Review: Nokia 6220 Classic
Nokia's latest attempt to fit a quart into a pint pot proves a qualified success....
At only 66cc and 90g, the 6220 Classic is one of Nokia's very smallest S60 phones, but don't let the diminutive size fool you, for this has virtually all the functionality and spec of the flagship N95. What's interesting is to spot where compromises have had to be made in order to perform this miniaturised magic trick.
At least, that's the most interesting way to approach the 6220 Classic for tech-heads and power users - the man in the street will see this as a free Nokia with 5mp /Xenon-flash camera on a £15 a month contract and that's the guise in which it will sell by the bucketload. It might even appear on pay-as-you-go by the end of 2008 - who knows? SIM-free, it is available now for around £260, but this should fall towards, or even below, £200 once the launch-price-effect wears off. Very impressive - compare this to the N95's launch price of £500.
But, taking the geek's point of view - yours and mine - let's examine this tiny S60 phone in detail. The review unit had a rattle-prone keypad surround, but let's be generous and assume that this is because it wasn't a full retail device (it came white-boxed but with full box contents). Shiny black (and fingerprint-attracting) plastic, so much in vogue these days, provides most of the front surface and feels cheap, if I'm honest. If I didn't already know what was inside the 6220, I'd dismiss it as a bottom of the line Series 40 feature phone. Yet the prominent (in contour, not in size) S60 apps key gives a clue to what the device can do.
There's a microUSB jack on the bottom, plus a charging socket and, unusually, a 2.5mm enhanced audio jack. It's surprising to see a 2.5mm jack on a mass market phone, but hey, the 6220 Classic comes with compatible stereo headset and TV/Hi-Fi out leads, so the user's got all they need to get going. This is the first phone I've seen with 2.5mm TV out, by the way - it's a pity the E71 and E90 didn't have the extra electronics for this lead to work....
The left side has microSD card slot (tethered), plus a blue-jewelled navigation shortcut key, shown below - a great touch. This launches Nokia Maps, as you might expect, but can be customised in Settings. The 6220 Classic's right has volume up/down (/zoom in/out etc) and an annoyingly prominent camera shutter button. It's part protected by an accompanying plastic protrusion, but I'd still much rather have semi-sunken keys, as on the N95.
But it's round the back where the real appeal of the Nokia 6220 Classic lies. Ignore the flimsy rear battery cover - just look. There's a Carl Zeiss-lensed, protected 5megapixel camera with Xenon flash. Wow.
The results from it match up, more or less, to those from the likes of the N82, with the Xenon flash being every bit as bright as that in its much more expensive stablemate. For casual users there's no question that this will replace a basic digital camera.
Click each to enlarge to full size or download (watch out for browser re-sizing etc). On the left a sunlit close-up - a little over zealous edge enhancement, perhaps! On the right, a Xenon-lit shot in near total darkness
Here's a direct 1:1 close-up (i.e. this is only a tiny fraction of the whole picture area) from a photo taken on the N95 (left) and 6220 Classic (right):
The N95's photo is better, but it's hard to say whether this is due to better optics or sensor or simply more mature photo-processing algorithms - the typical 6220 Classic user would be pushed to spot anything at all wrong. And hopefully future 6220 firmwares will tweak photo quality etc.
As with the N82 and N95 classic, sliding the mechanical lens protector across kick starts the Camera application, although the interface seems simplified a bit for this mass market phone, with all the fiddly exposure, ISO, sharpness (etc.) options removed. Probably just as well. Rafe says that this is because the 'full' camera application is Nseries-specific, the older Nseries camera app (which this is) has been passed back for inclusion in the baseline S60.
What's been added is optional geotagging of your photos. We saw this for the first time in the black N82 and it works just as well here, with intelligent algorithms handling short-lived GPS lock dropouts. Video recording is at the (usually Nseries) standard of VGA by 30 frames per second and, again, brings 2008 specification hardware slap into everyman's lap.
