Nokia 6303 Classic £120
23rd Sep 2009 | 14:03
Is the Nokia 6303 Classic the true successor to the popular 6300?
Nokia 6303 Classic: Overview
The Nokia 6303 Classic isn't a high-spec, high-end dazzler, but updates one of Nokia's most popular handsets of recent years – the 6300 – in its mid-tier portfolio.
It reprises that model's functional but classy metal-bodied build, again taking aim at users who want a reliable, no-nonsense but quality feeling handset.
While Nokia's recent 6700 Classic represents an alternative and more obvious upgrade path from the workhorse 6300 by introducing such delights as HSDPA 3G connectivity and a 5-megapixel camera, the 6303 is a more functional revision to the 6300 template.
Like the 6300, the Nokia 6303 Classic doesn't do 3G, sticking with tri-band GPRS/EDGE data connectivity, and has a solid if unsurprising selection of mid-range gadgetry.
There's no GPS, Wi-Fi or smartphone cleverness, but it does cover the usual music and video player bases, with a 3.5mm standard headphone socket a welcome addition. The Nokia 3603 also sports a 3.2-megapixel autofocus-equipped camera, plus a range of applications such as Nokia Maps. The latter includes a 1GB MicroSD card with maps of the UK and Ireland supplied.
Nokia is an old hand at producing mid-range phones that may not excite tech-geeks but which hit the sweet spot for a certain type of user, and consequently rack up huge sales over several years.
The 6300 was one of those hit handsets, and the 6700 Classic we reviewed recently looks like it's spot on the mark too. So, does the 6303 also have what it takes?
Nokia 6303 Classic: Design
If you're looking for a no-nonsense handset, solid and weighty in the hand is good – and the Nokia 6303's pleasingly curvy metal bodywork feels appropriately substantial, without being chunky.
The stainless steel casing helps nudge its weight up to the 95g mark, although its slim 108.8(h) x 46.2(w) x 11.7(d)mm candybar dimensions mean it'll slip comfortably into the pocket.
The 6303 Classic is initially available in two flavours – an all-matt black version and a silver model with black screen and control panel surround (again, echoing the 6300's décor). The body of the phone feels nicely rounded and good to handle, the cool metal back cover giving a quality touch.
The navigation control panel and display are slightly raised from the numberpad, with a curved edge separating them. This gives the 6303 Classic an appearance that's reminiscent of an open sliderphone.
The screen is a 2.2-inch, QVGA (320x240 pixels) resolution, 16.7-million colour TFT – a typical mid-level display for a Nokia candybar that's typically bright and clear.
The navigation control panel is conventionally laid out, with a central navigation D-pad and a pair of rocker buttons taking care of softkey and Call/End duties.
These are decently sized, so avoid handling issues, while the D-pad reacts responsively to presses; a ridge gives fingers good purchase when selecting directional options.
The numberpad beneath is well ordered, the separate keys having a decent amount of room between them and sizeable enough to give digits a good run at accurate texting.
The overall space for keys, however, is quite compact relative to the size of the handset, so large-fingered users may feel tight for thumb space.
Around the curved edges of the phone, a volume rocker key on the side and an on/off key on top are the only buttons.
The base of the phone features a standard thin Nokia charger socket, a separate micro USB port – and that standard 3.5mm headphone socket, which enables you to upgrade your earwear when listening to the music player.
The back panel is plain, apart from holes marking the loudspeaker's presence, the camera lens – unprotected by any sliding cover – and a dual-LED flash.
Nokia 6303 Classic: Interface
There's no touchscreen or smartphone shenanigans going on here – the Nokia 6303 Classic uses Nokia's tried and trusted Series 40 user interface, the layout and structure of which will be familiar to recent Nokia users and which is generally straightforward to operate.
On the standby screen you have the option of getting the out-of-the-box default minimalist look – two softkey options (Go To and Names) plus D-pad shortcuts, or switching to the Home Screen (aka Active Standby on recent Nokia Series 40 phones).
Home Screen mode provides a bunch of five shortcut icons running on the top of the display, plus feature and status information (calendar, music player, connections and so on) running down the screen.
You can scroll between them and select for quick routing around the phone's features.
Whichever setup you choose, you get plenty of shortcut options to choose from, and you can personalise these to how you want to use the handset.
