The first question parents need to ask before buying a mobile phone for their child is whether camera phones are banned at school. Headteachers all over the country have banned camera phones and some councils have issued authority-wide bans. Teachers' dislike of cameras is long standing and it is not just camera phones. Teachers' unions are also fighting the introduction of CCTV in classrooms. Whether or not a phone is switched on, the mere fact of taking it into a lesson is likely to turn even the best student into enemy number one in the eyes of the teacher. If the phone is confiscated, then you may have to wait until the end of the week - or worse, the end of term - to have it back.

Finding a 'cool' phone without a camera is not easy. Our research suggests that Nokia's 3100 is a good bet especially since a drop in price. When it was launched the easy to use, miniature Nokia 3100 was a welcome relief from fatter phones with too many functions, but at over £100.00 for the handset, it seemed over priced. When we checked latest prices for this review (15 September 2004), Tesco was selling the handset as pay as you go on its network for £63.99.

According to our testers, the best thing about this phone is its size and the fact that you only have to recharge it twice a week. At 10.2x4.3x1.7cm the handset fits easily into your pocket and is easy to use with one hand. The mat plastic cover, small screen and rubber keypad all help to hide the inevitable scratches. Nokia calls the 3100 its disco handset on account of the phone's light effects. The backlight on the phone is a very bright white, which shines through the translucent cover. When the phone receives incoming calls, it flashes in tune with your ringtone. There is no problem locating the illuminated phone and as the evenings grow darker, it doubles as a decent torch. Nokia's Xpress-on gaming covers fit the 3100. The covers light up in time with gaming action and have a keypad with numbers merged to make it easier for use with games.

The small, colour screen displays a modest 4096 colours. MMS can be sent and received and there are 8 lines of text when typing SMS. The phone plays polyphonic ringtones and Java games and has WAP for downloading both. It comes preloaded with 30 ringtones, 3 Java enabled games and 3 animated screensavers. The phonebook memory stores a couple of hundred contacts: more than enough for Gizmokids.


If you stop to think about how much you actually need in a phone, you may start dispensing with quad band, MP3 players and cameras in favour of a handset that is easy to use, has a decent battery life and above all, fits in your pocket. The Nokia 3100 fits the bill. It isn't cutting edge technology but nor does it scream out of date. It also avoids trouble at school with camera phones - that is as long as you remember to switch it off in class.

This product was kindly loaned to us by