Review: Nokia 6165i (Sprint)

Nokia’s latest phone won’t be in Sprint Stores until next month, but is trickling out via resellers right now. Does Nokia’s first Bluetooth phone on Sprint stand up to the competition? Read more…

Nokia 6165i @ (PCS Intel Wireless Store)
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Series 40 3rd Edition Arrives on CDMA

Like the LX-350 that we have reviewed previously, the Nokia 6165i is a mid-range
phone aimed a filling the camera phone audience who want slightly more
performance from a device.  It's targeted at users who want Bluetooth, or
users who aren't in EV-DO areas that want a more powerful device (sans
Multimedia).  The oddball factor here is that the device includes Series 40
3rd Edition, Nokia's latest non-smart OS release.  This is a very powerful,
scalable operating system that Nokia has refined for several years.

But, this version of Series 40 deserves to be called "Series 40 Home Edition
Service Pack 3" if you're Windows-inclined.  Despite S40 being extremely
powerful, the 6165i has had several features hindered or disabled, and we'll
look at the reasons why as the review continues.

First Impressions, Basic Phone Functionality

A flip phone from Nokia, on Sprint.  A little over a year ago that would have been quite
a surprise.  Despite the change in form factor, the device is typical
Nokia.  And, by typical Nokia, we mean pretty good. 
Build quality is solid, our only complaint was with the keypad.  The
keypad, like many recent phones such as the Motorola V3c is a bit mobile on the
device.  You can use your finger to push the keypad around a very small
distance, usually less than a millimeter.  The result is a keypad that from
first impressions can appear cheap, however, having an excellent white backlighting, and good
response, is still an excellent keypad.
Unlike the LG LX-350, we could access all the keys easily on the keypad, which
is a good improvement.

The large 128×160 external display is also welcomed, as it makes reading
incoming calls from the external display easy.  Thanks to the S40 OS, both
displays are easily customizable. The internal display however is a bit less
bright, and not as vibrant as the LX-350's.  Overall, we prefer the 6165i,
however, the differences have us wanting to pick and chose from each.

Voice quality is excellent, as is the speakerphone.  The most discerning
callers we know did not mind the speakerphone, something we can't say about
other devices. As to battery life, the total talk time in a good signal area was 4 hours, 44 minutes. This is above the rated four hours of talk time.

Advanced Phone Functionality

Firmware Over-The-Air (FOTA) is actually in the Nokia 6165i.  However, it
is buried in a series of menus where you would not expect it to be, and also
errors out often.  It's great that the device has FOTA, but we don't see
non-savvy people using it without either a trigger-based text message (which Sprint
to-date hasn't used), or the aide of technical support.

Thankfully, unlike the LX-350, the Nokia 6165i has Picture Mail that makes
sense.  You know when a picture is sent, you know when it failed.  The
editor in the 6165i is very advanced, however, it is not common to other Sprint
phones… you will likely want to read the manual to take full advantage of
Picture Mail on the device.  But, once you understand how to send pictures,
the advanced functions will probably make you happy with the offering.

As to MIDP 2.0, it is always hard to gauge the quality of Java on a phone just-released, especially when there is no older model to compare to. Java works best when developers add small bits of code to “customize” their application for a particular device. When a device is just released, those customizations usually are not yet available in an updated version of the program.

The 6165i had trouble with
Google Maps for Mobile
, being unable to zoom in.  Opera Mini ran fine
on the device, as did all Sprint-released applications.  3D performance on
the device was excellent, though many other games and applications exhibited
minor quirks. In all, Java on the device is a mixed bag… certainly with room
for improvement, and for application authors to fine-tune.

Bluetooth.  Basic functionality with headsets is great.  But, because
this is the first CDMA S40 3rd Edition device (not to mention the first S40
Bluetooth phone on CDMA), it has problems.  Many problems with receiving
and post-processing content exist, and will leave you still sending in content
over Vision.  The device has trouble talking to devices that want to sync
with a phonebook (such as cars, car-based BT kits, etc).  In short, it's
buggy.  Hopefully Sprint and Nokia will issue firmware updates to deliver
the same excellent S40 Bluetooth experience that the GSM/UMTS world has enjoyed
for years.