In default standby mode, for instance, the D-pad offers conventional shortcuts to four functions (new message, phonebook, calendar and camera activation) plus the central button selects the main menu – but the directional buttons can be assigned to any one of over 70 functions or bookmarks for websites.
The Go To option also pulls up a list of useful function shortcuts, such as alarms, profile, media player, Bluetooth, Maps and so on.
In Home Screen mode, settings are again customisable – you can assign whichever apps or functions you want to the shortcuts bar, with the navigation pad switching to directional duties.
It makes for a versatile and easy-to-use feature phone standby set up.
Diving into the menu system by pressing the menu button, you get a grid of icons - although you can easily switch to a list view, if you prefer the old-school look, or alternatively choose a tabbed list of options with sub-menus displayed as lists.
Working through the menus should be simple stuff for most phone users, as Nokia doesn't try anything particularly fancy where it's not necessary. It's conventionally arranged, with sub-menu options ordered in scrollable lists.
The phonebook is simple to use and search through, simply by pressing the appropriate letters you're after.
Nokia has provided an extensive set of options in the phonebook, with room to store every manner of contact detail – from phone number, postal address and email details through to birthday, nickname and web addresses. Images and even video clips can be assigned too for caller ID.
Also, in the Contacts menu, if you open up Windows Live Messenger, tabs appear so you can keep an eye on your friends' online status. It's nicely implemented – simple to use, but providing more than just the basics.
Nokia 6303 Classic: Calls and messaging
The Nokia 6303 does manage to do the basics well, however. Keeping it simple, it's easy to select contacts from the phonebook for calling, or to bring up your recent conversation history by pressing the call button.
Voice calling quality is excellent; sound quality and reception were consistently of a high standard, and we had no problems, having made numerous calls in a variety of locations.
Similarly, we had no trouble with the Nokia 6303 Classic's messaging software.
You can also add media (photos, video, sounds, calendar notes, streaming links and suchlike) by simply selecting one of the icons on the bottom of the screen and choosing an item stored in the phone or on your memory card – the phone automatically converts a text to MMS when appropriate, with a note alerting you to this.
The numberpad is pretty responsive for tapping in quick texts; the click distance for keys is quite shallow, so those with nails should find it ideal. The decent key separation means its accuracy is fine for the large stub-fingered among us, although, as mentioned above, finger action can feel a touch cramped considering the phone's size.
Email is, of course, supported to on the 6303 Classic, so you can use your regular web-based email or internet service provider accounts on the phone (POP3, IMAP4 and SMTP are supported).
The handset has an email wizard that takes you through the dead simple email set-up procedure; you will only need your account email address and password, as the software will automatically search for and install the appropriate email server settings for your account and mobile network provider.
You can set up and be ready to download and send emails in a matter of seconds, with no hassle.
The phone supports email attachments up to 600KB, although there isn't document viewer software pre-installed. You can, of course, attach your own files from the phone or memory card to send in emails.
The email experience is typical for this type of Series 40 device; options are list based, so it's not as intuitive or easy to navigate as desktop-style email or more advanced smartphones.
Instant messaging is supported too, with the Windows Live Messenger application easy to use and operate. Once activated, you get audible notifications when someone sends you a message.
Nokia 6303 Classic: Internet
Lacking high-speed 3G or Wi-Fi connectivity, the Nokia 6303 Classic relies instead on slower GPRS or EDGE data rates for browsing online.
As is the case with many recent Series 40 handsets, Nokia has kitted out the 6303 Classic with two browsing options – a Nokia full web browser, supporting HTML, XHTML and WML, and an Opera Mini mobile browser application.
The Nokia browser layout and operation is typical for this grade of phone, with menu lists offering navigation options and a D-pad controlled cursor used to select links.
It's not as sophisticated or easy to navigate as higher-end Nokia smartphone models such as the N86 or touchscreen 5800 XpressMusic, so getting around web pages can take more time and effort. It can render full web pages adequately (it supports Flash Lite 3.0), but it does take some time to download web pages that haven't been optimised for mobile phones.
While the BBC.co.uk mobile site takes just a few seconds to load up, TechRadar.com, for instance, took a couple of minutes to download and render adequately.
