Not everyone can justify having an expensive smart phone if they do little in the way of emailing, Web browsing or calling, which is why the pay-as-you-go Nokia 6124 Classic can easily be included for consideration. For £100 it provides 3G HSDPA support, a 2-megapixel camera with flash, a wealth of utilities and clear call quality exclusively through Vodafone. But on further examination you can see where costs have been cut and where problems arise.
The 6124's casing is stylish with a black finish and a small profile, and it's easy to access its microSD slot. It contains a standard mini-USB port for PC connectivity and weighs only 89g, which makes it easier to hold for one-handed typing. Despite its 51mm (2-inch) display, the screen remains vibrant and the home screen features Vodafone's customised background alongside standard Nokia shortcuts.
Navigating through the menus reveals a wealth of extra utilities and games to supplement the standard Symbian suite. So you have access to Google maps, eBay, visual radio, Vodafone's Music Station for downloading music tracks or Vodafone's Mobile TV service (both require subscriptions and the TV service would use heavy amounts of data).
The music player also seems to sport features which are normally available on more expensive products such as the N73 Music edition. You have support for album art, stereo widening and a graphic equaliser, and what's more, sound quality from the internal speaker is good. With the supplied 1GB microSD card there's also plenty of storage to get you started.
General performance is more than acceptable (only the odd game started to drag a little bit) and even though it doesn't provide GPS or Wi-Fi access, the 6124 does have 3G HSDPA support alongside strong signal strength, which helped to provide clear call quality during our tests.
Its 51mm screen may be vibrant but it does make it more of a challenge when trying to view Web pages, movies or text. And while not a disaster, we would have preferred a 3.5mm headphone port as opposed to a 2.5mm one.
Another, more significant problem is that the phone emanates more heat than normal, something that affects the case, screen and keypad. In our tests, this happened frequently -- when playing a game for half an hour or even when using the phone for a 20-minute call.
Battery life does provide around 4 hours of video playback, but making calls or browsing the Web on 3G does zap its life quickly. With only an 890mAh-rated battery and a claimed call time of 2.4 hours (using 3G), this will need regular charging.
An additional drawback is durability. We noticed that the keys on the right-hand side of the keypad were harder to press when typing emails or texts, and soon saw that some keys had started to come
away from the casing slightly. The directional pad is usable to a certain degree, but not that
comfortable or responsive for playing games or for navigating around
And as for the camera, it has flash support and a useful panorama mode, but it does not compensate for its average image quality -- indoor shots were especially grainy.
The Vodafone 6124 Classic still remains a good product despite its design flaws and poor battery performance. Prolonged use does start to produce more heat than normal, and coupled with its flimsy keys this does raise a doubt about its lasting build quality. That said, you do at least get 3G HSDPA support, a 1GB microSD card in the box and a useful music player for a good price. For first-time smart phone buyers or those looking for a spare phone, it could be a good pick, but for anyone expecting stellar quality, keep looking.
Edited by Marian Smith