Like the LX-350, the 6165i has Modem NAI in full force.  You cannot use
this device as a modem with any device unless you have a Phone-As-Modem (PAM)
plan.  Unlike Samsung and Sanyo (and like the LX-350), there is no known
way to disable this.

Camera Performance

Using the same photos from our LX-350 review (rotating out the pictures from the
350 for the 6165i, of course), we compare the 6165i to the LG LX-350 and the
HTC/UTStarcom PPC-6700.

Shot 1: Distance, LCD Capture

One of the things we like to see in a camera is how it performs at capturing an LCD image. This gives us a good idea as to how it will adjust to bright lighting quickly and act to a difference in focus-versus-ambient lighting. We chose our trusty Satellite 5005 to take a view at a particular place of interest in the world (just take a wild guess where…).

Full Resolution: LX-350, Nokia 6165i, PPC-6700

The 6165i performed adequately here, unlike the LX-350. The picture does look acceptable
at full resolution.

Shot 2: Night, Distance Shot

Here we took a look as a part of our running trend of Starbucks-benchmark-photos at one in the night.

Full Resolution: LX-350, Nokia 6165i, PPC-6700

Note: The 6165i had this picture taken in the Night Mode which it supports. This is a multi-frame blending process that Nokia has designed to smooth out otherwise blurry environments on their camera phones.

The 6165i's Night Mode failed here, miserably.  The LX-350's grainy photos
beat out the smeared photography of Night Mode. We took quite a bit of photos to
get Night Mode into the review mix, this was the typical result.

Shot 3: Text Capture

Capturing text is an important function on a camera, but it’s also the one CMOS lenses usually butcher.

Full Resolution: LX-350, Nokia 6165i, PPC-6700

Here, the 6165i didn't do as well as the competition either.  The camera
could read the main text, but the smaller texts in this shot are a bit too
blurry to read.

Shot 4: Macro 1

Macro pictures are important. They’re what people put on their blogs the most. So, we had to oblige and take a moment to show off our love of the all-new Coke Blak.

Full Resolution: LX-350, Nokia 6165i, PPC-6700

The 6165i wasn't poor in this shot, but it wasn't great either.  The
picture quality is sharp, but light capturing and color range is not.

Shot 4: Macro 2

In the we-have-too-many phones shot, the picture was taken with flash and at an angle. This brutal macro shot is aimed at confusing the focus and light capturing of the device.

Full Resolution: LX-350, Nokia 6165i, PPC-6700

The 6165i fails to adjust for its flash, washing out the entire shot, and making
it blurry.  Clearly a failure of the 6165i's camera (again).

Camera Conclusion: As you might suspect, the 6165i's camera is bad. 
Compared to the LX-350, it's a novelty.  Ignore the camera if you're
interested in sending pictures to people.

Overall Conclusions

Nokia's 6165i is advanced in many ways, and in many ways it has a long way to
go.  The Series 40 platform shows it can be robust on the CDMA platform
once again.  However, bugs plague Bluetooth, bugs plague FOTA, the camera
is poor.  Build quality is excellent, but until firmware updates are
issued, we cannot suggest this phone for anyone except the most advanced of
users.  Worse, those users are likely to be interested in another device MM-class device, aside
from having robust Bluetooth. With the already-announced 6175i delivering the same feature set, along with more stable firmware, and Mutimedia/Sprint TV, this device appears to be a stop-gap limited release. That said, like the Sony Ericsson T608, it has a niche market that it certainly can woo over.

Pros: Solid build quality, Series 40 3rd Edition OS, full Bluetooth
Cons: Bugs, bugs, bugs.  Lack of streaming video (that will be on
the 6175i).

Final Score: 3/5

Nokia 6165i @ (PCS Intel Wireless Store)
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