Check our the Nokia E90 Communicator, released in the summer of 2007. It features a 3.2MP camera, WiFi, Bluetooth, a GPS and more!
Review revised for Cingular version on March 30, 2006 by Lisa Gade, Editor in Chief. Import version of the 9300 reviewed September 15, 2005 by Tong Zhang,
European mobile phone users have had the
pleasure of using the Nokia 9300 and 9500 smartphones for several
months. The good news is that Cingular announced they'd be offering
the Nokia 9300 on Sept. 27, 2005. Thought it took until late March 2006 to make it to Cingular's retail offerings, it's been worth the wait.
Those of you who used the Nokia 9290 will
already be familiar with the 9300's basic ergonomics and operating
system. The 9300 and 9500 represent long awaited updates to the
9290, one of the earliest smartphones, built on the Symbian OS
with its roots in the popular and stable EPOC OS on Psion. Eyeing the
enterprise market where accessing the web, email, BlackBerry Connect services, messaging
as well as using advanced PIM and Office applications is essential,
Nokia built a new generation of Communicator devices that feature slicker looks, color screens and an updated
OS and user interface. These two new models in the series, the Nokia
9500 and the Nokia 9300, are very similar. The 9500 is
larger than the 9300, has a VGA camera and built-in WiFi. However
the camera-less and WiFi-less 9300 GSM smartphone offers quite
an impressive feature set and holds its own in the increasingly
competitive smartphone market where Palm OS and Windows Mobile
devices also compete.
The Cingular Nokia 9300
The 900/1800/1900MHz unbranded version
The Nokia 9300 sports a much slicker and smaller
form factor than the aged Nokia 9290 Communicator. It has a lucious 640 x 200 pixel inner color display that's designed to give you lots of real
estate for web browsing, working with PIM apps and Office
documents. The built-in keyboard offers road warriors a compact
yet comfortable typing experience. Add Bluetooth for hands-free
options, EDGE support and an attractive set of software, you've
got the Nokia 9300.
Before anyone gets too confused, there are three versions of the 9300: the Cingular version which supports the US 850Mhz band (the focus of our review, this is actually the Nokia 9300b), the 900/1800/1900MHz version sold overseas since 2005 and by importers in the US (the original 9300 which we also received for review and will cover here too) and the new 9300i which is a 900/1800/1900MHz version with WiFi. So the only version offered in the US is the Nokia 9300b carried by Cingular. The other two 9300s are sold by carriers overseas and by importers here in the US.
In the Box
The Cingular package includes the phone, a USB 2.0 sync
cable (Nokia Connectivity
Cable DKU-2), standard Nokia world charger, Pop-Port mono headset, CD-ROM with PC Suite, PDF manuals and other companion software. The 900/1800/1900MHz non-Cingular version comes with a mono Pop-Port headset, charger, desk cradle (for syncing and charging), software CD, printed manual and a 128 MB MultiMedia
Card. Only the US Cingular version of the Nokia 9300 includes BlackBerry Connect software.
Unlike its predecessor the 9290 Communicator, the Nokia
9300 is a smaller phone and is pocket-able. When closed, the
9300 is the same length as the Nokia 3650 and is slightly narrower in
width. The Nokia has a muted silver housing with a shinier silver front
cover which you can change to personalize your phone. Another improvement
from the 9290 design is now you can talk with the front cover facing
your mouth. You will find an 128 x 128 color display on the cover which runs the equivalent of Nokia's Series 40 user interface (Series 40 phones comprise Nokia's mid-tier offerings). Also up front are a 5-way directional pad, two menu buttons, call send and call end buttons
and a large number keypad below the display. The d-pad and the buttons
are easy to press and the number keys are spacious. Above the display,
you will find the earpiece holes and power on/off button. The bottom
half of the clamshell houses a large IR port, Pop-Port connector (for
syncing and wired headsets), the mic and power charging port. The back
of the phone has a large battery door. You can open it to access the
battery, the SIM card and the MMC card slot. The MMC slot is hot swappable
and Nokia provides a 128 MB MMC in the package with the 900MHz non-Cingular version only. The MMC slot is capable
of taking up to 2GB MultiMedia Cards and works with the newer MMC Plus cards. Next to the battery door, you will
find two long rubber feet to prevent the device from sliding on smooth
surfaces when typing on the keyboard. There's a slight hump on the Cingular version which houses a larger antenna which improves reception.
