Nokia 6103 Review| By Allen Tsai
Late last year Nokia released the 6101 and 6102 for T-Mobile and Cingular respectively. Offering a carefully engineered balance of compact size and classic style, both conservative phones, although successful in their own right, were unfortunately pitted against the ultra-thin trends of the Motorola-dominated clamshell market.
Building upon the popularity of the 6101, Nokia has released the 6103 for T-Mobile, retaining its compact size and ease-of-use with a similar yet updated modern look. However, rather than being a successor, the 6103 is more of an improvement, adding the convenience of Bluetooth technology while maintaining a similar, but well-rounded feature set.
The 6103 comes bundled with a VGA camera with dedicated camera key, Nokia Xpress audio messaging for sending audio clips with just the touch of a few buttons, and dual color screens with support for animated wallpapers and screensavers.
Synchronizable contact and calendar information, voice dialing and recording, and a built-in handsfree speakerphone allow busy consumers get down to work, while an integrated FM radio and downloadable content support including MIDI and MP3 ringtones, themes, and games satisfy the need for fun.
The Nokia 6103 resembles the 6101 in design, offering clean lines and conservative style without being flashy or gaudy. While much thicker than the more popular ultra-thin devices sweeping the market, the 85 x 45 x 24 mm 6103 is about average with current devices on the market.
Diverging from the color scheme of the 6101, the 6103 features a black-lined silver exterior, with a 4K-color external screen highlighting incoming and basic information such as signal strength and battery charge level. Above, a built-in 0.3-megapixel camera is activated by pressing the Camera Key situated to the right edge, capturing photos up to 640 x 480 px in size.
Near the Camera Key, an infrared port lets consumers send, receive, and synchronize data wirelessly, while the Volume Keys on the left side adjust earpiece and ringer volumes during calls and standby.
An integrated speakerphone is located on the top of the 6103, while a multi-functional system connection port (Pop-Port) is located on the bottom.
Also used to charge the 6103, the Nokia designed outlet automatically identifies accessories attached. Offering stereo sound with the use of headphones, users can charge their accessories with a single USB cable without the use of separate power sources. The Pop-Port transmits at rates of up to 230 kbps.
Flipped open, consumers can easily navigate through the menu with the 5-way keypad. Featuring a 65K-color internal screen, two soft keys below provide convenient access to shortcuts.
Created with functionality in mind, the 6103, like the 6101, is one of the better designed phones on the market. While other manufactures may sacrifice usability for slimmer form, the 6103 puts functionality on the forefront for users who want a well-designed phone and don't need an ultra-thin profile.
Out of the box, the Nokia 6103 comes with a Standard 720 mAh Li-Ion Battery, Charger, Handsfree Headset, and User Manual.
The 6103 offers the same VGA (0.3-megapixel) camera found on the 6101, triggered by the dedicated Camera Key, turning the internal LCD turns into the viewfinder (self-portraits are also possible using the external LCD).
But with advancements in mobile imaging technology, VGA cameras are almost a thing of the past. With many devices progressing beyond 1.3-megapixels into 2.0- and above, the 6103 is below average, only capable of snapping photos up to 640 x 480 px in size.
Encoded in JPEG, three image quality options allow users to choose between high, normal, basic, although anything below high is virtually unusable. And even on high, the resolution is too low to make decent prints. Instead the 6103's camera is best suited for snapping impromptu photos to send in multimedia messages or set as phone wallpapers.
Self-Timer and Night Mode functions are included on the 6103, however the lack image processing options such as digital zoom, exposure and brightness adjustments, or color balance make the 6103 fairly weak in image correction features.
Video clips can be recorded at Sub QCIF (128 x 96 px) resolution and encoded in the 3GP codec (H.263 and AMR) format. Not particularly usable, the video features on cell phones have never been very good, integrated more of as novelty item than functional.
Released exclusively for T-Mobile, the tri-band Nokia 6103 runs on GSM 850 / 1800 / 1900 network worldwide, provided it's unlocked. As a common carrier practice, the 6103 is "locked" to T-Mobile's network to prevent customers from taking discounted phones (purchased in conjunction with a plan) to other carriers. However good-standing customers can usually request the unlock code after 90 days of service. Only after entering the code can users take the 6103 to different GSM carriers.
Rating the 6103's 720 mAh Li-Ion battery at 4.0 hours and 384 hours (16.0 days) of talk and standby times respectively, these are under optimal conditions. Manufacturers and carriers often list talk and standby times with disclaimers about variable performance, and refer to the times they publish as maximum times. Actual talk and standby times are lower.
The Nokia 6103 delivers the same 65K-colors screen found on the 6101, measuring 128 x 160 px in resolution. Constructed of TFT (Thin Film Transistor) LCD technology, circuit transistors placed directly on the glass provide more vivid imaging and faster refresh rates over STN (Super Twisted Nematic) technology.
