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Nokia goes out on a limb with its new 6305i for Verizon Wireless. Not only is it one of the first Finnish phones to feature a slider form factor, it also ramps up Nokia's CDMA offerings as one of the first EV-DO mobiles we've seen from the company. A very sexy, stylish but slightly bulky handset, the Nokia 6305i provides a totally new design experience for Nokia lovers (thanks to the company's partnership with Pantech), but its feature set is a bit perplexing. While it comes with a megapixel camera, a speakerphone, and 3G support for Verizon's V Cast service, it doesn't offer Bluetooth or a memory-card slot. Granted, Verizon usually restricts Bluetooth anyway, but we think that both this feature and the added storage are necessary on a 3G phone. And since the lack of wireless connectivity likely will be a turnoff to most business users, we're not sure of the consumer segment for which Verizon is positioning this phone. Verizon has yet to list the phone officially, but it's available from other sources for $239. Service rebates, however, are likely to lower the cost once Verizon confirms official pricing.
As one of the first models to emerge from the recent Nokia/Pantech partnership, the 6305i is a very un-Nokia phone in terms of design. The rounded corners and the slider form factor are light years away from the standard candy bar handset that has long been one of the company's trademarks. In fact, it looks more like a design we're used to seeing from LG. But change can be a good thing, and the Nokia 6305i is a great example. We were drawn immediately to the sleek, aerodynamic lines and the bright-silver color scheme. The phone is a bit hefty (3.9 by 1.9 by 1.0 inches; 4.7 ounces), but we've come to expect such dimensions from most 3G phones, so the size wasn't bothersome. Plus, the 6305i benefits from a solid construction, and it felt comfortable in our hand. The slider mechanism isn't so stiff that it can't be operated with one finger, though it isn't too loose either. The stubby antenna does extend, but its construction is rather flimsy.
We were quite impressed with the Nokia 6305i's 2-inch-diagonal, 176x220-pixel display. Supporting 262,144 colors, it's among the brightest and most vivid displays we've seen on a phone of this caliber. It's great for showing off pretty much everything on the phone, and it's even somewhat visible in direct sunlight. You can change the backlighting time and the font size but not the brightness. The menu interface conforms to the standard design that Verizon is pushing on all its handsets. Although we give the carrier props for trying to make everything uniform across its lineup, there's no menu customization allowed, as well as nothing in the way of animation. What's more, we still can't imagine why the V Cast player is buried under a couple of submenus.
Below the Nokia 6305i's display are the quirky but still user-friendly navigation controls. Nokia has a history of tinkering with button layout (the Nokia 3200 and the Nokia 3650 come to mind), though the effect is not always successful. With the 6305i, however, the opposite is true. The circular keys are eye-catching, well sized, and tactile, and they didn't take a huge learning curve to use. Four keys are set in a ring, including two soft keys, the Talk and End buttons, and a Clear key. There's a small, round camera shortcut button, and in another un-Nokia move, the End key doubles as the power control. Inside the aforementioned key ring is a circular navigation toggle that doubles as a shortcut to the Get It Now menu, the Web browser, the V Cast launcher, and one user-defined shortcut. Finally, inside the toggle is an OK button.
The keypad buttons are also well sized and tactile, and they're backlit in purple. Our only complaint was that because of the slider design, they're set flush with the surface of the phone, which made dialing by feel difficult. On the upside, the upper row of keys isn't squashed next to the bottom of the slider. On the left spine is a camera-shutter key, while the right spine holds a covered headset jack, a volume rocker, and a voice-dialing/speakerphone key. The back of the Nokia 6305i has the camera lens, the flash, and a self-portrait mirror, in addition to a small speaker.
As mentioned earlier, the Nokia 6305i's feature set is somewhat underwhelming. While you get EV-DO capability, a speakerphone, and a megapixel camera, wireless connectivity (such as Bluetooth or even an infrared port) and a memory-card slot are conspicuously absent. You can sync your contacts with Verizon's Access Manager Tool, but Bluetooth would be a much better opinion, even if it were restricted to headsets. What's more, while the 128MB of internal shared memory is impressive, we've come to expect more from a phone of this caliber.
Now we'll address the basics. The phone book holds 500 contacts, with room in each entry for five phone numbers and an e-mail address. You can pair contacts with a picture for caller ID and select a ring tone from the phone's measly selection of five polyphonic tones. Other features include a vibrate mode, text and multimedia messaging, a calendar, instant messaging (AOL, MSN, and Yahoo), an alarm clock, voice dialing, a notepad, a world clock, a calculator, and a tip calculator. Incidentally, in another Verizon menu quirk, the option for setting the user-defined shortcut on the toggle is buried in the Tools menu. The speakerphone is quite user-friendly, though; you can activate it before you make a call.
The 1.3-megapixel camera takes pictures in four resolutions (1,280x960, 640x480, 320x240, and 160x120) and comes with a 3-, 5- or 10-second self-timer; brightness and white-balance controls; four color options; and three shutter sounds, plus a silent option. There's also a flash and a 2X digital zoom, though it's unusable at the highest resolution and with a flash. And if you're ever lost in the dark, you can activate the flash to stay steady for use as a flashlight. The video camera records clips in one resolution (176x144) with sound and at 25 frames per second. The flash and the zoom are usable here too, and you can adjust the brightness and white balance. Clips are limited to a short 15 seconds.
When finished taking shots or clips, you can save them to the Nokia 6305i, upload them to your online Verizon album, or send them in a multimedia message. Photo quality wasn't great. Images were blurry, and colors weren't very sharp. Video quality was about average for such a camera--fine for quick clips but nothing remarkable.
You can personalize the Nokia 6305i with a variety of wallpaper, display themes, screensavers, and sounds. If you want more options or more ring tones, you can download them via the WAP 2.0 wireless Web browser. There are no included games, so you'll have to buy titles from Verizon. The streaming-video options are the standard V Cast offerings.
We tested the dual-band, dual-mode (CDMA 800/1900; EV-DO) Nokia 6305i in San Francisco using Verizon's network. Call quality was decent, with admirable clarity and little interference or static. Callers said we sounded the same, and they didn't report any problems. We found the volume level somewhat low on our end, so users with hearing impairments may want to test the phone before buying. Speakerphone calls sounded a bit more robotic, but the volume level was loud. Web-browsing speed over the EV-DO network was speedy for the most part, though a game purchase did take about 5 minutes to download. EV-DO coverage was also spotty in buildings. Unfortunately, at the time of this writing, EV-DO service was not activated, so we weren't able to test the streaming-video quality.
The Nokia 6305i has a rated talk time of 3.5 hours, but our tests showed a surprising 5 hours, 10 minutes of talk time. It also has a promised standby time of 10 days, which we met in our tests. According to FCC radiation tests, the 6305i has a digital SAR rating of 0.79 watt per kilogram.