The Nokia 9300 uses two strong
and thick hinges to connect the cover and the keyboard halves. Open
the clamshell, and you'll see the wide screen 640 x 200 transflective display
(4" diagonal) that's bright and provides good viewing angles. Four
command buttons live on the right side of the display, and they provide
shortcuts to different functions depending on which application you're
The QWERTY keyboard extends almost the entire length
of the phone and has a dedicated number key row. The keys are slightly
domed which makes typing easier, though there's little tactile feedback
when keys are pressed (no clicks). The keyboard feels comfortable to
type on though it is too small for true touch typing. You can however
use two or three figures to type while keeping the device on the desk,
or thumb type while holding the device in hand. In addition to the
number and letter keys, you will find 8 application buttons up top that
can launch Desk, Telephone, Messaging, Web, Contacts, Documents, Calendar
and My own applications. You can assign the My Own button to launch the
application of your choice. Note that while the front keypad is backlit, the QWERTY keyboard isn't, so you'll need to angle the display so its light bounces off the keypad when typing in dim or dark locations. The Series 80 UI offers many keyboard shortcuts, including Chr-n (create a new entry), Chr-e (exit) and shortcuts that are specific to a given application. For example, Ctrl-b bookmarks the current web page in the browser and Ctrl-r reloads the current page. The device uses shortcuts commonly found on Windows and Mac as well: Ctrl-a (select all), Ctrl-c (copy), Ctrl-v (paste) and so on. These pervasive, consistent and generally easy to memorize shortcuts obviate the need for a touch screen and in fact speed up work on the device.
Above: Nokia 9300b for Cingular (notice slight hump on the right lower surface for antenna). Below the Nokia 9300 (900/1800/1900MHz version).
On the top right corner above the keyboard,
you will find a dedicated loudspeaker and on the bottom right a joystick
control that can move the cursor on the screen and selects items when
pressed. This kind of joystick isn't commonly found on phones, but the joystick
on the 9300 works well with all the built-in applications, particularly the web browser where it acts like a mouse (useful since Nokia Communicators lack touch screens). If you have
used an eraser stick pointer on a laptop, then you will feel right at
home with the 9300 whose joystick is meant to act as a mouse replacement. But if you are a southpaw, you likely won't appreciate
it's rightie-centric location. And in all cases, it will take a couple of days to become proficient at using this novel pointing device. For those who just can't adjust, the 4 arrow keys beside the pointer are there as a backup.
The Nokia 9300b is a tri-band GSM mobile phone
operates on the 850, 1800 and 1900 MHz bands, while the European versions (Nokia 9300 and 9300i) run
on the 900, 1800 and 1900 MHz bands. Cingular offers the 850 MHz version in the US since they use both the 850 and 1900MHz bands.
The Cingular Nokia 9300 has good reception on the 850 and 1900 MHz bands. It's not as strong as the Nokia 6682 which is one of the many Nokia GSM phones with outstanding RF. Typically, the 9300 gets one less bar than the 6682 (on a scale of 1-7 bars). The 9300 beats the Audiovox SMT5600 and Cingular 2125 and is in a close race with the Cingular 8125 Windows Mobile Pocket PC phone. The phone's antenna is under a very subtle hump on the bottom beside the battery door and you will notice the phone drop down a bar when you hold it with both hands in open clamshell mode for typing. That said, most users will hold the phone to their head with the phone in candybar mode and then the antenna is unobstructed.
