You get what you pay for with Nokia 6236i. Offered by Verizon Wireless, this decidedly low-key cell phone takes on a candy bar-style form factor that we would have expected from Nokia a couple years ago. On the downside, the design suffers from a couple of weaknesses, such as small buttons and a small screen, but if you want a lightweight phone that integrates features such as a radio, a camera, video capture, downloadable video games, and ring tones, then the Nokia 6236i may be right up your alley. Overall, a decent mix of features makes it a decent low-end selection. The Nokia 6236i is fairly priced at $169 with a one-year contract or $69 with a two-year contract. Let's be clear form the start that the design of the Nokia 6236i is far from fetching. With a solid rectangular shape and sharp edges, the candy bar phone is tall, measuring 4.2 by 1.7 by 0.7 inches. Yet, despite its height, the phone weighs in at only 3.5 ounces, which appeals to our sensibilities. Though it gets lost easily in a purse, it fits comfortably in a pocket, and it's very comfortable to wear on a belt clip, especially with the internal antenna. The color scheme is also a draw. While we like the two-tone silver and gray hues, the shiny silver border around the navigation negatively affects its ease of use (see below).
While the Nokia 6236i is easy to carry around, it's somewhat difficult to use. Holding it up to your ear or even in your palm is difficult for a person with average-size or large hands. We found the handset slightly more comfortable to use with an earpiece, but it caused discomfort after a short amount of time. On the upside, however, the 6236i, like most Nokias, is solidly constructed.
The display measures a substandard 1.5 inches diagonally (128x128 pixels) and supports only 65,000 colors. The difference between it and higher-resolution screens is readily apparent, as colors and graphics looked a bit washed-out. Still, the display is fine for the user-friendly menus, and the standard Nokia font is blocky, although easy to read; we were unable to adjust the font size. The screen is easy to see indoors and out in any lighting conditions.
The joystick control is unique but not necessarily better than a traditional five-way navigation toggle. The joysticks' edges are flat, they bothered our fingers after repeated use, and we thought it too easy to accidentally press down and select the wrong option when trying to go in a different direction. Moreover, as mentioned previously, the joystick is much too close to the silver border surrounding it, which results in an overall cramped effect. We did, however, find the joystick useful for wireless Web browsing, as it made our movements quicker and more fluid. The only caveat is browsing for more than 15 minutes is uncomfortable. The backlighting of the arrows surrounding the joystick is bright on the right and left side but dim on the top and the bottom. The joystick acts as a shortcut to the messaging menu, the Web browser, Verizon's Get It Now Service, and the calendar, but the setting cannot be changed.
Other controls consist of two soft keys, as well as Talk and End buttons. We are disappointed in the lack of dedicated buttons for the speakerphone or the camera, and we thought the company might have considered making the radio--the highlight of the phone--more accessible with its own control. But the size of the phone doesn't allow more buttons than absolutely necessary. The keypad is very small and has oddly constructed keys, which, in turn, are slightly wobbly with hard edges. Flush with the surface of the phone, they can best be compared with the keys on a laptop keyboard. Unfortunately, we don't think the keys will hold up to repeated use, especially without a protective cover. We also didn't find them easier to use than a typical raised keyboard, so we don't understand the design decision. They are, however, brightly backlit.
The left side of the Nokia 6236i has an indented button that acts as a volume rocker, which we found not very tactile and difficult to use. We would also prefer a more traditional rocker button so that we could feel which direction was up and down without looking at the screen. A slide cover on the right side of the handset covers the headset connector. The power key and the IR port are located on the top spine of the handset, while the bottom of the phone has a pop port, a power connector port, and a microphone connector port. We thought that the camera lens, which is located three-quarters up the back of the phone, could have been placed a little higher so that our fingers didn't get in the way when taking pictures. It should be noted there's no flash or self-portrait mirror.The Nokia 6236i has a 500-name contact book. Each contact stores four phone numbers; a fax number; an e-mail, Web, and street address; and notes. Contacts can be assigned a picture ID but not an individual ring tone, and they can be organized in one of six caller groups, which can have a ringer ID. There are also 25 voice-dialing entries allowed.
Nokia gives us 30 polyphonic (24-chord) ring tones, and you get a vibrate mode. Organizer features include an alarm clock; a calendar; a notepad; a to-do list; a calculator; a countdown timer; a stopwatch; a world clock; a unit converter; and a translator for English, Spanish, French, and Portuguese. The converter and the translator are nice features, although they're limited in scope. Also, the breadth of the translator is in question, as it didn't recognize the word hello.
The Nokia 6236i supports text, enhanced, and multimedia messaging, all of which are easy to use. The handset has an infrared connection, supports faxing, and offers PC Sync as an accessory. It lacks push-to-talk capabilities, Bluetooth, and Wi-Fi connectivity, but we wouldn't expect them on such a bargain phone.