The Nokia 6230 mobile phone, released early in 2004, is the first of Nokia's second generation of Series 40 phones. It is available in Graphite and Pearl White casings. Unusually for Nokia, although the phone is packed with noteworthy features, the housing is very conservatively styled. This design decision was obviously appreciated by the public, as the 6230 has become one of Nokia's best selling phones of the last few years.

I will briefly explain where the 6230 is positioned in terms of technology. Nokia's Series 40 platform mainly consists of handsets in their favoured 'candybar' form factor, with a 128x128 pixel colour screen, running a proprietary Nokia operating system (as opposed to the Symbian OS used by their Series 60 'smartphones') but also capable of running J2ME midlets. Series 40 version 2.0 soups up the original specification in many areas, increasing the amount of memory available, upgrading the JVM from MIDP 1.0 to MIDP 2.0, improving the clarity and colour depth of the screen and so forth.

The 6230 includes all the standard features of a Series 40 phone (phone book, calendar/organiser, SMS/MMS/email clients, rudimentary web/WAP browser, MIDI ringtones, a smattering of games and utilities). On the hardware side, it incorporates a (mediocre) VGA camera, Bluetooth® and infrared connectivity, an FM radio and an MMC flash memory socket (shipped with a 32MB card, but capable of taking any size up to 256MB*).

On the software side, the phone is capable of playing MP3, WAV and MIDI audio files, JPEG and (still or animated) GIF images and can play and record .3gp video (although recording is limited to a few seconds, for the purposes of sending via MMS). There is a huge amount of downloadable J2ME software available for the 6230, primarily games. There are even some titles that offer multiplayer gameplay via Bluetooth or GPRS.

The phone is light, small (103 mm x 44 mm x 20 mm) and has easy to use 'clicky' controls, although it's slightly too easy to accidentally press the central button on the five-way directional pad. Battery life seems to be more than adequate, although the various toys can gobble up power if used frequently. Reception is very clear, and the speaker(phone) volume can be set extremely loud.

Listening to MP3s with the 6230 is less than ideal. There is no standard 9mm headphone jack so you are restricted to using a handsfree kit (included) or the aforementioned (tinny) loudspeaker. It's also a pain to have to get out and fiddle with the phone to control the MP3 player (as opposed to having one of those remote control dinguses on the headphone cord).

I would recommend the phone to anyone (at the time of writing...) looking for a no nonsense phone that will also afford them some entertainment and handy features while out and about. There are some alternatives you might want to consider: Nokia have since released the 3220, which is pretty much the same basic phone restyled for the teenage market, and the 6170, which is a clamshell variant. Along with about two dozen art deco-inspired monstrosities.

If you dislike Nokia's aesthetics or user interface, you could try the Sony Ericsson K700(i) (which lacks removable media but has a much larger screen), or the Sony Ericsson K500i. If you're looking for a full-on smartphone/PDA, (for instance to compose lengthy documents, watch movies or run Symbian apps) there are several options available to you that are really beyond the scope of this writeup.

*Apparently it is possible to use a 512MB MMC card with the phone, but some types do not work correctly. The time taken for the phone to search through cards of this size detracts from the benefit of the extra storage space, in any case.

Normal warnings about writeups of products in fast-moving technological fields apply.

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