Nokia's 3250 is a challenging handset. We never really got used to its key feature -- the twist -- and after a while we found it annoying. But on the other hand, some aspects, like impressive battery life and super sound quality, pleased us no end.
Black, green pink and silver versions are available from Nokia's online store for the SIM-free price of £249. Online we found it available from O2 from free on tariffs starting at £20 per month and at up to £90 on cheaper tariffs. Other operators have it, so shop around for the best deal.
Nokia's 3250 is a handset with a twist. Quite literally -- its key feature is that you can twist the number pad section through a total of 270 degrees in 90 degree bursts, providing you with controls for both music playing and the built-in camera.
Only the number pad is twisted in this way. Beneath the large 176x208-pixel screen sits a mini joystick, call and end buttons, two softmenu keys, Nokia's menu key, and the clear and edit keys. These don't twist round, so they're always accessible.
When you twist the number pad through 180 degrees you get music control buttons on the front of the casing, and the built-in music player kicks in automatically. Choose 90 degrees and the flashless camera, which sits on the bottom right edge when you have the 3250 in ordinary candybar configuration, is now facing outwards. Twist back the other way and the lens is facing you. Either way, the camera software starts to run and the 3250's screen turns into a viewfinder presenting a shot preview in landscape format. You shoot using a button on the twisting section.
It's quite a clever system, and it works well enough, but we can't help wondering if it's unnecessary. Ease of use is important where mobile phones are concerned, and we aren't convinced that all the twisting required to play tunes and take snaps is really that easy. And as if to prove the point you can use both the music player and camera with soft keys and joystick without bothering with the twister at all.
When in candybar mode the 3250 is a somewhat stubby handset, slightly fat at 20mm for its 104 by 50 mm height and width. This is not a huge issue, though, and the 115g of weight shouldn't cause too many pocket problems.
The sides are relatively free of buttons and connectors, which makes it annoying that the headset connector is on the right side. For a phone with such obvious ambitions to replace your portable music player, we'd really expect that connector to be on the top or bottom section simply because this position creates less pocket bulge and is less likely to get ripped about. The connector is protected by a rubber cover you'll probably lose immediately as it pulls right off. To its side is the new-style small mains power connector.
The Nokia 3250 is a tri-band handset, and it runs on the third edition of Symbian Series 60. That means you get a whole host of software goodies built in, including calendar and contacts software that will synchronise with Microsoft Outlook on your PC, and the desktop PC Suite software you need to make that happen. You also get the USB cable you'll need to make a wired connection.
With the camera and music playback being so much to the fore with the 3250, memory is important. It was something of a disappointment to learn that there's just 10MB built in. That's not enough for more than a couple of MP3s, so it's good news that flash memory is supported.
The memory expansion format is microSD (formerly known as TransFlash), and Nokia provides a 128MB card that you can populate with tunes. These cards are physically tiny, and Nokia hasn't done the handling issue any favours by locating the card slot on one of the handset edges that's exposed when you twist the bottom section through 90 degrees. The slot has a rubber cover that needs to be prised open before you use a fingernail to push cards in and extract them. It's all very fiddly.
The camera, for all its 2 megapixels of still resolution, is limited in many respects. There's no flash, and if you work with the twisting section out it's difficult to reach the two softkeys that you'll need to use to change settings. On the other hand, having the music playback buttons now doubling for zoom and shooting is rather neat.
When it comes to getting music on board there is better news. Windows Media Player 10 can synchronise with the 3250, or you can use standard file copying with the handset connected to your PC by its provided USB cable. As well as music, but could also use the 3250 to transport all kinds of other files that you might use for work or for play.
Music playback through the handset's speaker was pretty loud and the quality impressive. You can listen to the built-in FM radio through the speaker provided you plug the 'bottom half' of the provided two-piece headset into the Pop-Port connector. This is needed as it houses the FM antenna. Nokia's stereo earbuds, which connect to this bottom half via a 3.5mm port, are okay but using our own headphones improved sound quality a great deal.
We had no trouble with voice calls -- audio quality is fine. Music playback quality was superb through the speaker and our own headphones, less good through Nokia's. We felt the equaliser didn't have a huge effect on the quality of what we listened to, which is a missed opportunity.
We have another quibble about the twist. There is a noticeable time lag as the camera or music player jump into action when you twist the phone. It's not a huge delay, but it is irritating. Similar is the wait while the software decides to take action when you press one of the music control buttons.
However, the 3250 absolutely shines when it comes to battery life. We got ten and a half hours of music playback -- easily enough for a solid day for most people and probably a good weekend's worth for many.
Edited by Mary Lojkine
Additional editing by Nick Hide