As a 'candybar', the 6220 Classic has to make do with smaller keypad and smaller screen, but, as with the N82, I felt that the designers skimped a little. Here there's a 2.2" display and there's easily room for a 2.4" (the N82 had 2.4" when there was room for a 2.6"). The fractions of an inch sound trivial, but look here at the real world difference between the 6220 Classic and the similarly-specced N95 8GB:
With S60 3rd Edition Feature Pack 2 having smaller fonts in places than previous editions, you have to have reasonably good eyesight to use the 6220 Classic comfortably. Luckily, the target demographic will be much younger folk than I and even 2.2" shouldn't be a problem. The display is bright and clear, as we've come to expect from most recent Nokias.
The main key cluster and d-pad are top notch but the numeric keypad is flush and only the '5' key has indents - this makes it harder than it should be to find your way around the keypad and it's also not helped by the corner keys (* and #) being harder to hit because of their extreme positioning. Still, again, these sort of compromises come with the candybar form factor at this size.
Removing the flimsy back cover reveals the well known BP-5M battery. At 900mAh, it's on the small side, but then there's only a small screen to keep powered up and no Wi-Fi to soak up electrons with.
Although much of the S60 phone spec is set in stone these days (3.5G data, Assisted GPS, oodles of free RAM, 100MB plus free flash storage), the 6220 Classic misses one staple out by not having Wi-Fi. This may shave a fraction off the bill of materials for the phone, but size issues and aerial configuration may also play a role. Most buyers won't miss it because they won't be looking for it - but hey, I was a little disappointed. This is the first S60 phone for well over a year that hasn't had Wi-Fi and it was a bit of a shock to have to do everything over the cell network for once! Given the growth of 3G coverage in most markets over the last few years this is less of an issue than it would once have been. However, some applications types do suffer, at least a little, from the absence of Wi-Fi - notable among these is Nokia's Music Store, with its multi-megabyte downloads.
More minor omissions include an accelerometer and a 'multimedia' key - but as a distinct non-fan of the latter, I think its omission is actually a good thing, not bad! And, with technology moving on apace, there are several features here that even the mighty N95 didn't have. USB 2 transfer speeds, for example, meaning that I regularly got up to 10MB per second to and from the 6220 Classic's disks. Great, really great for loading up media for playback later, or for archiving captured photos and videos.
Most of the other additions come as part of S60 3rd Edition Feature Pack 2 (FP2). This is one of the first devices to use this (I encountered a few instabilities and doubtless there's a firmware upgrade already in testing) and I was largely impressed. I loved the labelling of the context-sensitive centre key (d-pad in) throughout and I loved the shortcut to 'Show open apps' in all menus throughout the 6220 Classic. With more multitasking, easier access is needed, of course, so the 'open apps' list is now a compact grid and you get to see all your running applications without having to scroll - providing you can recognise them from just their icons.
The most obvious FP2 addition, of course, is 'Theme effects' (transitions), accessed from the usual Themes menu rather than from Display settings, as might have been more logical. These involve animating everything - so, for example, screens fade out/in and appear to recede or grow. Even moving the highlight from app icon to icon involves the highlight 'sliding'. The most dramatic transition is when switching from something in portrait mode to something that has to run in landscape mode, in which case the entire display shrinks, rotates and then grows again. Most experienced users (including me) enjoy the novelty for at about five... minutes and then spend another five searching for how to turn the effects off, since they get annoying very quickly and tend to slow down the UI. The transitions are there, I suspect, because the Apple iPhone 'has them'. New S60 users will keep them turned on, doubtless - mainly, I suspect, to impress people down the pub.
In terms of the 6220 Classic's software package, S60 has been maturing nicely for some time and the Nseries innovations and exclusives are here in force in a FP2 'numbered' phone. Podcasting, Share Online, Print Online, Nokia Music Store, Widsets, are all present in the firmware, with apps like Sports Tracker ready for grabbing via Download! The number of applications shipped with an S60 device has never been higher, yet Nokia do seem to largely be coping by dint of reorganising the shortcut icons and using nested folders to hide programs a lot of people will rarely use.
