How much phone do you think you should get for AU$29? This is the question that has plagued us since we began our review of the Nokia 1616. For being the cheapest brand-name phone we know of in Australia, the Nokia 1616 deserves some kudos, but does this mean it's worth your money?
More like a time machine than that envisioned by H.G. Wells, every time we pick up the Nokia 1616 it transports us back to the Halcyon days of the mid to late '90s. John Howard had just taken over as Prime Minister, people had grown bored of Pearl Jam and everyone carried a Nokia phone similar to the phone reviewed here.
The 1616 is like a phone teleported from that magical era: its stiff, hollow-feeling plastic body is fantastically lightweight though seemingly sturdy. Above a standard Nokia array of keypad and navigation controls you'll find a 1.8-inch colour display with a 128x160 resolution. This affords the home screen room to display the time, battery information and signal strength, but you can forget about fancy widgets displaying Facebook updates or anything of the like.
The keypad is reasonably well laid out, though there isn't that much definition between each of the numbers. Tapping out a quick SMS or punching in a phone number is fine, but expect the odd error if you have fingers larger than a primary school-aged kiddie. Strangely, the directional keypad under the screen doesn't have an "enter" button in the centre, instead you need to press the left-hand selection button to complete a menu selection. This makes for a minor quibble, but it had us scratching our heads nonetheless.
One interesting break from the absolute bare minimum is Nokia's inclusion of a torch at the top of the phone. The 1616 doesn't have a camera, so there is no camera flash — instead there is a dedicated lamp next to the 3.5mm headphone socket on the top of the phone. This light is quite bright too; good enough to find the keyhole when you stagger to the front door late at night at least.
For AU$29 there are a few modern mobile features you won't be surprised to find absent. There's the lack of a camera, mentioned previously, and the complete absence of anything related to web browsing. The 1616 is a 2G handset operating on the 850/900/1800/1900MHz frequencies, which means you shouldn't have any trouble sending SMS messages or making phone calls, but don't expect much more from this cheap and cheerful handset.
If you're only after a phone for calling and messaging, then the 1616 should fit the bill. Text and numbers appear quite large on the tiny screen, and composing text messages is a breeze if you're familiar with the Nokia flavour of predictive text.
Digging a bit deeper in the main menu of the 1616 you will come across a few neat bonuses. There's an FM radio, an alarm clock and a calculator, plus there's a range of very simple Java games that may pass the time on the train, though they certainly didn't grab our attention. This lack of features does have the double-edged advantage of extending the battery life to days and days between charges, and that's because the phone has so little to offer you won't waste battery fiddling with it all day as you might if it was an iPhone instead.
To answer the question posed in the opening paragraph, the amount of mobile phone you get for AU$29 isn't a great deal, but it does perform the basics admirably. There are a few neat bonuses beneath the basics, like the torch and some games, but we must admit to being a little surprised not to find even the simplest web browser for rudimentary Google searches. We're even more surprised that there isn't a camera of any description included as we think the tweens who end up with this handset would probably like to have even a very low resolution shooter.
We've described this handset as costing AU$29 throughout this review, but we should point out that it is only available at this price when bought through either Crazy John's or Vodafone and it is locked to these networks.