The Nokia 9300, the latest in Nokia's 'communicator' business phone range offers familiar features in a considerably smaller package. Sadly Orange only make it available to their Blackberry business users, while Vodafone offer the more open version.
The 9300, like its considerably bulkier predecessor the 9500, is hinged along the left hand edge of the body and opens to reveal a 640x200 pixel screen with a compact, almost useable, QWERTY keyboard.
The large navi-pad in the bottom right hand corner has been exchanged for a smaller version that moves the cursor while browsing and editing. The top of the keyboard retains the strip of pre-set hotkeys, allowing one-touch access to the phone's functions, while to the right of the interior screen a second set of keys offers various menu options, dependant on which application is in use.
Interestingly the 9300 is still only 2.5G, unlike the new SPV M5000 about to be launched on Orange, so even though there are 65,000 colours on the screen screen, both inside the handset and out, you are still constrained to a comparatively slow web connection.
Phone connectivity is Tri-band (EGSM 900, GSM 1800, and GSM 1900) with 4 hours talk-time and up to 200 hours standby. Broader connectivity comes through Blackberry email, Bluetooth and infrared connections. A desktop stand that combines the USB connector and charger is also provided, and used to handle cable-connection data sync.
It's curious that a device pegged in the business bracket seemed to lack identifiable email. The Nokia website mentions an on-board mail client which seems conspicuous by it's absence on the model reviewed. This is because Orange have configured their version of the device to be a Blackberry handheld, and while this has definite pluses to those business users who have Blackberry mail servers attached to their work systems this doesn't suit everyone and thankfully other networks aren't following suit.
On-board software will allow the creation and editing of documents, spreadsheets and presentations although the direct compatibility with popular MS applications such as Word, Excel and PowerPoint is limited with formatting problems common. To keep you occupied there is an MP3 player as well as Real Player and the Nokia PC Suite includes a CD music program to handle ripping, encoding and transfer from CD/PC to phone. On board you get 80Mb of memory to store all your media and business material, but a full-sized SD slot under the battery cover means that you can 'hot-swap' (change cards over with out having to power-off) memory cards, and expand up to 1Gb.
Keyboard layout, sync software, lack of camera and browsing were the problem areas for us. Even though Nokia have made the effort of putting a full keyboard they've switched enough of the keys around to make using it a little tricky, with the full stop and comma characters being particular examples.
The web browser often refuses to display images although I suspect due to the size of the local cache. The browser also lacks a display feature to make the web page being viewed scale to fit the full horizontal size of the screen, leading to unsightly horizontal scroll bars and zooming all over the screen courtesy of the navi-key.
This is the first device that I have lamented the lack of camera. Combine a 2Mp camera with the 9300 keyboard and you expand the applications of the device into the 'Moblogging' arena for ‘Citizen journalists' everywhere.
Overall with complex functions come higher expectations. The 9300 does enough things well enough to make me consider this a near worthy replacement for my Danger Hiptop, but only in the standard configuration and not in Blackberry flavour.
The alterations that Orange have made to the overall OS may explain why some problems were encountered but Nokia need to generally look at their software offering if they are to continue chasing the business market, especially where application compatibility is concerned.
A 3G version of the ‘Communicator' is also fast becoming a must.