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When I worked in Mexico, the language school employing me gave me, and all the other teachers, a phone so they could harangue us with calls day and night. This was the phone they gave us, probably because it was the cheapest, most basic model they could find. I gave mine back when I left, but my mother subsequently bought the same model in Ecuador, and brought it home with her. I then pinched that one to bring to Colombia, assuming it would work well with a local SIM, and it does. It's also the phone a lot of my friends had in Sierra Leone. So just what is it that makes this phone so appealing, especially to travellers?
The answer, perhaps unusually, is that it is just so UNappealling. This is one the cheapest, most boring phones on the market. It's not quite a 90s brick, but it might as well be. It is inconspicuous rather than flash, and even if a thief did spot this, there's no way they'd want to bother stealing it. This might only matter a little in the UK, but it REALLY matters in places like Sierra Leone and Colombia, and with this in my hand I never have to think twice about using my phone in the street or on public transport.
Aesthetics aside, this is a surprisingly ok phone, with a number of features that can make you forget how entry-level it is.
One thing I love about this phone is that it is simple to use, and quite intuitive. I have used a lot of phones over the years, both in the UK and abroad, but this is the only Nokia model I've had. Even so, I took to it like a duck to water, and even after an absence of 18 months, my fingers were intuitively navigating to silent mode and the alarm without a second thought. If you've read my review of the Kubik Evo MP3 player, you'll know how frustrating I find it when something is unintuitive, and I'm happy to say this is in no way like that annoying little thing.
Another brilliant, if perhaps not too common, feature is the inbuilt torch. I often forget to take a flashlight with me, or am caught out by coming home later than anticipated, but I always have my phone with me. It has saved the day through numerous power cuts and on many nights when I have been coming home after dark, trying to dodge the potholes and dog poop that litter the streets here. Once in Mexico we had a roof top party lit only by our (many) phones, all artistically angled to provide spotlights.
The phone has a number of predictable profiles, such as normal, loud, silent and lights only, but one thing I especially like is that there is a shortcut to these using the off/on button, and I can turn my phone onto silent with a mere 4 presses - helpful if I'm mid class and just remembered I've not turned off the volume. At the same time, the loud ring is great for people hard of hearing - one of the reasons this phone is so popular with the older generation (that and the fact it's cheap and simple to use for those not weaned on telecommunications).
The display is clear, if not the most pixelated in the world, and it's colour too, which you wouldn't necessarily expect from such a cheap model. While there is no camera included, you can assign contacts a cartoon picture from the supplied library which livens things up a little.
The phone can be customised with shortcuts. I have mine set to alarm clock and flashlight, but you can add more options, and it really saves you time navigating to things you frequently need. Instead of taking 18 keystrokes to get to the torch, for example, now I can do it in 2.
The battery life on this model is excellent, and makes it a great choice for an emergency phone you might not use often. A standard charge gives you up to 7 hours of talk time, or over 300 hours standby, and in my experience this does not deteriorate over time. I only charge my phone once a week at the moment, and that's fine. I also like that it gives you a low battery warning quite a while before it finally dies, so you're not caught out suddenly.
This is a simple design, not a slide phone or a flip phone, so it can be easy to press the keys accidentally as they have no cover. You can lock or unlock the keypad easily and quickly - each option takes just two keystrokes - so I tend to do this instinctively whenever I'm putting my phone away to prevent pocket dialling. The phone is bulkier than some more recent models, but fits nicely in the mobile pocket in my handbag, or directly into my jeans pockets, so it can't be that much bigger than standard. It's quite light - they say 77g including battery - perhaps because it doesn't have the fancy circuitry of my other recent phones.
The phone comes with a selection of ringtones and you can also download others. As you would expect, you can also adjust the sound of these to suit your needs and location. I'm not bothered which one I have (as long as it's not the generic Nokia...I always think leaving that on smacks of laziness) but it's nice to have such an array of options.
I use my phone mainly for texts at the moment. This model, being bought in South America, has predictive text in Spanish, Portuguese or English, though I think this varies depending on where you purchase. It is super easy to switch between these, and between no predictive text, all within the same message which is helpful if you need to spell a funny word, or switch languages half way through. I find the keypad easy enough to use though sometimes I do miss type - perhaps more often than with my previous phone whose keys were slightly more defined. The blurb tells me it has a dust-resistant keypad. This seems a bit of an odd feature - whose phones ever sit around long enough to gather dust? - but it does seem to keep quite nice and clean. One really useful feature is the ability to send long texts - you get charged for 2 or 3 or however many, but you can simply type it up as one long message which it then splits up to transmit. As for received messages, you can keep up to 60 which isn't masses, but is enough for most purposes unless you're love sick and won't delete any of your honey's musings. It's easy if time consuming to delete messages - I've not found a way to bulk-delete yet.
Because I am currently teaching early classes, and am without a digital alarm clock for now, I use the alarm feature on this to wake me up if needed (though I have an alarm on my watch too, I have been known to switch it off in my sleep as I keep it on overnight). The alarm is good, loud and reliable - just as you need it to be. Mirroring my watch, the phone also has a stopwatch feature which looks simple enough though I prefer the one on my Casio.
Additional features include a calculator and a dedicated converter (for currency or weights and measures) - another winner for travelers. You can set reminders too, which I often do as if I write them in a diary I'll often then forget to look at them in time.
The phone comes with 3 pre-installed games though Snake is the only one I've ever felt the need to play. The games are more retro than they are fancy, but still, as a freebie, they're a nice bonus.
This is a reliable phone. My mother had it for a year but then it lay switched off for a good 6 months before I picked it up again, and yet it restarted without hesitation once it had had a bit of a charge, something I've known other, more expensive models to struggle with.
Any complaints? Sometimes the phone is a little slow at implementing commands such as deleting texts. Other than that, I can't fault it for what it is.
Nokia market this model as being Simple, Practical and Affordable, and I would wholeheartedly agree. It is not a status phone, but it is fit for purpose if your purpose is making calls and sending texts. What it lacks in terms of gadgets (camera, music player etc) it makes up for in price and lack of looks (in a good way). It's funny how your perspectives change: at home it would do as a quick replacment for a lost phone etc but that's it. I wouldn't be caught dead with this as a long term phone in the UK, but I wouldn't be caught dead WITHOUT it here.