In the good ol’ days, this is pretty much what an average mobile phone looked like.
Things were simple. You had battery life that lasted well over just one day, an alphanumeric keypad for text input, a Dpad to control and select things and a nice little screen above it. And that’s just what you get with the brand new Nokia 206.
Announced alongside the Nokia Asha 205 in November last year, the Nokia 206 is a Dual-SIM phone that mysteriously doesnt feature the Asha branding, and offers the very basics of what you’d expect in a modern day mobile phone, but in a budget friendly package. It might appear to be a fairly simple phone, running a simple non-smartphone OS, but the 206 has a lot of new technology built-in, such as Nokia’s new “Slam” technology to send files over Bluetooth without having to pair devices first.
After a month of using one, here’s what we think of the Nokia 206.
The Retail Box Contents:-
The Nokia 206 comes with pretty much what you’d expect out of a mobile phone in this segment.
You have a standard wired headset, standard Nokia charger, user manuals, a Nokia Life Tools brochure and the 1110 mAh battery, which happens to be the same rating as the one in the Nokia Asha 311.
More details over in our Nokia 206 Unboxing post.
At 116 x 49.4 x 12.4 mm, the Nokia 206 is very petite by today’s standards. As such, it’s compact size fits very comfortably in your hand, and the 91 grams means it can very easily be used one handed as well.
As you can see, we got the cyan blue color for review but there’s also Magenta, Yellow, Black and White color offerings as well, which match the colors of the current Nokia Lumia windows phone 8 devices such as the Nokia Lumia 920, Lumia 820, Lumia 720, Lumia 620 and Lumia 520. Safe to say I’d highly recommend the cyan blue color or yellow over the boring black or white versions.
Build quality is very solid, and I’m pretty sure this little phone can survive quite a lot of drops and falls. There were no creaks or loose parts on our unit, which isnt really a big suprise considering it’s a Nokia mobile phone after all. The materials used dont feel cheap at all, though the glossy hard plastic and the front, coupled with the matt hard plastics at the sides and back, do make for an interesting appearance. To be honest, the back panel is so ridiculously solid, that it’s not even the slightest bit bendable at all, which is hilarious considering the rubbish plastics you’d see on some high end Samsung phones.
That being said, the glossy front is a bit of a fingerprint magnet, so you’ll end up wanting to wipe it every so often. It’s more evident on the black color version than the others though.
Then there’s the curvy-yet-rectangular design, which is very classic Nokia, and wonderfully minimalistic and uniform, even with the keypad at the front.
Coming to the front of the phone, you have a 2.4 inch at 240 x 320 pixels, 167 ppi pixel density, 65K colors, LCD portrait display. 6 years ago, this would have been considered a huge screen, but by today’s giant phone display standard it’s a bit small. Still for this segment, it’s more than large enough, and gets the job done very well. You’ll notice slight color degradation at mild viewing angles, but it’s not too bad at all. Resolution is a bit of a downer though but the pixel density and colors is stil higher than the asha 311. Legibility in outdoor sunlight was also pretty good, though you’ll have to manually pump up the backlight to it’s maximum setting.
Above the display, you have the centrally located earpiece. Since this isnt a touchscreen device, there’s no need for a proximity sensor. There’s no accelerometer built-in either, nor any front facing camera. At this price point it’s no surprise though.
Below the screen, you have the gloriously old-school series of alphanumeric buttons. You have a 5-way D-pad in the middle, with a left and right softkey on either side. There’s also the usual call and end-call keys though they have white backlighting instead of the usual green and red respectively. The call-end key is also used to switch off the phone if you long-press it.
The rest of the alphanumeric keys on the keypad are all easily enough to find and press, with a decent amount of feedback. All keys have white backlighting to make them easier to find in the dark, and since this is your main mode of text input as well, this is only expected. That being said, I’m not sure what color backlighting the white versions of the Nokia 206 have though. I’d imagine white backlight on a white device would make it very hard to read the numbers and alphabets on the keys.
At the top, you have a standard oldschool Nokia charging port here, which requires the proprietary Nokia charging pin. There’s also a standard 3.5mm audio jack, to which you can plugin in any pair of headphones.
On the right side, you have no ports or buttons, keeping things minimalistic, though it would have been nice to have a volume rocker button here.
On the left side, you’ll find the second SIM card slot, protected by a plastic flap. Both simcard slots are for regular simcards, incase you were wondering. None of that microSIM or nanoSIM card nonsense here, hehe.
Coming to the back, there’s the lone 1.3 Megapixel camera, in a Lumia-esque module design, with the loudspeaker located towards the bottom. No LED flash unfortunately.
The camera module seems like it might get a tiny bit scratched up if you keep resting the phone on it’s back, on a rough surface.
And finally, coming to the bottom, you have no ports or anything at all, but you’ll see a notch here to remove the back panel.
All in all, a pretty cute looking phone, with decent “classic Nokia” build quality.
Right. This isnt a smartphone so as such you wouldnt expect to have insane specs powering this mobile phone. Since there’s no multi-tasking at all, and S40 is more or less a very efficient mobile operating system, things are generally quick all over, with no slowdowns as such, but I couldnt find out any information on the processor or RAM inside the Nokia 206.
