Mon, 14 Jul 2003

N3300 Music Phone is a treat for your ears

Zatni Arbi, Columnist, Jakarta,

There is a word in the English vocabulary that I have not used very often -- lifestyle. Of course, it is not a new word, and the concept that it signifies is not new either. But, frankly speaking, it took me a long time to understand what it meant.

My main problem, apparently, was that I always tried to look at new technologies from the point of view of practicality. How useful are they? How can they be used to increase our productivity? How can they help us in whatever we are doing?

Undoubtedly, there is certainly a point where people buy new technology products no longer because these products help make their work and life simpler but, rather, because they help them get more enjoyment from life. People also buy lifestyle products including cars, motorcycles and even ballpoints in order to show their values and attitudes. There is definitely nothing wrong with that. After all, we only live once.

And, although I do not usually value lifestyle products -- for the simple reason that I cannot afford them, The Sharper Image has been my favorite store for many years. I always spend hours browsing each time I get lucky enough to visit one of their stores.

The good thing about The Sharper Image is that visitors can satisfy their curiosity. They may touch and even play around with everything they have on display without the watchful or scornful eyes of the shop attendants. Of course, surveillance cameras are everywhere inside the store.

* Music on your handset

We all know that cell phones can be lifestyle products, too. Nokia has been very aggressive in introducing new cell phone models, some of which clearly belong to the lifestyle category rather than just being communication devices.

As reported by the July 7 edition of South China Morning Post, Nokia plans to introduce 15 new models this year in the country, many of which will be localized to suit the Chinese consumers' preferences. The Finnish company's aggressiveness seems to be bringing very positive results. In a country hitherto dominated by Motorola, for example, Nokia is getting increasingly closer to taking over the U.S. company's title as the best selling handset brand.

In Indonesia, Nokia will be launching the N3300. True to the "Music Phone" title given to this handset model, this dual-band GSM cell phone is loaded with features that ensure audio quality and versatility. The price, I was told, would be around Rp 3 million.

The design is unusual for Nokia. For the first three days I was wondering why I was not able to hear the caller's voice as strongly as I would normally when using other cell phones. "There must be some adjustment that I still have to make," I thought.

Then, on the fourth day I realized that, actually, I had been listening to the cell phone's microphone and been talking to its speaker. In other words, I had been holding the handset upside down.

The N3300 is specifically equipped to serve as a personal music player. It can play MP3 and AAC files. In case you are wondering what AAC is, it is a newer audio file format with a slightly better quality than the already widely used MP3 but has a better bit-rate. AAC stands for Advance Audio CODEC.

This music phone also has a stereo FM radio with 20 presets. To listen to the radio, however, you will need to connect its headset, which apparently serves as the radio antenna. Its Digital Recorder can record files directly from the radio. Or, you can also buy a cable from Nokia that will connect the cell phone to your audio device such as a Walkman and Discman. The data cable will connect the cell phone to the PC via a USB port, and this will allow you to drag and drop music files using Windows Explorer or Nokia's own Audio Manager application.

Audio files demand a lot of storage space. Therefore, Nokia includes a 64 MB MultiMedia Card (MMC) in the N3300. There is a button on the top side on the left that is used to activate the Music Player menu, and another one on the right to set the audio volume. Using the cell phone's Music Settings menu, we can adjust its five-channel equalizer or use one of the four presets -- Normal, Pop, R&B or Rock. We can also adjust the balance and activate the volume and stereo widening effects.

I like this handset's capability in using recorded music and other sounds such as the ring tone. This enables us to make the ring tone of our cell phone distinguishable from the other Nokia cell phones in the crowd. Nokia calls it "True Tones".

* Final word

Like many other cell phone users, I almost always forget to lock the keypad before putting it inside my pants' pocket. So, one of the features that I like in the new Nokia cell phone handsets, including the N3300, is the automatic key lock. We can set the handset to automatically lock the keypad after a preset delay so we will not accidentally press the button and make unintended -- but potentially revealing and embarrassing -- calls.

Now, what are my impressions about this cell phone. The keypad, as oftentimes the case with Nokia cell phones, will require some time to get used to due to its unconventional design. For someone with limited vision like myself, entering text messages can be a challenge.

There are several things that Nokia can improve on, though. For example, adjusting the equalizer should not require us to dig so deep into the menu structure. I could not find the Voice Memo facility, although this cell phone has a digital recorder. On the other hand, I like the build of this cell phone. It feels sturdy.

This cell phone is clearly not targeted at very mature users. It does not have Bluetooth or infrared capability. Nonetheless, it is a very well-built lifestyle product with great audio quality, and teenagers as well as those in their twenties will certainly love the N3300.