We Ask Nokia Why They Love the 9300

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The launch of the Nokia 9300 Smartphone has certainly set the cat amongst the pigeons in the smartphone market. It's made some interesting design decisions compared to it's big brother, the 9500 Communicator. Why have Nokia launched two products that seem almost identical? Ewan managed to grab time with Mark Squires, Nokia's UK Head of Communications, to find out more.

The Nokia 9300 - Designed By You

Mark SquiresAt first glance, the 9300 is simply a smaller 9500, with the Wi-Fi ripped out and the camera inexplicably removed. So why is Mark bouncing around the room (and winning the most excitable Nokia Employee award for 2004 in the process). "Because having used a Communicator since the 9000 was launched in ’96 I've already decided I'm switching to the 9300. Once I get my sample back from the BBC-" it's being filmed today for the news reports on launch day "-I'm keeping it for good." Calming him down, Mark tells me about the design process and internal decisions that led to the 9300's form factor and features.

"It all started with the 9500. We built that to a specification, a specification we reached by listening to what everyone wanted, and then putting it in the final design. So we worked on things like wi-fi, the digital camera, bluetooth with a wide range of profiles, and all the other tweaks that are in the 9500. We'd regard the 9500 as 'The Communicator' and the 9300 as a 'Super Smartphone.'

"Once we had the 9500 out there, we used that as the basis of the 9300. The 9300 was designed almost in its entirety through the feed back we received from the 9500. The 9300 is aimed at the Trendsetting Business people, commonly in 'The City' who are always moving, hopping on and off planes, going around the globe and never being at a base of operations. They're the segment who said they wanted a smaller smartphone , and it's those people who's feedback we listened to in our NOP sessions before designing the 9300."

"It really surprised us when they all came back and said they didn't want the camera on the phone. We thought that would have been a given. Turns out that there were two main worries from Businesses on the camera. The first was cost - they didn't want the camera to drive up the monthly mobile bills. The main one though, was security. Not everyone is allowed to tote a camera in sensitive business areas, where there could be confidential material and possible prototypes on view. It’s something that doesn't always mix with camera phones."

"There was a lot of noise asking for wi-fi LAN access, but it was a minority. Once we really looked at the feedback, it became clear that most people would prefer longer battery life," (wi-fi is notorious for eating battery power). "Besides, for those who want wi-fi we have the 9500 in any case, so why put in something that was not wanted by the target audience for this product?"

Who's Got The Look?

The 9300 does do something that no previous Communicator does. It opens out flat. "We could have made all the other Communicators do that if we'd known how important this was to our users," laughs Mark, but this has good implications for the screen as well. "This one opens out onto the table, and it's like reading from a paperback book." To help this, the screen retains it's clarity over a much wider viewing angle than any other Nokia devices to date. The screen itself is around 80% the size of the 9500, but retains the same dimensions of 640x200 pixels, thus ensuring program compatibility across the range.

9300 In Cheesy ActionYou can't help to not notice the size of the 9300... or rather the lack of size. Looking at a closed 9300, you'd find very little difference between this and a regular 'dumb' Nokia phone like the 6310. It's light enough, and small enough to be used just like any other mobile phone (and yes, the speaker is on the same side as the number pad, just like any other mobile phone).

Along with the phone, the retail package will come with a desk Stand / Sync Station that makes it feel even more of a modern PDA than any other communicators. The 9300 also takes interchangeable 'Xpress-on' covers to customise the casing on the phone.

Technical Notes

Two or three issues weren't covered in the basic spec sheets, and I took the chance to clear these up with Mark. The first is the really geeky 'what CPU is it using?' which sent the Press Notes flying until it was tracked down. "It's an OMAP 1510 ARM running at 150mhz." The other was what bluetooth Profiles would it accept. Turns out it has... Generic Access, SDP Discovery, Fax, Dial Up Networking, Hands Free, Serial Port, GOEP Exchange, Object Push (as both Client and Server), File Transfer, Java API and SIM Access Profile.

The SIM Access Profile is probably the most interesting. it means that the 9300 can happily use Nokia's bluetooth car kit, something that the target audience was keen to see implemented.

Programming and App Development

9300 In Cheesy ActionFinally, Mark wanted to mention the expanded range of email support, particularly the Nokia One business server support and the BlackBerry Push software. If you've never come across this, it connects your phone to a server at your office (for example). When it receives an email, it 'pushes' it onto your phone, without you having to do anything. In effect, when you receive an email at your office, it shows up on the phone. Reply to it from the phone, and the same mail on your office server will reflect this.

The beta SDK for the 9500 and 9300 is available now from Forum Nokia, and has all the BlackBerry API's in it for application development. It should leave beta and go 'official' in a few months. Other development languages (C++ and Java MIDP) are supported throughout the Communicator SDK's, also on Forum Nokia. There's no word on Python being ported from the Series 60 alpha, but the OPL team are reporting they have a 9500 runtime ready for installation.

They're Excited About This

That Nokia want the 9300 to succeed is evident. While it's not quite the Treo Killer that the Americans wanted, it does win hands down in the design stakes, it seems to be everything the Europeans wanted in a stylish and modern business phone. With the lack of camera and wi-fi, what seems to be a miscalculation on first examination is actually going to be a key selling feature of the 9300 when it's released early next year.

Mark, thanks for taking the time to talk to us as the 9300 was announced.