That ever so slight hump must make a difference, because we found that the "humpless" Euro 9300 had surprisingly weak reception on the 1900 MHz band using a T-Mobile SIM in the US. The import version does OK in strong signal areas but isn't as eager to make the best of a weak signal, unlike most GSM Nokia phones. Nonetheless, it never dropped calls, even in weak coverage
areas, and voice clarity was good. If you're a US T-Mobile customer who doesn't really need 850MHz, we suggest you get the 9300b if you can find one unlocked, rather than buying an import 9300 just for reception's sake and also for a better web browsing experience (more on that point later).
The earpiece has good volume that's adequate even in noisy environments and the included
headset has even better sound output. You can adjust the incoming call
volume by press left or right on the 5-way d-pad when in a call. You
can also turn on the loudspeaker during a call by opening the clamshell. You can make calls with the number pad when the clamshell is closed
or use the Telephone app when the phone is open. The Nokia supports speed
dialing, conference call, call barring, last number redial, voice recording
and provides 6 profiles. You can have 8 one-touch speed dial numbers
and up to 5 participants on your conference calls. The device has no built-in voice dialing software but it comes with a trial version of the excellent VoiceSignal voice recognition software which requires no training or voice tags.
All versions of the Nokia 9300 have class 10 GPRS for data with EDGE
support. On the Cingular version we got some very impressive numbers using DSL Reports mobile speed test: between 140 and 175k on EDGE. Those are the best numbers we've recorded for an EDGE (or 1xRTT) phone. That's even more impressive considering that the Euro 9300 and the Nokia 9500 were unusually slow at downloading and rendering data using the web browser. On the Euro 1900MHz version, the best We got was 68k using a T-Mobile SIM (oddly, neither AT&T nor
Cingular SIMs could get better than 25 to 35k, though they do have 1900
MHz EDGE in our area). So score several points for the Nokia 9300b on Cingular! The phone also worked well as a wireless modem over Bluetooth (DUN), offering very good transfer rates.
Messaging, BlackBerry Connect and Web
Email and web play big part in Nokia's pursuit of
the enterprise market with the 9300. Nokia bundles a Messaging application
that's the central hub for all types of messaging including text messages,
multimedia messages, POP3/IMAP e-mail messages and fax.
You can create, send, receive and organize all the messages in the Messaging
app. The Inbox contains all received messages except e-mail and cell
broadcast messages. For IM (Instant Messaging), Nokia bundles IM which works with AIM, ICQ and Yahoo Instant Messaging services. (the Euro version comes with IM+
which works with Yahoo, AOL, ICQ, MSN and Jabber).
Messaging supports MMS and SMS. If your text messages are longer than 160 characters, the 9300 will break
them into multiple messages with 160 as maximum number of characters
(that's what most cell phones do).
Each of your POP3 and IMAP email accounts has its own mailbox in Messaging.
The US Nokia 9300 comes with presets for a few popular ISP email accounts such as Earthlink, Yahoo and BellSouth. Like most phones that
offer email services, you can work online or offline with the 9300 email
system and it has support for attachments and printing. There are a large
number of options in the email client and mail services to simulate the
desktop e-mail experience as closely as possible. In additon, Cingular includes their XPress Mail service which uses your desktop PC as an email redirector and also gives you access to your calendar and files if desired.
In addition, the Cingular version of the Nokia 9300 has BlackBerry
Connect push email support which works with BlackBerry Internet and BlackBerry Enterprise Server services. PDF manuals for setting up and using BlackBerry services on the 9300 are included on the companion CD. The Nokia 9300 has separate settings for BlackBerry connectivity and you must subscribe to Cingular's BlackBerry Connect data plans ($35 for 4 megs of data and $45 for unlimited data). BlackBerries are neither the most ergonomic as phones nor are the feature rich when it comes to sophisticated web browsing, attachment support, multimedia and gaming. If you're one of those folks who company requires that you use the BlackBerry service, the Nokia 9300 is a very sexy alternative. Of course, if you're not a BlackBerry user, you need not use this feature and you need not subscribe to one of Cingular's BlackBerry data plans. Likely you will want to get their MEdiaNet Unlimited plan for $19.99 per month which we used to test our phone. This plan allows you to surf the web, transfer email and watch /listen to streaming media via the bundled RealPlayer to your heart's content.
