Nokia has always had a peculiar relationship with CDMA phones. The Finns dabbled in the space here and there but remained a staunchly GSM company. Then in 2006, Nokia decided it would retreat from the space almost completely by handing over CDMA handset design to Korea's Pantech. Though the Nokia name would remain on the CDMA models, for all intents and purposes, they are Pantech devices. The latest in the series, Verizon's Nokia 6315i, follows on the heels of the Nokia 6305i, which was also a Verizon handset. Though the EV-DO-equipped 6315i offers good call quality and adds some important features, its design and multimedia performance are a step down from its predecessor, the 6305i. The result is an acceptable phone, but as an all-around 3G device, it can't compete with the likes of the LG VX8300 or the Samsung SCH-A990.
We'll be frank by saying the Nokia 6315i doesn't offer much in terms of design. Instead of resembling the slick 6305i, it looks more like its other Nokia/Pantech sibling, the basic Nokia 6215i. Sporting an angular, boxy flip phone shape with a dull black and silver color scheme, the 6315i hardly looks like a multimedia phone save for the dedicated music-player buttons on the front flap. At 3.5 by 1.9 by 0.7 inches and 3.5 ounces, the 6315i is neither big nor small, but it does make a nod toward the thin-phone craze. The stubby antenna adds a bit more girth, but the phone has a solid feeling in the hand; the opening mechanism felt somewhat loose.
The external display measure 1 inch (96x96 pixels) and shows 65,536 colors. It's a nice effort overall as it displays not only the date, time, signal strength, and battery life, but also photo caller ID. You can change the wallpaper and the clock style on the display, but no other options are customizable. It also acts as a viewfinder for self-portraits, but you must go into the camera option to activate this feature. Speaking of which, the camera lens and flash are inconveniently located on the top rear of the phone.
Below the display are the aforementioned media player controls that allow you to open the player, then play, pause, rewind, or fast-forward your music. They're useful indeed, even if they are a bit too flat. Below the controls is the phone's sole external speaker. A covered headset jack, a volume rocker, and a camera shutter sit on the left spine, while the Micro SD slot sits on the right spine. We were glad to see Nokia/Pantech didn't stuff it behind the battery cover.
The internal display is a roomy 1.8 inches (1,280x960 pixels) and supports 262,144 colors. It's about average as cell phone displays go, but that's hardly a bad thing as it's great for viewing just about everything, even Verizon's much-maligned menu structure. You can alter the contrast, dialing font, backlight time, and clock format.
Immediately below the display are the navigation keys, which were on one hand spacious, but on the other hand also slippery and too flush with the surface of the phone. They're not unusable by any means but our finger slipped around a few times. A four-way toggle surrounds a central OK button and doubles as a shortcut to four user-defined functions. There are also two soft keys, a camera shortcut, and, in a nice move, a dedicated speakerphone button that you can activate before you make a call. The Talk and End/Power buttons and the Clear/Voice-Dialing control complete the navigation array. The keypad buttons are roomy as well, but they too are slick and completely flat with the surface of the phone. It's difficult to dial by feel, and the backlighting could be brighter.
The internal phone book holds 500 contacts. It's a bit small for such a feature-rich phone, but each entry holds 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 small selection of 10 polyphonic tones. Other features include a vibrate mode, text and multimedia messaging, a voice recorder, instant messaging, e-mail, USB compatibility, PC syncing, modem capability, a calendar, an alarm clock, voice dialing, a notepad, a world clock, a calculator, and a stopwatch. As previously mentioned we're pleased the 6315i bests the 6305i by including an external memory slot and Bluetooth, even if the latter comes with Verizon's usual restrictions. And as we said, the speakerphone is quite user friendly; you can activate it before you make a call.
The 1.3-megapixel camera takes pictures in five resolutions (1,280x960; 640x480; 320x240; 176x144; and 160x120) and comes with a 3-, 5-, or 10-second self-timer; brightness and white-balance controls; landscape and portrait modes; three color effects; 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 if you're ever lost in the dark, the flash provides a meager amount of light. The video camera records clips in one resolution (176x144) with sound and at 15 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. Once you're done with your work, you can save it to the 6315i's internal memory--it comes with 21.5MB of shared space--but you're better off using a Micro SD card. Despite being somewhat blurry, photo quality was average for a 1.3-megapixel camera. Colors were fine, but objects were a bit fuzzy.
As an EV-DO phone, the 6315i supports the full range of Verizon's 3G services including the V Cast video service and the V Cast music store. The music player's interface is standard for all phones from the carrier that support the music store. You also have the option to purchase a variety of Verizon applications including VZ Navigator and Backup Assistance and a host of alternative services such as Vindigo MovieGoer and Accuweather. And of course Verizon's Get it Now Internet service has even more programming choices. There are no included games, but you can always buy titles via the WAP 2 wireless Web browser; just remember that Verizon uses BREW instead of Java. You can personalize the 6315i with a variety of wallpapers, screensavers, and sounds, or you can buy more options if you want them.
We tested the dual-band (CDMA 800/1900; EV-DO) 6315i in San Francisco using Verizon Wireless service. Call quality was decent overall. We could hear callers plainly, and though they knew we were using a cell phone, they didn't report any problems. Volume was fine as well, but we did hear some static at the highest sound levels. It's not enough to be bothersome, but it was noticeable nonetheless. On the other hand, we didn't get any interference from other electronic devices. Speakerphone quality was good on our end, and though it was loud enough, it's best if you keep the speaker pointed toward you. Callers had more trouble hearing us, though, unless we were in a quiet setting. Calls with a Bluetooth headset were satisfactory as well.
Verizon's coverage remained strong throughout our test area, and we received strong EV-DO reception even in a subway station. The 3G network made Web browsing sufficiently zippy, and games downloaded in less than 30 seconds.
Multimedia performance didn't quite measure up on the 6315i. Music quality in particular was unimpressive. Not only did it sound too brassy, but the lack of stereo speakers doesn't help the situation. A stereo wired headset (not included) helped a bit, but still we weren't wowed. Keep in mind that you will need Verizon's Music Essentials pack ($29) to use the player fully, and that the 6315i does not have a stereo Bluetooth profile. Music download time was excruciatingly slow--it took 3 minutes, 15 seconds to download a 3.7MB song. Streaming videos were a bit better, but still quite pixilated and jerky. On the upside the 6315i paused to rebuffer just once in a few videos.
The Nokia 6315i has a promised talk time of 3.8 hours and a promised standby time of 10 days. Our tests showed a talk time of 4 hours and 3 minutes. We also managed to get an MP3 playback time of 11 hours and 37 minutes. According to FCC radiation tests, the 6315i has a digital SAR rating of 1.37 watts per kilogram.