Smartphones may be richer with features, but major vendors are still making them with classic designs for those seeking no-nonsense mobile handsets. Nokia, Samsung, ZTE and Vodafone announced new slim phones -- also called candy-bar phones -- at the recent Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. The phones are thin and packed with features like video cameras and GPS navigation.
Nokia 6720 Classic
As a rabid fan of Nokia's classic phones, I was thrilled to hear the quad-band 6720 Classic announced at MWC. The phone has perhaps the strongest feature-set of all Nokia's classic phones in a light and compact design. This phone has strong multimedia capabilities, including a 5-megapixel camera with flash and autofocus and a video camera for video calls.
The video camera shoots images at 15 frames per second, and watching it on a small 2.2-inch screen may be painful. However, the video can be transferred to a MicroSD card through a slot on the phone. Another big addition to the phone is street navigation through Nokia Maps, an application that will be downloadable from Nokia's Ovi store.
The cell phone offers a talk time of eight-and-a-half hours and standby time of around 500 hours on GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications) networks. It also supports communications through mobile broadband networks based on the HSDPA (High-Speed Downlink Packet Access) and WCDMA (Wideband Code Division Multiple Access) protocols. One disappointment is the lack of Wi-Fi to latch on to the Internet while roaming.
Pricing is unknown yet, but retailer Cell GSM Phones lists it at US$650. At 110 grams (0.04 ounces), it may be slightly heavier than other candy-bar phones, but the features make up for the expensive price.
Samsung Ultra S7220
Samsung may have topped Nokia at MWC with the quad-band Ultra S7220. The thin cell-phone is equipped with an AMOLED (active-matrix OLED) screen, which displays vivid images while consuming less power than conventional TFT-LCD screens. An accelerometer allows the screen to rotate with phone movement.
The phone includes a 5-megapixel camera, FM radio and Bluetooth. It measures 114-by-46.3-by-11.8 millimeters (4.5-by-1.8-by-0.46 inches), but its weight was not available. The company could not immediately provide pricing or availability information, but Cell GSM Phones tags the price at $580.
For a more vanilla phone, Samsung also launched the S3310 phone for GSM and EDGE (Enhanced Data rates for GSM Evolution) networks. It includes a 2.1-inch display, a 2-megapixel camera and an FM radio. It has a MicroSD slot, weighs 77 grams and measures 99.9-by-48-by-13.9 millimeters. Pricing and availability were not available.
Motorola at MWC showed its W181, which has been updated with features that make it an interesting phone for developing countries. A mobile messaging service called "Hinglish predictive text" can write "combined Hindi and English text messages," according to Motorola. That could find an audience in urban India, where the young and hip love to mix Hindi with English. Motorola is quickly adapting to the fact that pure Hindi is becoming extinct as poorly written Bollywood movies hit theaters in Indian cities. The phone also offers menus in seven African languages.
The slender W181 has a 240-by-320-pixel color display and built-in FM radio (headphones are optional), and it weighs 80 grams and measures 110 by 45 by 15 mm. For storage, it includes a MicroSD slot with up to 2GB of storage. This phone will work effectively on GSM bands across all continents. The company didn't provide details about support for mobile broadband connections, but the phone is not built for fast Internet access.
ZTE's solar-powered candy bar
ZTE announced what it calls the world's first "solar-powered cell phone" at MWC. The Coral-200-Solar has a classic cell phone design with one solar cell sticking out like a sore thumb from the back. The solar cell provides 15 minutes of talk time with an hour's exposure to the sun, according to the company. The phone also runs on conventional battery power. Manufactured by ZTE and based on designs from Dutch company Intivator, the phone will by offered by phone carrier Digicel in a few markets this June. The phone may not succeed, but it could serve as an interesting blueprint for future phone development.
Vodafone launched the 835 cell phone based on a "slim candy" design with 3G communication and GPS navigation capabilities through Google Maps. It has a 2.4-inch screen, and other features include a 2-megapixel camera, a video camera, Bluetooth capabilities, FM radio and an external storage slot. Details about 3G support were scarce. The Vodafone 835 will be available across Europe in the next few months as part of a "contract," the company said in a press release. Pricing wasn't immediately available, and it isn't clear if the phones will come unlocked.