The web browsing experience on the 9300's wide
screen is liberating after using handsets with small screens. This is the closest to desktop browsing experience you'll find on a PDA or phone. The bundled
Opera web browser with Nokia UI integrates well with the command buttons on the right side
of the screen which will dynamically change the command options based
on what you are doing in the browser. Those who have used the excellent
Opera browser on mobile phones will enjoy similar menu and functions
cookies, DHTML, full screen view, optimized view (avoids side to side scrolling), plug-ins and more. The killer web browser plus the wide
screen provides one of the best web surfing experiences on a mobile
phone. The Cingular version is a pleasure to use with fast web page rendering and download (by EDGE standards).
Web browser screen shot
Horsepower and Performance
The Nokia 9300 runs on a Texas Instruments OMAP
1510 processor at 150 MHz, the same processor that powers the Nokia
7710 multimedia smartphone. The Cingular 9300 feels snappier than it's 900Mhz companions, the Euro 9300, 9300i and 9500. While the processor feels slightly underpowered
when using applications, on the non-Cingular 9300 and more than a little slow on the 9500, it's responsive enough on the Cingular version. Some meaningful tweaking on it's way to the full US rollout has made a great difference in the phone's responsiveness. Even web page rendering, which is painful on the other models is fast on the Cingular version of the Nokia 9300. If you're accustomed to older Series 60 phones, Windows Mobile 5 Pocket PC and Pocket PC phones, then the 9300 will seem average in speed. If you're a Palm lover, then the Nokia 9300 will seem a bit slow launching applications. Tip: since the 9300 has plenty of RAM to run applications, you need not quit each one when you're done. That way they're still loaded in memory and you'll avoid the launch delay.
The Nokia 9300 comes with 80MB of shared memory,
76 megs of which are available for you to store contacts, files,
3rd party applications and more. That's a healthy amount of memory
for storing business files, messages and contacts, and if you need
more space for your multimedia files such as videos, you have the
MMC (MultiMedia Card) option. The MMC slot lives under the battery
door and it's swappable which means you don't have to shut off
the phone to insert or remove the card. You must put the battery cover back on for the phone to see the storage card. The device has 64 megs of physical RAM (used like RAM on your PC), show 46 megs using TaskSpy with approximately 20 megs are free at boot, which is plenty by Symbian OS standards.
Display, Sound and Multimedia
The 4" wide screen transflective main display on the Nokia
9300 is absolutely lovely! It's extremely sharp and bright and even small text is easy to read. The
images are crisp and color saturated, and you can adjust the brightness
to suit different environments. Unllike most PDA and PDA phone screens, the Nokia 9300's is easily viewed outdoors. The display resolution is 640 x
200 pixels and it supports 65K colors. Unlike Palm OS and Pocket
PC smartphones, the Nokia 9300 does not have a touch screen and
stylus. The wide screen makes web browsing, working with Word,
Excel, PowerPoint and PDF files a pleasure. Though the 9300 doesn't
feel particularly zippy working with simple apps such as Contacts
and Calendar, it doesn't feel much slower working with multimedia
applications such as video, image and music either.
MP3 sound quality through the earpiece and Pop-Port headset
is good and loud, though can't compete with the excellent sound quality
found on the Nokia 7710. The 9300 has a dedicated loudspeaker that has
very good sound quality and loud volume. The
speaker can also play music and video soundtracks quite loudly. Nokia
bundles a Music player which supports MP3, WAV, MIDI tones (poly
24), AMR (NB-AMR) and ACC formats. Unfortunately, the included mono headset
won't have you rocking in stereo, but you can purchase Nokia' stereo
For video play back, Nokia bundles RealPlayer. It
supports 3GPP standard H.263 profile 0 level 10 video codec with audio
encoded in narrowband AMR, MPEG4 SVP level 0 video using the 3GP file
format for playback only, and RealVideo 8 RealAudio 8 for video streaming.
