Palm gets a lot of press for its popular , but Nokia knows a thing or two about smart phones too. Starting with the 9000i Communicator and following up with the , the Finnish company has produced some powerful Symbian-based smart phones. Now it adds the Nokia 9300 to its list. With an integrated QWERTY keyboard and support for multiple e-mail accounts, the 9300 Communicator has a lot to offer users who need a corporate-centric device. While there's much that's impressive in this unit for Cingular Wireless, there's also plenty that's frustrating. The keyboard is somewhat cramped, and the phone lacks Wi-Fi. Also, at $299.99 with a two-year contract, the Nokia 9300 is a bit on the pricey side. With the cover closed, the Nokia 9300 looks like a run-of-the-mill candy bar phone, albeit a fairly long, thick, and heavy one (5.2 by 2 by 0.8 inches and 5.9 ounces). The all-silver face is appropriately utilitarian for the 9300's target audience of mobile professionals, and Nokia keeps the design simple with a small power button on the top-right corner, a basic dial-pad layout, Talk and End buttons, two soft keys, and a five-way navigation control just below the 1.7-inch-diagonal, 65,536-color external display. The dial pad features bright white backlighting for use in dark rooms. Our only complaint here is that it's tough to activate the left or right navigation buttons without hitting the center Select button. And because the phone doesn't have dedicated volume buttons on the side, you have to pull it away from your face during calls to adjust the sound level with the navigation keys.
Inside the Nokia 9300, you'll find a full QWERTY keyboard and a wide color display. To our disappointment, the internal screen shows only 65,536 hues; we would have preferred the 262,000 colors found on some of today's newer cell phones. Also, although the individual keyboard buttons are a good size, the buttons are a bit too close for comfort, and they don't provide enough of a tactile click to make touch-typing easy--especially if you have fairly large hands. What's worse, the keyboard isn't backlit. Though you can certainly place the unit on a desk to hunt and peck with your fingers, it's easier to hold the device and use your thumbs. On the positive side, buttons on top of the keyboard provide one-touch access to contacts, messaging, documents, the calendar, and the Web. There are also four soft keys next to the internal display.
A joystick on the bottom right of the keyboard lets you navigate through menus or scroll through Web pages and long documents. It's a nice idea, but in practice, the joystick is a bit too sensitive for our tastes. We frequently overscrolled, and there's no way to control the joystick's sensitivity. When pressed down, the joystick also serves as a Select button; however, it's difficult to do that without moving the joystick one direction or another. Finally, while we laud the inclusion of an MMC expansion slot, it's beyond us why Nokia decided to place the slot underneath the battery.
Although the Nokia 9300 has impressive communications capabilities, we wished we could access some of its features with the cover closed. For example, you have to open the handset and go through four layers of menus just to choose a ring tone. This feature could easily have been made accessible with the cover closed. Also, opening the front flap during a call automatically activates the speakerphone; it would be nice if you could use the speakerphone with the lid closed as well.The Nokia 9300 provides a strong arsenal of phone and data features that should please mobile professionals. For chatters, the 9300's phone book has room in each entry for multiple numbers, an e-mail address, a street address, and company information. You can add as many contacts as the phone's memory allows and store an additional 250 names on the SIM card. You can assign a contact one of 40 polyphonic ring tones or an image for caller-ID purposes, but since the 9300 doesn't have a built-in camera, you'll have to get photos onto your phone another way. You also get an integrated speakerphone, five-way conference calling, USB 2.0 connectivity, an infrared port, and Bluetooth support. Unfortunately, there's no integrated Wi-Fi and, curiously, no vibrate mode either.