Nokia is known for its unique keypad designs. Although the layout on the 3220 is conventional, the implementation is no less creative. With the 3220, each dial-pad key holds two characters (the 1 and the 4, the 2 and the 5, and so on) separated by an indentation. Though the keys are tiny, the design does make for easy touch dialing; sending text messages, however, can quickly become tedious. The keys are also brightly backlit in white, so dialing in dark environments isn't a problem. The power button at the top of the handset is among the best we've seen on a Nokia phone. Where you have to strain yourself to push the power button on other Nokia models, this one is easy to press, yet it's firm enough to make it unlikely that you'll turn the phone on or off accidentally.
Four rubber grips on the side of the phone illuminate in red and green when the phone rings and when you're placing a call. If your ring tone doesn't attract attention, the arcadelike flashing lights certainly will--you can turn them off, however. The grips do provide a more secure feel, and you can swap them out, as you can the faceplate as well. We liked the eye-catching blue cover that's included, but more colors are available ($14.95) from Nokia or you can design your own paper faceplate as with the Nokia 3200. The camera lens is on the back of the mobile, but there's no flash or mirror for self-portraits.The Nokia 3220 offers a fairly basic set of features. The 500-entry phone book supports multiple fields per contact (with an additional 250 names on the SIM card), but it's a bit of a hassle to add that information. After entering a contact name and number, you then have to save that information as the default number before returning to the contact list to add extra details such as Web and e-mail addresses or call groups. It would be easier to enter all of this information at once. Contacts can be organized into caller groups or be paired with a picture or any of seven polyphonic ring tones.
Additionally, the handset includes a vibrate mode, text and multimedia messaging, a WAP 2.0 wireless Web browser (with support for GPRS/EDGE data speeds), a voice recorder, a calendar that holds as many as 100 entries and can be synced with a PC, a speakerphone, an alarm clock, a countdown timer, a stopwatch, and support for AOL instant messaging. One nice feature is the automatic volume control, which adjusts the speaker level to ambient background noise. This feature worked well, increasing the volume when we moved outside or when we manually set the volume too low.
Although the 3220 includes a camera, it's implemented as more of a fun extra than as a key feature. Good thing, since the VGA (640x480) camera is of such poor quality that it shouldn't be the primary reason to buy this handset. Shots were consistently dark and fuzzy. Also, because you have to use the awkward center button on the scroll key to snap pictures, it's all but impossible to hold your hand steady enough to get a clear photo. On the plus side, the camera does include a self-timer with a 10-second delay--the grips flash green at first, then red during the final three seconds before the shutter fires. You can take pictures in either standard or portrait modes, and you can set the default camera mode to either of those settings, as well as night or video modes. You won't find any photo effects or fun frames to dress up your pictures, however. The video recorder allows you to capture clips of 15 or 50 seconds in MPEG-4 format. Of the 3220's 16MB of memory, only a paltry 2MB are available for images and video clips, and that memory is shared with the phone's other functions.
Being a teen-friendly phone, the 3220 comes with plenty of personalization options. You can customize the handset with a variety of wallpaper, sounds, screensavers, and color schemes. If you don't find what you want, you can download more options and more ring tones. You can also personalize the flashing lights on the side of the mobile with a selection of patterns. As an added quirk, $49.95 will get you a special faceplate (similar to the SmartSkins on the Identity Curitel) that comes with special games and an array of flashing lights that enables you to flash a message in the air by waving your phone. The 3220 comes with five Java (J2ME)-enabled games: Water Rapids, Adventure Race, Phantom Spider, Club Pinball, and Dance DeLight; but you can get more titles if you want them. Finally, there is an FM radio, but you need a headset to act as an antenna.The dual-band (GSM 850/1800/1900; GPRS/EDGE) Nokia 3220 proved to be a solid performer in our tests. We made several calls in Chicago and San Francisco on the AT&T Wireless (now part of Cingular Wireless) network, and call quality was consistently good. We encountered little static and few dropouts, although callers said they could tell we were using a cell phone. The speakerphone is loud enough in a quiet room, but the volume is insufficient for use while driving or other situations with heavy background din. Also, while callers could hear us in speakerphone mode, they preferred we use the handset mic instead. The Web browser is faster on the EDGE network, but the small display diminishes the experience.
We easily beat the rated 3.5 hours of talk time with more than 4.5 hours of continuous use. As for standby time, the phone managed a solid 10 days on a single charge, compared with Nokia's 14-day rating. According to the FCC, the Nokia 3220 has a digital SAR rating of 0.57 watts per kilogram.