Video playback quality using the RealPlayer is fair with only slight
frame drops, beating out the 7710 in video playback department. However
going out of the sync with audio on some of the video clips is more noticeable
than the frame drops.
Even though Nokia has updated
the OS (Symbian OS 7.0S) and UI (Series 80) versions, the menus and
user interface have remained somewhat the same as the 9290. The Desk
screen is the starting point to access all the applications and functions
the 9300 has to offer. The menu system is easy to understand and
simple to operate. The Control Panel and the File Manager make it
easy for you to set up various functions on the phone and manager
all your documents, photos, media files and more.
The Nokia 9300 bundles a suite of applications
to work with native Microsoft Office Word documents, Excel spreadsheets
and PowerPoint presentations. You can create and edit Word documents,
Excel spreadsheets and PowerPoint presentations with these applications.
Yes, you can create PowerPoint presentations right on the device
and you can input text and insert pictures, tables and shapes
as well. The Document app supports tables and templates and the
Sheet app supports Charts and objects. We tested various Word
docs, Excel spreadsheets and PowerPoint presentations, all files
run fine directly from the MMC card. Occassionally the word processor will alter formatting when saving documents created with Word on the desktop. Should you need complete document fidelity, consider purchasing Data Viz Documents To Go for Series 80. Other useful applications
also included are Acrobat Reader, Calculator, Backup (backs up the device to an MMC card) and a unit converter.
For multimedia, the Nokia 9300 bundles Music
player for playing MP3, Real Audio, MIDI and ACC files; Image
application for viewing, editing (cropping and resizing) and
managing your image files and RealPlayer for video playback.
Voice Recorder is also included for recording and playing voice
memos and phone conversations. The 9300 has Java support.
Bundled games include Bounce and Pro Tour Golf. The Nokia 9300 on Cingular comes with quite a few trial versions of software as well.
Like other smartphones, the Nokia 9300 has
PIM (Personal Information Management) applications such as Contacts,
Calendar and To-Do lists. The Contacts directory is very well
integrated with your Messaging, e-mail, phone and web browser
which means you can send messages, make calls or visit a web
site from the data stored in your Contacts. Though the Nokia 9300 lacks a camera, the contacts application supports caller photo ID, should you wish to add images of your contacts via Outlook on the desktop or directly using the contacts app on the phone. For business users,
the Nokia provides a Contact Card function where you can create
business cards with photos and send them in vCard format or Nokia
Compact Business Card format via SMS, MMS or email as well as
beam them via IR or send via Bluetooth. Very convenient feature!
The Calendar application bundled with the 9300 has some extensive
features. It has not only the usual Month, Week and Day views;
it also adds Weekly schedule view that shows activities in the
week and Year schedule view that shows timetable for selected
year. There are also Anniversaries view and To-Do list view to
help you remember and manager important things on your calendar.
The Calendar application also supports reminder alarms, notes
for the scheduled item, repeating schedules and more.
9300 comes with PC Suite for synchronization with Outlook on
the desktop. PC Suite used to be a dirty word a few years back (it often caused us fits of head banging) but it has grown into a very stable and full featured application that's no longer a distant choice behind Palm Desktop and ActiveSync. It gets your phone syncing to Outlook, offers multimedia transfer and even CD ripping, image management, application installation, backup and using your phone as a modem for the PC. Though iSync on the Mac doesn't yet support the Nokia 9300 (c'mon Apple!), it's fairly easy to modify iSync to support the 9300 for syncing calendar, contacts and tasks over Bluetooth (we tested it with an aluminum Powerbook G4 1.67GHz).
The Nokia 9300 has integrated Bluetooth 1.1
with support for GAP (Generic Access Profile, Serial Port Profile,
DUN (Dial-Up Networking), GOEP (Generic Object Exchange Profile),
Object Push, FTP, SIM Access and Handsfree profiles. You can
send files such as documents and images via Bluetooth or Synchronize
your phone with your desktop via Bluetooth. Though the need to
do so lessened as Nokia provides a USB sync cable and desk cradle
as well as a hot swappable MMC slot for easy access your data.
