With hot new skinny phones coming fast and furious, you would think that cell phone design is all about thinness and not much else. Well, thanks to the always-savvy design innovators at Nokia, we're pleased that cell phones can still break the all-about-slim mold. The Nokia 3250 is one such phone, with a unique swiveling keypad that's the first of its kind--it twists up to 270 degrees in order to quickly switch from one function to another. The phone also comes in four different colors; black, green, pink, and silver. It's not supported by a U.S carrier just yet, so you'll have to buy an unlocked version for about $339.99.
When viewed with the dial pad in front, the camera lens is on the left spine, while the external music controls are on the back. The twist-action design of the phone is made possible by having the phone split into two parts; the display half and the keypad half. Twisting the phone lets you switch between phone mode (with the dial pad in front), camera mode (the keypad portion in a 90-degree angle), and music mode (with external music controls in front), triggering the appropriate application at each turn. You can turn the camera 90 degrees away from you, or 90 degrees toward you for a self-portrait shot. It's a little gimmicky, but we liked that we didn't have to scroll through several menus in order to access these multimedia features. We do have one slight complaint about the 90-degree camera mode, however. The navigation joystick appears to be the only way to scroll through the different camera options, but with the keypad swung 90 degrees, access to the joystick was cramped.
The phone itself is a tad bulky at 4.09 by 1.0 by 0.78 inches with a weight of 4.06 ounces, but it has a nice heft when held in the hand and against the ear. Another showstopper design element on the 3250 is its striking 262,144-color screen that measures 2.2 inches diagonally. Though the brightness and backlight timer of the display can be altered, you can't change the size of the fonts. Underneath the screen are a menu button, two soft keys, a Clear key, a five-way navigation joystick, the Talk and End keys, and an Edit key. The Play/Pause key also doubles as a Camera button when in camera mode. All of the keys have a slightly rubberized feel with a raised texture that makes it easy to dial and navigate by feel.
Thankfully, the 3250 does come with a Micro SD card slot, but it is a little difficult to access. You have to twist the keypad into camera mode (90 degrees), and it is located right underneath the Talk key. It's a little difficult to swap out cards at that tight angle, and we wished the slot were more conveniently located along the phone's spine. On top of the phone is the power button, while its charging/connector port is located on its right spine. You'll have to attach an included adapter to use a pair of earbuds with the phone.
Now on to the meat and potatoes of the 3250: its features. But before we delve into its multimedia functions, here are the basics. Each contact in the Nokia 3250's address book holds up to 17 numbers, three e-mail addresses, three URLs, three street addresses, a birth date, and a note and can be assigned to a group, or one of 41 polyphonic ring tones. Other basic features include a vibrate mode, text and multimedia messaging, instant messaging, e-mail, a speakerphone, a clock, a calculator, a calendar, a unit converter, notes, voice command and dialing, a file manager, Bluetooth, and a wireless Web browser. There's also a LifeBlog feature that lets you upload pictures on your phone directly to the Web.
The phone runs on Symbian 6.0 OS, and navigation may take some getting used to if you're not familiar with it. The default main display is known as Standby mode, and you can easily customize it with shortcuts to all your favorite applications and appointments for the day. Unlike other Symbian smart phones, the 3250 doesn't have a way to view and edit office documents. But that's OK, as the 3250 is more of a multimedia phone anyway.
Speaking of which, the phone comes with a 2-megapixel camera that also acts as a video recorder. Camera options include image-quality settings (High, Normal, Basic), image resolution (640x480, 1,152x864, 1,600x1,200), night and sequence modes, a self-timer, white balance, and color tones. As for MPEG-4 video, you can record for a maximum length to make full use of available memory, or a short length for MMS. There are also two video-resolution settings (128x96 and 176x144), and you can choose to mute the sound or not. We were quite pleased with the quality of images, though video quality was a little choppy and didn't perform well in low light.
The music player on the 3250 supports MP3, eAAC+, AAC+, M4A, MPEG-4 ACC LC, LTP, MP3, AMR-NB, AMR-WB, MIDI, RealAudio, and WMA formats. You can transfer music from your PC via Nokia's Audio Manager software, Windows Media Player, or third-party software. We found the music player interface very user-friendly, making it easy for us to switch from one track to the next in just a few clicks. There are also a few enhanced music features such as an equalizer, bass boost, and reverb, to improve how the music sounds. You can also make your own ring tones via a Tunes Studio, and listen to the radio. These enhanced features make this a step up from other music phones that simply play music.
Along with music, you can download video clips to the phone for viewing on the go. A Streaming Links folder is available for you to save URLs to music or video you find on the Web. The phone has an internal memory of 10MB, but the phone's Micro SD card slot ups the potential storage capacity to 1GB, which is good for such a multimedia-heavy handset.
You can personalize the Nokia 3250 with a variety of wallpaper, themes, and alert tones, and if you're not satisfied with the phone's selections, you can always download more. The phone supports J2ME applications and comes with a Snakes game preinstalled.
We tested the triband (GSM 850/1800/1900; EDGE) Nokia 3250 in San Francisco on the Cingular network. Calls sounded loud and clear, and we were surprised by the quality of the speakerphone as well. Callers did note that we sounded a little faded and could tell we were on a cell phone with the occasional crackles. Audio quality of the speaker is great, as is the quality of the sound from the music player. We managed to pair the Nokia 3250 successfully with the Nokia BH-800 Bluetooth headset.
The Nokia 3250 has a rated talk time of three hours and a rated standby time of 10 days. According to FCC radiation tests, the Nokia 3250 has a SAR rating of 0.88 watts per kilogram.