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It's clear that T-Mobile is up to something. Though it is the only major carrier not to have a 3G network (at least at the time of this writing), that hasn't stopped it from adding 3G-capable phones to its lineup. First, it was the Samsung SGH-T369, and now it's the new Nokia 6263. What's more, while T-Mobile also is the only carrier to lack a music downloading service, it's still gone ahead and introduced a couple of music-themed handsets. First was the Samsung Beat SGH-T539, and now it's (you guessed it) the Nokia 6263. Though it somewhat resembles T-Mobile's earlier Nokia 6133, the 6263 adds dedicated music controls, stereo Bluetooth, and the aforementioned 3G capability. The functional design remains minimalist but appealing, and the call quality is satisfactory. We noticed, however, that the 6263's Series 40 user interface was the slightest bit slow. The 6263 is a reasonable $209 if you pay full price, but you can get it for a reasonable $79 with service. To find accessories for this phone, see our cell phone ringtones and accessories guide.
If it weren't for the dedicated music controls below the external display, you might think that the Nokia 6263 is a redressing of its 6133 predecessor. Both phones share a similar flip-phone design in basic black with a silver interior. It's not a particularly exciting design, but it's simple and user-friendly. We continue to like the smooth lines and rounded edges. The 6236's dimensions (3.72x1.88x0.85 inches) are almost unchanged as well so you won't have a problem carrying the phone around in a pocket. The 1.35 inch (128x160 pixels) external display measures and supports 265,000 colors. It's bright and easy on the eyes, and you can add a wallpaper design if you like. The camera lens sits just above the display. There's no flash, but you can use the external display to take vanity shots.
Fortunately, Nokia fixed one of the 6133's flaws by moving the microSD card slot from behind the battery cover to the left spine. On the right spine, you'll find a volume rocker and a dedicated camera button, while on the top of the phone sit a series of connection points including the charger and headset jacks and a Mini-USB port. Though the headset jack accommodates 2.5mm headsets, Nokia included a handy 3.5mm adapter in the box. The music controls below the external display are large and tactile, though they're not quite as user-friendly as we'd like. While you can activate and control the player with the phone closed, you must open it again to turn the music player off.
The 6263 does not offer the 6133's button for opening the flip, so you'll have to use the traditional method of using your fingers. But that's fine with us, as we considered that feature to be rather gimmicky. Once you get it open, however, you'll be drawn to the lovely 16-million color display. Like on the 6133, it measures 2.2 inches and supports 240x320 pixels, so it's rich and vibrant and displays everything well, including the intuitive Nokia Series 340 menus. You can set an active standby mode, change the standby font color, and alter the messaging and phone book font size.
The 6133's navigation array is carried over from the 6133. There's a four-way toggle with a central OK button, two soft keys, and the Talk and End/power controls. There's no clear/back key, and though the 6263 also lacks dedicated shortcut buttons, you can set the toggle to give one-touch access to four user-defined functions. Also, there's a secondary shortcuts menu that you can program with your favorite features. And in a change from traditional Nokia style, the End button also turns the phone on and off. On the whole, the navigation array is spacious and tactile, and we like that the toggle is raised above the surface of the phone.
The keypad buttons are improved over the 6133. They're not nearly as slippery, and instead of being flush, they're slightly raised. The result is a large, user-friendly keypad with a bright backlighting and distinct separation between the individual keys. The numbers on the keys were small, and the middle row felt a tad cheap, but otherwise it does the job.
The 6236's phone book holds 1,000 contacts with room in each entry for five phone numbers, an e-mail address, a URL, a formal name, a company name and job title, a nickname, a street address, a birthday, and notes (the SIM card holds an additional 250 names). You can save callers to groups and pair them with any of eight, 64-chord polyphonic tones. That's a rather small selection of tones, but oh well. You can assign your contacts a photo or video, either of which will show up on the external display.
Basic offerings include a vibrate mode, text and multimedia messaging, a speakerphone, an alarm clock, a calendar, a to-do list, a notepad, a calculator, a currency and unit converter, a world clock, a countdown timer, a stopwatch, and a voice recorder. More demanding users can take advantage of full Bluetooth, voice dialing, USB mass storage, audio messaging for sending voice mail directly to another phone, push e-mail (with attachments), PC syncing, and instant messaging for Yahoo, ICQ, Windows Live, and AOL clients.
The 6133s has a 1.3-megapixel camera that takes pictures in four resolutions: 1,280x960; 640x480; 320x240; and 160x120. You get a variety of camera settings including: three quality modes; an adjustable white balance; five color effects; a night mode; a self timer; a sequence option for shooting three photos in rapid successions; and a 6x zoom for use at any resolution. Like the 6133, the only thing missing is a brightness setting. The camcorder shoots videos in two resolutions (176x144 or 128x96) and three quality settings, with sound. The default mode lasts 20 seconds, but you can also shoot longer clips depending on available memory. The 6263 offers 30MB of internal memory but the microSD card slot can accommodate cards as large as 4GB. Photo quality was pretty good, with bright colors and sharp detail.
Except for its external music controls, the 6263's music player is not unlike those on other Nokia models. It plays tracks in MP3, eAAC+, and WMA formats, as well as DRM-protected Windows Media music files from most online music stores. The interface is minimalist but it offers choice of themes while player settings include Random and Repeat modes; an equalizer; stereo widening; and an Airplane mode. On the downside, it appears T-Mobile disabled the phone's capability to use MP3s as ring tones. You can transfer music to the phone relatively easily using Bluetooth, a USB cable, or a memory card. With the 6263's FM radio you can save 20 station presets, save station names in your city, or direct the radio's audio to the phone's speaker.
You can personalize the 6263 with a variety of color themes, wallpaper, animations, and alert tones. You also can compose your own welcome note. Integrated games demo games include AMF Bowling, Frogger 25th Anniversary, World Series of Poker Pro Challenge and Surviving Hollywood. For additional ringtones, games, and customization applications, you can download them from T-Mobile's T-Zones using the XHTML browser.
We tested the quad-band (GSM 850/900/1800/1900) Nokia 6263 world phone in San Francisco and Seattle using T-Mobile service. On the whole, the 6263 delivered admirable call quality. The signal was strong, and the clarity was quite clear, though we noticed the phone picked up a small amount of interference from other electronic devices. Volume was also good, though the phone has a sensitive sweet spot. When we moved it just a couple inches away, the volume level dipped noticeably. Likewise, while voices sounded natural the majority of the time, some of our friends sounded a bit robotic. We didn't have trouble hearing in loud environments, and the phone didn't pick up background noise.
On their end, callers said we sounded fine though they reported that the volume fluctuated up and down at times. Regardless of that issue, they were satisfied with their overall experience. Automated calling systems could understand us, but we had to enunciate clearly. Speakerphone calls were loud and clear. We could hear clearly, and so could our callers.
As mentioned previously, the 6263's menus were a tad sluggish. Some applications took a few seconds to open and moving backward through menus was also slow. It wasn't a huge problem, but we still noticed it.
Music quality was quite decent. The single speaker on right spine provided decent output, and the clarity was admirable. The quality was at its best through a headset, so we suggest using one whenever possible. As a 3G-capable phone, the 6263 supports 1700 and 2100 UMTS bands. Hopefully, T-Mobile will activate its 3G network soon so we can test that feature.