This web browser experience is way off anything like the iPhone 3GS or even something like the budget touchscreen Samsung Tocco Lite. Having to scroll though lists and further sub-lists to get options such as reload, is somewhat long-winded.
You can, though, easily bookmark pages; some social networking and sharing sites are already pre-loaded (including MySpace, Facebook and YouTube) – and you can add any bookmarks to your standby screen shortcut options, should you wish to get faster access.
Alternatively, the Opera Mini browser – stashed away in the Collections sub-folder in Applications – offers a pleasingly quick and efficient way of accessing the internet from the handset; it's far quicker to render pages such as TechRadar.com, taking mere seconds, and offers a much more intuitive way of working your way around and zooming into full pages.
It generally feels smoother to use than Nokia's own browser, with network speeds less of an issue.
Nokia 6303 Classic: Camera
It may not have one of Nokia's higher spec sharp-shooting units, but Nokia has equipped the 6303 Classic with a 3.2-megapixel camera featuring autofocus control and an LED flash.
There's no dedicated camera button on the side, but it can be fired up via one of the D-pad shortcuts, or the menus, and is launched and ready to shoot within a couple of seconds.
The viewfinder screen has a default portrait orientation, although what you see in the full screen is what you get, so you can shoot sideways, like a regular camera. You can select a landscape viewfinder configuration, which switches the orientation of softkey settings options, though in practice that's not absolutely necessary.
LIGHT: Shots taken in bright conditions with the 3.2-megapixel camera are crisp, with good detail for this grade of camera, with rich colour and balanced tones
The autofocus system is welcome, but it's not quite the standalone camera or higher range cameraphone type of two-step select-and-then-shoot button pressing. Instead, you fully press and hold the navigation D-pad select button, releasing it to snap the pic when a white focusing frame surrounding your subject turns green.
DETAIL: In strong light the camera can achieve decent levels of detail and deals well with contrast and colour rendition
It's quite rudimentary, as unlike a camera it doesn't allow for you to change your subject focus and readjust if it locks on something in-frame you don't want to be the focal point – once pressed, it'll shoot whether the subject you want is in focus or not.
ZOOM:Zooming in with maximum 8x digital zoom, image quality naturally deteriorates
The limited autofocus system means its more difficult to get satisfactorily composed shots, although at a basic level it does add some facility to get sharper images at different ranges.
Still, it's not great for more ambitious phone photography.
CONTRAST:The camera handles variable lighting pretty well, ensuring the darker portions of the image aren't underexposed
You don't have to use the autofocus, however – you can take quick snaps too, simply by pressing and releasing the button without waiting the second or two for the autofocus to lock on.
Whichever way you use it, the phone takes around five seconds to process the shot before you can get on to the next one – although there's no great shutter lag issues.
GLOOM:In gloomy conditions, the camera still can take OK snaps; here you can read the scoreboard and banners, while the gradation of the cloudy sky isn't bad
The quality of the images using the auto metering system are generally good. Shots taken in bright lighting conditions come out crisp and detailed, with lovely colour reproduction and good contrast.
In murkier conditions, and sometimes indoors in natural light, the system could occasionally get the white balance slightly wrong, adding a cast to images.
We were able to achieve some presentable snaps, though, which were pretty good for a 3.2-megapixel shooter. Close in shots benefit from the autofocus system though you may find you need to have a couple of tries to get it spot on.
FLASH:Over more than a few metres, the LED flash won't offer you much illumination
Indoor shooting was reasonable when light was good, and the flash kicks in when it's gloomier to throw some illumination onto subjects. It's quite bright at close range, and of course it doesn't a fill a room like a high-end xenon flash, but for a cameraphone pitched where the 6303 Classic is, it does the job, enabling you to get viewable results in darker situations.
A 4x digital zoom can be controlled with the D-pad, but as you'd expect, image quality does deteriorate as you zoom in.
Naturally, Nokia has included a stock run down of typical cameraphone effects and settings adjustments – all standard fare for a lower mid-tier phone, set out in a basic Series 40 menu style.
DARK: In dark conditions indoors, the flash offers only limited illumination over a short range and images are murky and noisy
You can override the auto metering system by adjusting white balance and brightness, and also adjust quality and resolution settings. You can also use a timer, engage multi-shot or night mode, or use regular colourisation effects. Post-shooting, a selection of editing tools provides some basic onboard image manipulation options.