One of the biggest draws for the Bluetooth is the ability to
use with Bluetooth headsets.
We tested the Motorola
HS820, Plantronics Discovery 640, Cardo
scala 500 , Motorola HF800 car kit and the Plantronics
M3500 Bluetooth headsets as well as the Parrot
Bluetooth Car Kit, all paired easily with the Nokia. The sound
quality is good and volume loud. The range is very good between
the phone and the headsets, reaching generally 20 feet.
The Nokia 9300 has a user replaceable 970 mAh Li-Polymer battery (model BP-6M).
That's a healthy amount of power for a phone that doesn't have
camera and WiFi. The battery lives under the back door next to
the SIM card slot. You can charge it either using the desk
cradle (if included) or the AC charger
directly. Like most all smartphones, the 9300 has flight mode.
Even when the phone is turned off, you can still use the device
as a PDA— just open the clamshell and start using the PDA.
The battery performs remarkably well supporting the power
hungry large color display, phone radio and Bluetooth. The claimed
talk time is 3-7 hours, and we got 5 hours in our tests.
The claimed standby time is 150-200 hours which is doable. When battery is too low, the
Nokia will shut off its phone radio and still allow you to the
PDA functions for quite a while. The 9300 easily runs 2 to 3 days on a charge with moderate use and even longer if you're a light user. If you're using BlackBerry push email then the device should be good for two days or three. The 9300 beats Windows Mobile Pocket PC phones by a good amount in battery life, running nearly twice as long in our tests vs. the Verizon XV6700, Cingular 8125 and E-TEN G500. BlackBerry users will find battery life comparable.
Like having an office in your pocket! The Communicator line are unique in providing a true phone experience that transforms into a PDA when the clamshell is open. Given the widescreen display, keyboard and features, this device is surprisingly small and can fit in a roomy pocket (tight jeans and RAZR lovers need not apply). Business users and road warriors
should find the wide screen display, QWERTY keyboard and software
suite attractive. Those married to the BlackBerry service will love this sexy new alternative. The Nokia 9300 is user-friendly the OS is extremely stable.
Pro: Very nice
design that gives the phone a modern look. Unique and clever
longitudinal clamshell design. The wide screen display and full
QWERTY keyboard integrate with the phone and PDA functions very
well on the 9300. Myriad keyboard shortcuts speed up everyday actions. Great set of Office applications
and PIM tools at your fingertips. Messaging and web tools bundled
for users on the go. Good Bluetooth performance and compatibility
and syncing with your PC via PC Suite.
Con:No vibrate feature. No touch screen, which will strike veteran PDA users as odd. No WiFi on the 9300 and 9300b.
Price: approx. $299
from Cingular with 2 year contract and rebate (locked to Cingular). Unlocked 900MHz version is approx. $450 and the 900MHz 9300i (available only through importers) is higher.
display resolution 640 x 200 pixels, supports 65k colors. Outside display resolution 128 x 128 pixels, supports
970 mAh Li-ion battery. Claimed talk time is up to
7 hours and standby time is up to 8 days.
ARM family processor. 76 MB shared memory for storage.
64 megs RAM with pproximately 20 megs RAM available to run programs. Unlimited Jar size (for Java apps).
Size:5.2 x 2.01 x
0.83 inches. Weights: 5.89 oz.
Audio:Built in speaker,
mic and Pop-port headset connector. Voice Recorder.
Music Player included. Mono headset included, stereo Pop-Port headset sold separately.
1.1, IR and USB. Sync cradle included.
Phone:GSM with class 10 GPRS and EDGE. Two flavors:
900/1800/1900, and 850/1800/1900 MHz for Cingular in the US.
OS version 7. 0S. Nokia Series 80 UI. Full PIM and Office suites
as well as an email client and web browser.
Expansion: One MultiMedia
Card (MMC) slot, supports up to 2 GB MultiMedia cards.
One 128 MB MMC included on unlocked version and 900MHz version (none included with Cingular version). Works with MMC Plus cards as well.