Nokia goes out on a limb with its new 6305i for Verizon Wireless. Not only is it one of the first Finnish phones to feature a slider form factor, it also ramps up Nokia's CDMA offerings as one of the first EV-DO mobiles we've seen from the company. A very sexy, stylish but slightly bulky handset, the Nokia 6305i provides a totally new design experience for Nokia lovers (thanks to the company's partnership with Pantech), but its feature set is a bit perplexing. While it comes with a megapixel camera, a speakerphone, and 3G support for Verizon's V Cast service, it doesn't offer Bluetooth or a memory-card slot. Granted, Verizon usually restricts Bluetooth anyway, but we think that both this feature and the added storage are necessary on a 3G phone. And since the lack of wireless connectivity likely will be a turnoff to most business users, we're not sure of the consumer segment for which Verizon is positioning this phone. Verizon has yet to list the phone officially, but it's available from other sources for $239. Service rebates, however, are likely to lower the cost once Verizon confirms official pricing.
As one of the first models to emerge from the recent Nokia/Pantech partnership, the 6305i is a very un-Nokia phone in terms of design. The rounded corners and the slider form factor are light years away from the standard candy bar handset that has long been one of the company's trademarks. In fact, it looks more like a design we're used to seeing from LG. But change can be a good thing, and the Nokia 6305i is a great example. We were drawn immediately to the sleek, aerodynamic lines and the bright-silver color scheme. The phone is a bit hefty (3.9 by 1.9 by 1.0 inches; 4.7 ounces), but we've come to expect such dimensions from most 3G phones, so the size wasn't bothersome. Plus, the 6305i benefits from a solid construction, and it felt comfortable in our hand. The slider mechanism isn't so stiff that it can't be operated with one finger, though it isn't too loose either. The stubby antenna does extend, but its construction is rather flimsy.
We were quite impressed with the Nokia 6305i's 2-inch-diagonal, 176x220-pixel display. Supporting 262,144 colors, it's among the brightest and most vivid displays we've seen on a phone of this caliber. It's great for showing off pretty much everything on the phone, and it's even somewhat visible in direct sunlight. You can change the backlighting time and the font size but not the brightness. The menu interface conforms to the standard design that Verizon is pushing on all its handsets. Although we give the carrier props for trying to make everything uniform across its lineup, there's no menu customization allowed, as well as nothing in the way of animation. What's more, we still can't imagine why the V Cast player is buried under a couple of submenus.
Below the Nokia 6305i's display are the quirky but still user-friendly navigation controls. Nokia has a history of tinkering with button layout (the Nokia 3200 and the Nokia 3650 come to mind), though the effect is not always successful. With the 6305i, however, the opposite is true. The circular keys are eye-catching, well sized, and tactile, and they didn't take a huge learning curve to use. Four keys are set in a ring, including two soft keys, the Talk and End buttons, and a Clear key. There's a small, round camera shortcut button, and in another un-Nokia move, the End key doubles as the power control. Inside the aforementioned key ring is a circular navigation toggle that doubles as a shortcut to the Get It Now menu, the Web browser, the V Cast launcher, and one user-defined shortcut. Finally, inside the toggle is an OK button.
The keypad buttons are also well sized and tactile, and they're backlit in purple. Our only complaint was that because of the slider design, they're set flush with the surface of the phone, which made dialing by feel difficult. On the upside, the upper row of keys isn't squashed next to the bottom of the slider. On the left spine is a camera-shutter key, while the right spine holds a covered headset jack, a volume rocker, and a voice-dialing/speakerphone key. The back of the Nokia 6305i has the camera lens, the flash, and a self-portrait mirror, in addition to a small speaker.
As mentioned earlier, the Nokia 6305i's feature set is somewhat underwhelming. While you get EV-DO capability, a speakerphone, and a megapixel camera, wireless connectivity (such as Bluetooth or even an infrared port) and a memory-card slot are conspicuously absent. You can sync your contacts with Verizon's Access Manager Tool, but Bluetooth would be a much better opinion, even if it were restricted to headsets. What's more, while the 128MB of internal shared memory is impressive, we've come to expect more from a phone of this caliber.