Nokia is targeting the youth market with its latest handset. The lightweight cell phone offers a color display, several personalization options, and outstanding battery life, all for a sub-$50 price point with service. Unfortunately, the 3100 falls short when it comes to call quality. The 3100 sports a slimmed-down design; it resembles other Nokia phones after going on the Atkins diet. At 1.69 by 4 by 0.6 inches and weighing 3 ounces, it won't appear too bulky in a front shirt pocket. The power button located on top of the handset is easier to press than the ones typically found on other Nokia mobiles, which is a plus. Our model came with a blue case, but you can choose from several Xpress-on cover plates, including a pair of luminescent "gaming" faces with an eight-way navigation key and blinking light effects. It's not exactly something you'd want to whip out during a business meeting, but younger users may appreciate it.
The rubberized, backlit keypad buttons are small but manageable, and they're easy enough to view in darker environments. As for the 4,096-color display, it isn't exactly roomy, but it is vibrant. In standby mode, the four-way navigation button gives one-touch access to contacts, calendar, and text messaging. Nokia has included an icon-based menu system similar to those found on Siemens and Sony Ericsson phones.
On the downside, the navigation button also serves as the volume control, which means you have to take the phone away from your face to adjust the sound during a call. Another small gripe: We found that lifting the SIM card holder, which is located under the battery, can be tough if you don't have fairly long nails. The 3100 stores up to 300 contacts in shared (the SIM card and the phone's internal capacity) memory. You can add such details as e-mail, Web, and street addresses to your contact information. Since the phone is MMS ready, you can receive and attach images to contact names for picture caller ID as well as assign ring tones to different callers.
The phone also includes animated screensavers, 11 ring tones (plus vibrate), speed dial for up to nine contacts, conference calling for up to five participants, and a built-in speakerphone. Because Nokia is targeting younger users with this handset, it wisely included support for AIM and ICQ instant-messaging services in addition to the standard SMS text-messaging support. You also get three Java games--Beach Rally, Snake X2, and Bowling--and the ability to download more or to surf the wireless Web using AT&T's GPRS network.
Available accessories include an FM radio headset, which we tested with our handset. It didn't find many of the lower-strength stations in our area, and the audio quality of the stations it did receive was tinny and shrill. It flawlessly switched to phone mode during incoming calls, although callers had trouble hearing us through the microphone. We tested the triband GSM phone (850/1800/1900; note that this phone can also be used in some other countries) in the Chicago area. We experienced lots of background hiss during calls, and callers often had trouble hearing us, as well. This is unusual, considering we typically get stellar reception with AT&T Wireless handsets in our area. Additionally, the hands-free speakerphone is convenient, but the performance wasn't exactly awe-inspiring.
On the plus side, the phone's battery life is outstanding, as is often the case with Nokia mobiles. We reached nearly five hours of talk time; the company rates it between two and six hours, depending on network settings and the SIM card. We also reached 12 days of standby time, right in the middle of the 7-to-17-day rating.