Technology enthusiasts will remember glumly the bad old days when 3G-capable phones were the size of bricks and quality coverage was but a dream. In fact, this was only 6 months ago. But things change fast in the mobile world and Nokia's latest 3G compatible phone, the 6233, is one the Finnish phone maker's smallest third-generation mobile handsets to date.
Design-wise, Nokia isn't reinventing the wheel with this one though, so don't expect the next Motorola V3 fashion phone. Nokia's 6233 is essentially your typical candy-bar style handset, but with better parts. While most mobile users will have become accustomed to an abundance of plastic used in the production of their favourite tech toys, the 6233 has a sleek, sophisticated and refined feel to it, which is exemplified by its high-quality stainless steel finish and a soft-matte backing.
Nokia describes the handset's design as complementing the corporate lifestyle, but with excellent multimedia features onboard the phone could just as easily be adapted to personal use as well. The model we tested was the more neutral black version, but the handset comes in the silver variety too, for that slightly more feminine look. At 110g the phone is marginally heavier than most handsets of a similar size, but with 3G compatibility included this is hardly surprising. Overall, the 6233 feels comfortable to hold -- robust even -- and with its moderately sized keypad, suits those who are after a conservative classically-designed handset.
The specifications list for the Nokia 6233 is substantial once you get past the conservative aesthetic. 3G compatibility is notable considering its size, but the omission of video calls is clearly a glaring oversight from Nokia for a genre which is known predominantly for this feature.
While the lack of video call capability is somewhat perplexing, the 6233 tries hard to make up for it with a bevy of other multimedia features included. A 2-megapixel camera with 8x digital zoom is built-in, as is Bluetooth and infrared connectivity, which provides compatibility with Bluetooth car-kits, wireless headsets, and other phones. Unfortunately, the 6233 won't quite fit your old hardwired car-kit cradle though, so you'll need to upgrade to the new CR-56 model to get it to fit. In addition to taking quality still mages, the 6233 also shoots excellent quality VGA video, and it plays back fluently on its first-rate QVGA resolution display.
Another feature of note, implemented recently with Nokia mobiles, is flight mode. Flight mode is an interesting innovation that gives you access to Java applications, games, and other non-call related features while travelling on a plane. This is particularly useful if you've upgraded your phone's memory capacity for increased music storage and playback -- incidentally, the 6233 supports microSD cards up to 2GB and a 64MB card comes in the box.
The 6233 performed reliably throughout our extensive use of its core features. While many have been critical of the performance of non-Symbian platform systems in the past, the new software performance of the 6233 Series 40 3rd Edition, while not perfect, was remarkably reliable relative to previous models, particularly when subjected to our finest rapid-fire SMS.
The problem of poor battery life longevity continues to be a problem, though admittedly no more here than with any other phone manufacturer. Like most Nokia phones, you should manage about five days of battery life with the 6233.
Sound quality via the 6233's built-in stereo loudspeakers is about 7/10 on balance, and while significantly better than previous Nokia models, the downside is it can be a little tinny at times when playing back music. It works perfectly though for use of the loudspeaker function on calls.
Use of the phone's 3G features was excellent for the most part, though the phone did struggle to properly resize some Web pages, and still preferred smaller mobile-optimised pages over full-size Web sites. Downloads via the phone's xHTML browser were easy enough to initiate. Overall, the 6233 is a fine piece of equipment which while visually understated, performs well in pretty much every area it should. It comes highly recommended for the price.
Editor's note: Andy White is a university student working part-time in an Optus World shop.