Switching to video capture requires a simple sideways D-pad click in the camera. The viewfinder remains in portrait mode, but fills a postbox frame in the middle of the screen. Footage can be recorded at maximum VGA (640x480 pixels) resolution at up to 15 frames per second, so playback looks reasonable for a phone, if a little jittery.
Both still images and video clips can be uploaded to online sites from the handset. Options for uploading to Nokia's Share on Ovi site and Flickr are listed, and apps for both services are pre-loaded into the Applications folder.
Uploading is very straightforward, provided you're signed up to the services, and takes a matter of seconds to get connected. Of course, uploading images or video clips without high-speed data takes longer, so you may have to have patience.
Nokia 6303 Classic: Media
The Nokia 6303 has standard Series 40 music and video player software under the bonnet, supporting a variety of formats including MP3, AAC, MP4, AAC+, eAAC+, H.263, and H.264.
Content can be downloaded or streamed to the phone, albeit at relatively pedestrian data rates, though you can also copy over video or music onto the phone's MicroSD card, or transfer files across using the phone's USB cable.
No Nokia PC Suite software CD is boxed, though it can be downloaded; alternatively, you can drag and drop onto the phone or memory card in mass storage mode, or use Bluetooth to transfer over suitable content.
There's only 17MB of internal storage, so the 1GB MicroSD card supplied in-box is essential if you want to listen to tunes or store video. Cards up to 4GB are supported, according to Nokia, though an 8GB card we slipped into the side slot under the casing worked fine.
The phone's media player automatically detects and manages new tracks or videos, putting them into appropriate folders. Launching the media player, tracks are conventionally arranged under category headings including all songs, playlists, artists, albums, genres and videos.
The player has a smart, understated user interface that's straightforward to operate using the D-pad in familiar mobile fashion. Cover art is supported if available, and there are a bunch of setting adjustments for equaliser, shuffle, creating playlists and so on. It can play in the background too, while the phone is in standby mode.
Playing music, the 6303 Classic puts in a commendable down-the-line performance. It comes with an mediocre in-ear headset that's functional but produces compressed-sounding audio that's a bit muddy and a touch trebly.
However, Nokia's inclusion of a standard 3.5mm headphone socket at the base of the phone makes it easy to upgrade to better quality headphones.
This is recommended if you want to listen to music on this device; our modestly-priced reference Sennheiser cans lifted the audio performance considerably, and it is capable of detailed and dynamic show, with decent tonal detail and bass level. It's a decent effort for this grade of handset, if not necessarily a top-notch music player.
Video playback on the 2.2-inch screen is pretty good, with smooth and clear presentation – though the size is not ideal if you want to make serious use of it as a video player for extended viewing.
Streamed video can be problematic on this non-3G handset though; the YouTube mobile service, for which there was a link pre-stored, was variable and often wouldn't play clips if the data rate wasn't sufficient.
Alongside the media player there's also an FM radio, which has uses a similar user interface and is easy to tune and operate. It features RDS, and although the headset has to be connected to get a radio signal, audio can be pumped through the phone's loudspeaker.
The normal playback through the earphones is perfectly acceptable and a welcome addition to the features, but the loudspeaker cased in the metal body sounds unsurprisingly tinny.
Nokia 6303 Classic: Battery and misc features
We were impressed with the excellent battery performance of the Nokia 6303 Classic, which should tick another essential requirement for its target audience.
Nokia estimates optimum battery life between charges of up to 450 hours standby or 7 hours talktime. We managed between 4 and 5 days with our average levels of phone usage (though with limited music playing).
The lack of power-sapping high-end features may have some part to play in this, but it will satisfy anyone looking for a reliable, long-running handset
The 6303 Classic's organiser functionality includes all the usual tools - calendar, to-do list, alarm clock, notes, calculator, countdown timer and stopwatch, plus a voice recorder in the Media menu. There are a couple of convertor functions, too, slipped into the Applications folder.
These are all no-nonsense applications that do their various jobs in unfussy Nokia fashion. The calendar, for instance, displays the month and any notes relating to a date beneath, giving a quick view of what you've got planned.