In case you were wondering, an N-Gage client is absent, although I thishank it would make a lot of sense. I benchmarked the 6220 Classic using the processor-intensive game Oval Racer, and found games performance quite weak, although it's possible that this simply meant that optimisations in the game for previous OS versions weren't taking effect. Testing using playing back H.264 MP4 videos showed that the 6220 Classic is certainly capable at throwing reasonable number of pixels around the screen.
There are extras here, of course. Marble Cannon is a really nice arcade puzzler and works beautifully in portrait mode, while there's the bought-in Mobile Dictionary, providing English help and also translations for up to two extra languages for free. Interestingly, Nokia's (now standard) email text-to-speech routines even work happily inside Mobile Dictionary and it's fun to point the software at tricky French or German words and see how the phone fares. Not bad, as it turns out, even though the voice is always a little 'dalek'.
Most of the S60 application suite is as expected, but Gallery has had a rework for FP2 and is faster and slicker, integrating the photo editing from the Nseries phones (but not the latter's carousel operation). Quickoffice is the viewing version, of course, and there are newcomers like Active Notes, also now standard across Nokia's range. File manager has had an overhaul for FP2 as well, by the way - there will be more on FP2 from Rafe shortly, so I won't steal his thunder.
Nokia Maps is the new v2.0 version and fits really well with the form factor. Impressively, the 6220 Classic seems to come with a microSD card pre-loaded with your country's streets - though this of course might vary by region. Annoyingly, Maps 2.0 on the (unconfigured) review unit didn't seem to like my Vodafone connection and I wasn't able to try out voice navigation. The basic Internet link was fine though, as evidenced by being able to surf happily in Web in portrait or landscape mode.
There are still some FP2 buggettes to fix, it seems, with Maps hanging at one point and Web showing truncated text in its pop-up menu. In addition, some applications ignored the new FP2 'Destinations' groupings and offered up the old 'Access points' list. Gallery needed the phone to be power cycled in order to see some new videos I had loaded onto the memory card. Finally, Share Online didn't appear to have its back-end support in place yet, with 'no services available' [Rafe reports that Share Online is fine on his retail 6220 Classic).
I tried to find out which version of the Java app Yahoo Go was included, but the software wouldn't even load... Wierd.
Nokia seems to have gotten S60 down to a fine art in other ways. For some time now, users are offered an animated tutorial when they first power up a device - you now also get offered the chance to sign up to 'My Nokia' on the second power up - with the great backup/sync services offered here, Nokia are right to make people aware. Incidentally, the tutorial's been greatly expanded here, with new sections on geotagging, Share Online, and the other new apps and features.
Nokia Zine seems to be a new thing, pushed through Web bookmarks.
Interestingly, the free game was missing its download links - someone's not thrown the right switch yet at Nokia 8-)
Teething troubles apart, there's very little wrong with the Nokia 6220 Classic. The small 2.2" screen won't be to everyone's taste but it's still good enough for someone wanting a traditional 'candy bar' phone. The numeric keys could do with more physical differentiation (come back, the N82, all is forgiven!) and I lost count of the number of times I hit the 'C' key by mistake when going for the right function key. Yes, the phone is all plastic, and in places flimsy, but then this is building down to a price. The user in the High Street will simply see a 5mp-equipped, GPS/nav-equipped Nokia for no more per month than Motorola want for one of their latest RAZRs and will be blown away.
So what if Rafe and Steve don't buy a 6220 Classic? That's two more in the shops for the rest of humanity.
Steve Litchfield, All About Symbian, 10 July 2008
PS. actually, Rafe has bought one, he'll explain why in a separate editorial shortly
Reviewed by Steve Litchfield at