designed to be used by an active and tech-savvy phone user, not the occasional caller who is likely to be the primary customer for this phone.
Since this is a phone for a prepaid service plan, the call time elapsed stays on the screen after you hang up until you hit Dismiss. Just hitting the up direction on the navigation toggle lets you check your Virgin Mobile account and activate the Top Up refill options for adding minutes. You do get text messaging, but the only Web access is to Virgin Mobile's VirginXtras server for buying extras such as ring tones. While it took about 15 to 20 seconds to connect, ringer downloads took only about 10 seconds and were quite painless to assign once acquired.