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Adieu, Nokia 3220…

By on Jun 8, 2007 in Reviews, Tech Takes | 0 comments

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My (final) rating of Nokia 3220: 7.7 / 10

Nokia 3220
It comes to an end finally. After almost two years of having the Nokia 3220 as my faithful cellphone companion, which I thought I just couldn’t give up because I liked it so much, finally had to go. Sigh. What a sad loss.

It all happened like this. My phone got ‘sweat-logged’ while I was using it when playing. Serious. I’m NOT kidding – about the sweat-logging, and more importantly, the playing part. It seems that some sweat had leaked through the keypad’s d-pad area and into the internal circuitry. When I opened the cover, I could even see streams of water swirling around under the keypad. Result – when I pressed a particular key, something totally different got registered as a keypress with the phone! It’s very disconcerting to type ‘r’ and get an ‘a’. Anyway, things were pretty bad I guess, so with chants of ‘Long live PPP’ I tread the path to a mobile store (rather, The Mobile Store). I got an LG KG 300, a review on that coming up after I use it for some time.

Coming back to my old phone. It was simply AMAZING. It was a phone far ahead of its time when it was launched. It was among the first ones to support EDGE (Enhanced Data Rates for GSM Evolution) / HCSD (High Speed Circuit Switched Data), and a good xHTML parser too. It wasn’t a buggy Series 60 phone which takes 30 seconds JUST to start, and for a phone which didn’t use a highly complex OS (it was a Series 40 phone), it handled Java apps and parsed web pages blazingly fast. Even among phones with VGA cameras, it gave pretty good performance for its price-range, without being slow. Oh, and it was a phone, right? Just in case you ever forgot that bit, the voice clarity would remind you that bit.

What I liked the best was its ergonomics. With rubber side grips and a radical new contour which fitted your palm beautifully, it ensured a great level of comfort. It also featured a bump-surface rubber keypad. The advantage of this is that unlike a staggering majority of phones out today which have flat keypads with only a small marker on the number 5 for touch typing, the Nokia 3220 has a well-defined bump for each key. You could close your eyes and feel your way around the keypad to compose a message easily, which is what I did a lot when people sent me SMSes which I needed to reply to at the crack of dawn (10-11am IST). With a rubber, instead of plastic keypad, it ensured that keypresses were smoother, and yet maintained a pleasant tactile feedback.

The phone is not only rugged in looks with its rubber grips, but rugged in design too. When I had done my original research, I’d read on CNET that ‘…the phone is rugged, and survived our drop tests well…’. Indeed it does, and I speak from personal experience. Clumsy that I am, I’ve dropped the phone from various heights, and sometimes just for fun, so MANY times (a few times a month, on an average) and it never got affected! It’s is constructed in such a way that the structure takes the impact by releasing the cover and letting the battery fall out, rather than ramming it in and having it take on the full impulse. All you have to do is to put the battery back in, and you’re back in business.

The thing which I was TOTALLY crazy about though were the synchronized lights, and wave texting. The 3220 had synchronized lights at its sides, which at least to me, looked uber-cool and funky. It was not only for looks, it had useful function too in glowing in different colors to notify about new messages / missed calls. Many people didn’t like this though, and complained to Nokia. The point is, even though people could turn it off if they wanted, most didn’t care to go through the settings. Finally, later models of Nokia 3220 had the lights disconnected from the phone circuit, remaining as vestigial parts in the translucent rubber grip. The other apparently which people didn’t like is the funky color scheme that the phone came in, while for me it was a major attraction. Later models were turned out in a tasteless gray color.

And then there was wave texting, the coolest feature of the phone. This required a separate attachment, which is basically a row of LED lights on the back cover. It, literally, allowed you to form messages in mid-air. Although the number of characters you could use were limited, it was a very sexy feature. You just enter a message, or choose from among the predefined ones, and shake the phone in a gentle left-right motion in the air. A motion sensor detects this, and fires the LEDs in such a sequence that the message seems to hang in mid-air. The attachment also allowed you to play games using inputs from the motion sensor (much before Wii came along) – you could just shake the mobile in a particular direction to make a character move, but this was only for games built exclusively for 3220. And yet, people didn’t like this feature.

Amazing though this phone was, Nokia throttled it because of poor thinking. This phone was targeted towards the young generation, which is known to be very demanding of its gadgets. Nokia didn’t think about that, and didn’t give the phone Bluetooth or IR support. It had an internal memory of about 4 MB, and no support for SD cards. After making an amazing phone which had the potential to take the youth by storm, it left it stranded with poor tech support in other areas. It didn’t even market it well – they launched the marketing campaign for it under the tagline It’s a new phone everyday, referring to the transparent back cover which allowed you to put plastic cutouts of various designs (the phone even came with a stencil so that you could make your own – just put it over a printed sheet of paper which has a design, trace, cut it out, and just put it in). Now I’m not saying they shouldn’t have done this, in fact, I liked this too – I loved making new cutouts to match my wallpapers; and sometimes leaving it blank so that people could see the internal circuitry of the phone and see their jaw drop. But then, it’s other features like wave texting, motion sensitive input et al were relegated to the background. It’s almost as if they were embarrassed about it.

Watch the It’s a new phone everyday ad for the Nokia 3220

It feels so sad, that Nokia killed this phone, just like it did for the N-Gage. Both were promising platforms, albeit N-Gage less so – I mean, who wants to dial holding the phone one way, and then turn it around to speak? What I feel is that Nokia could very well have converted the 3220 into a series of its own, or at least churned out an updated version which had more features. It also shows the importance of marketing. It didn’t give the 3220 all must-have features, which put it out of running among kids. And then, it foolishly tried to pitch it to adults who hated the garish colors and funky designs. All this resulted in a radical phone getting pushed out of public mindspace – nobody I know recalled the model when I told them about it. Search for it on the Net, and you mostly find the odd article from tech mags talking about its new wave texting technology. That’s it.

It is sad that I had to finally give this cute little phone up. Sometimes, I just used to let an incoming call ring, to gaze at the synchronized lights (much to the consternation of the person who would be calling me). I really really really loved that feature. Sigh, they don’t make it anymore. And neither is any other manufacturer being bold. I was really really attached to the phone, despite it getting pretty outdated. Goodbye, my 3220, may you find loads of relaxing diodes and soothing MIDIs in semiconductor heaven.

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