By contrast, the external display is an STN external screen, providing 4K-colors at 96 x 65 px. While not as vibrant as the internal TFT screen, STN has the added benefit of consuming less power, prolonging battery life. Used mainly for static indicators, Nokia decided STN was a better fit for the external screen.
Offering information to signal strength and battery level, other essential information includes network name, time and date, the active profile, and alarm clock or calendar note alerts. Additionally when users have an incoming call, the caller's name or number is displayed.
The 6103's dual displays offer mediocre imaging. Compared to other LCDs on the market, the 6103 is not state-of-the-art, falling well short in vividness and sharpness to screens on high-end devices with 262K-color and now even 16.7 million color screens. However, being priced as a mid-tier handset, the 6103 offers an acceptable screen at a reasonable price.
These days, music phones are almost as popular as camera phones. Unfortunately, the 6103 lacks MP3 playing capabilities (although it supports MP3 ringtones). To make up for it, Nokia included an FM stereo radio (headset sold separately). Allowing consumers to listen to live radio on the road, up to 20 stations can be preset, through both manual and automatic tuning.
The Nokia 6103 supports SMS (Short Messaging Service), EMS (Enhanced Messaging Service), and MMS (Multimedia Message Service) for text and multimedia messaging.
A new feature called Nokia Xpress is also included on the 6103. Allowing consumers to send voice clips over the network, customers to send personalized audio messages in spontaneous and creative new ways.
Supporting the latest instant messaging platforms, the 6103 also comes preinstalled with AOL Instant Messenger (AIM), ICQ, MSN Messenger, and Yahoo! Messenger, a standard among T-Mobile devices these days. Providing real-time chat from a wireless device, consumers no longer need to end the conversation away from home. Through the 6103, users can keep the conversation alive just as if they were sitting in front of a PC. Airtime charges may apply.
The Nokia 6103 comes with essential and commonplace PIM (Personal Information Management) applications found on most devices today, such as Alarm Clock, Calculator, Calendar, Countdown Timer, Notes, Recorder, Stopwatch, and To-Do List. Through POP3, IMAP4, and SMTP protocols, users can also check 3rd party email accounts.
Not limited to just those programs, the 6103 also runs on J2ME (Java 2 Micro Edition), a popular mobile platform, allowing consumers to install simple games and applications.
Many developers and companies have created a wide variety of software, ranging from "mobile versions" of popular PC applications, to video games resembling old 80s console titles, so users should be able to find what they're looking for.
Whether through the Internet, or T-Zones, T-Mobile's online service, users can download programs for free, although most costs a small fee from $2.99 to $6.99 apiece.
T-Mobile offers a few convenient services to its customers. Access to T-Zones, its online multimedia service, lets users connect to send messages, check email, purchase multimedia, and access a variety of premium services.
Rendering web pages upon WAP 2.0 markup languages, the 6103 comes with GPRS (General Packet Radio Service) Class 10 to allow users to surf the web at up to 48 kbps. But customers will probably prefer EDGE (Enhanced Data rate for GSM Evolution) technology, T-Mobile's 3G high-speed network.
Allowing customers to transfer 3 to 4 times faster than traditional GPRS networks, EDGE achieves realistic rates of around 70-135 kbps. Road warriors who need Internet access can connect the 6103 to a laptop and receive broadband access anywhere T-Mobile's EDGE network is available.
With coverage in over 13,000 U.S. cities and towns and more than 39,000 miles of U.S. highways, EDGE covers a population of nearly 253 million people. Internationally, EDGE and GPRS roaming is available in more than 80 countries.
For storage of photos, ringtones, emails, and text messages, the Nokia 6103 comes with a measly 4.2 MB of memory. Severely limiting without an expansion card slot, users will need to clear out extra room should more space be needed.
With Bluetooth and infrared capabilities, the 6103 is a well connected device. Able to transfer data within a 10 meter range, the Bluetooth protocol allows users to pair the 6103 between other peripheral devices such as headsets, car handsfree systems, PCs, printers, PDAs, and digital cameras. As the already-popular Bluetooth standard grows even more popular, more and more devices in a wide range of industries are adopting the standard.
Overall the Nokia 6103 is little changed from the 6101, offering similar design, imaging, and audio features. While many devices have improved features, the 6103 is a bit disappointing with outdated technology. But being similar is not such as bad thing, especially when the 6101 was a well-built device with solid features.
Straying from its predecessor, the 6103 is updated with Bluetooth wireless technology. Combined with its infrared port, the 6103 has an impressive set of connectivity features. But perhaps the greatest strength is its usability. While neither ultra-thin nor extra-small, the 6103 offers a conservative and intuitive design.
Features such as dual color screen, FM radio, and J2ME offer a good multimedia package on the road, but lack in comparison to high-end device focusing on camera, music, or video technology. Priced as a mid-level device, the 6103 is built for a different set of consumers who desire a good value rather than all the bells and whistles.
For those looking for specialized device, the 6103 is not it. But for consumers who want a well-designed phone at an affordable price, the 6103 is an excellent choice.
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