One additional entry into the organiser line-up is Nokia's Maps software. No GPS gadgetry is built in to the 6303 Classic, although you can hook it up to an optional GPS module if you want positioning services on the phone.
As it is, Maps doesn't offer approximate cellsite-triangulated positioning a la Google Maps on other manufacturers' non-GPS phones. You can, however, look up route planning information, get maps onscreen and search for addresses.
Mapping information for the whole of the UK and Ireland is stored on the 1GB MicroSD card supplied, so you don't have to rack up data charges every time you use this service. Maps are well detailed in this software version, and route planning is quick and appears accurate.
However, without some sort of automatic location finding gadgetry (either GPS or cellsite-based), it feels limited and not particularly compelling to use. It may be a useful software addition, but for casual map-lookers it lacks that whip-it-out-and-see-where-you-are immediacy and easy-to-use feel of other devices.
The Nokia 6303 Classic is equipped with Bluetooth 2.0, and comes supplied with a USB cable, enabling it to be hooked up to a PC via its microUSB port. Syncing with a PC is supported using Nokia PC Suite software, although none is supplied in-box.
There's no Wi-Fi or 3G high-speed connectivity; the 6303 Classic is a tri-band (GSM900/1800/1900) GPRS and EDGE enabled device, so provides a sedate browsing and downloading experience.
Nokia's Ovi service is naturally supported on this phone. An Ovi Share app enables you to upload and share content such as images, video and music (albeit slowly), and from the Download! app – which enables you to find apps to add to your phone - you can download Nokia's Ovi Store application, providing access to additional content, apps and services.
The phone's Flickr client enables you to connect to your account, and upload images in a simple way – though slow data rates can be tiresome. Nokia has also provisioned the 6303 Classic with half a dozen games – Bounce Tales, Brain Champion City Bloxx, Sudoku Tetris Pop and The SIMS 3.
Nokia 6303 Classic: Verdict
While the Nokia 6303 Classic is built for the solid, dependable performer role, eschewing more high-end gadgetry, it's more than just a basic, reliable phone.
Under its solidly built metal exterior, it is equipped with plenty of useful features for its target audience that are straightforward to use but do their jobs effectively.
The communications options tick the boxes and the organiser functionality is more than adequate. Some decent media functionality and an adequate camera mean it's got a bit of downtime entertainment value too.
The Nokia 6303 Classic is a well-built handset, and that metal bodywork feels comfortable to hold and reassuringly solid. Most mobile users will find its conventional Series 40 user interface straightforward to operate; it's a functional set up that many people will feel familiar with. Controls are good to handle too.
The addition of a 3.5mm headphone jack enables users to upgrade easily to better earwear to make the most of the decent music player, while the 1GB supplied MicroSD card provides a sufficient amount of out-of-the-box content storage space to be getting on with.
The 3.2-megapixel camera can capture pretty good images for this class of shooter – although its autofocus system is limited.
We were very pleased with the battery performance, which gave us plenty of chat and play time between charges.
Even though the 6303 Classic is aimed at those users who don't necessarily desire 3G connectivity, we'd have preferred to see high-speed data available. The lack of high-speed mobile data connectivity (and Wi-Fi) will be a drag for users who want to explore the pre-loaded online services, either to upload or download content or to browse the internet.
The camera's autofocus is pretty basic, not offering the versatility of a two-step autofocus system. The camera is a step up from the 6300, but not a great leap forward and not as sophisticated or capable as those on Nokia's up-range handsets.
We also found Nokia's Maps software limited without GPS or cellsite triangulation – it limits the immediacy of the map viewing experience, even though mapping info is included on the supplied MicroSD card.
The supplied earphones are pretty mediocre – but thankfully you can easily swap these for better headphones.
Fitting into the Nokia portfolio as an updated version of the 6300, the 6303 Classic provides a solid user experience – although it doesn't wow with high-end features, and the lack of 3G feels like an odd omission which is unnecessarily limiting.
It fits the profile of solid and dependable handset while still offering a tidy amount of relevant functionality, though some of the updated online features could be complemented by higher speed 3G or Wi-Fi.
The 6303 Classic carries out its role in a decent enough way, and is a reliable performer for what it does. We still think, however, that the Nokia 6700 Classic is a more natural successor to the 6300.