There’s 64 MB of internal memory, which isnt much, but you do have a microSD card slot present as well. Unfortunately there’s no microSD card provided in the retail package, so you’re going to have to pick one up separately.
Apart from that, there’s GPRS/EDGE, Bluetooth v2.1 with EDR, and an FM radio. Nokia’s new “Slam” technology works great, and is basically an easier way to share files over bluetooth, working in a similar way to the “Bump” app for iOS and Android.
No Wifi, GPS or 3G support unfortunately but the phone chugs along on EDGE quite well, and can even load videos from YouTube mobile well enough.
Ah now things get interesting. The Nokia 206 runs Series 40 User Interface, which is much different from the Series 40 full-touch-UI on the Asha 311. The layout is much more traditional, and rather similar to Symbian, with a set active homescreen pane that you can tweak slightly.
By default you have a list of your SIM cards which are active in the SIM card 1 and SIM card 2 sections, the time & date, a shortcut to music, shortcut to radio, and a row of icons below which by default contains shortcuts to the browser, camera, Nokia music store, Nokia Store and a new section called ‘Notifications’ where you can see… well…. notifications for events like a new text message, missed call, etc.
The left softkey takes you to the ‘Go to’ shortcut menu, while the right softkey takes you to the SIM card manager. In the center, is the shortcut to go to the main menu, which contains a familiar grid of icons, through which you can scroll down. You can also get to the SIM manager by long-pressing the * key, and you can toggle silent mode by long pressing the # key. Long pressing the 0 key takes you to the Internet Browser.
Honestly, it’s all the usual S40 that we’ve seen on various Nokia budget devices before. You cant multi-task any application outside of the music player though, which is no surprise since this is the way S40 has been handling things for a while now. Everything is quick enough and while loading apps can take a second, the entire phone is generally very responsive. The only mildly annoying thing was that most phone settings are buried under a set of menus that you’ll have to navigate through to find what you’re looking for. Pretty much the same as previous S40 phones.
Coming to messaging, you have to make do with the T9 keypad in portrait mode. It works well enough, and people have been very easily using T9 for years, so while it’s not as quick as a full QWERTY keyboard, it’s easy enough to type on the Nokia 206. The keys have a decent amount of feedback, and if you’ve ever used T9 before, you’ll be typing away quickly in a matter of minutes. If you’re new to T9 though, it might take a couple hours for you to get the hang of it, seeing as how it’s a system that depends on multiple key presses.
The word correction works well enough as well, and you can insert various media content to turn an SMS into an MMS.
You can insert images, a short video clip or audio recording, etc.
A quick note about the calendar. It’s very inspired by Symbian and works in pretty much the same way. Does the job well enough.
Coming to the internet browser, it has definitely been one of S40?s weakest features so far, so we didnt head in with very high hopes. Since you dont have 3G/HSDPA or Wifi here, you’re dependant on EDGE or GPRS which can be a little slow depending on your carrier. The mobile versions of most sites load quick enough, though some can be a long wait. Nokia’s Browser also uses intense data compression to save bandwidth, which can come in useful if you’re on a limited data plan. And ofcourse, there’s no flash support incase you were wondering.
The email client onboard is listed under the messaging app, but is pretty capable, having support for Gmail, Mail for Exchange and much more. It offers very basic functionality though so you know what to expect. There’s also IM support for Google Chat and a couple others.
Apart from all that, there’s the “40 EA Games” available to download free, including popular franchises like Need for Speed, FIFA and Tetris, which should keep most people more than occupied.
There’s also a Nokia Music subscription to download unlimited music from the Music Store for 3 months, that’s yours to keep forever. Easily one of the best features of this phone. There’s also Nokia Life tools which we are in no position to properly talk about to be honest. Useful for developing countries where the service provides news and updates on agriculture, education, etc.
Coming to media, Images are arranged in a basic grid of thumbnails in the gallery. They work just as you’d expect it to, letting you share to social networks or over bluetooth or email, etc.
You have basic video playback available, for native resolution MP4 or MWV files only, but they have to be in less than 320 x 240 pixels resolution. The screen is decent enough that watching videos is a nice experience, I guess considering the price tag, and the video player is pretty simple to use.
Music is a much better affair thankfully, with support for MP3, WAV, WMA and AAC. The loudspeaker is pretty loud and the player itself has all the basic features you’d expect out of it. Audio through the included wired headset is okay, but I’d highly advice using a decent pair of headphones instead.
As we mentioned earlier, there’s also an FM radio available, and you even have the ability to record FM broadcasts as well.
There’s also a variety of apps pre-installed such as Twitter, Facebook, eBuddy, Nokia Nearby (tells you interesting places nearby), and more. Curiously, Viber is pre-installed on the Nokia 206 but Whatsapp is not. You can download Whatsapp for free from the Nokia Store though, and it works pretty well, though you still have to start it up every once in a while to actually receive messages, which is different from the always-on nature of it’s smartphone apps. But it’s worth nothing that WhatsApp is only available for the single SIM version of the Nokia 206, and a dual-SIM version is supposedly in the works.
Incase you were wondering, there’s no Nokia Maps pre-installed, but since the 206 doesnt have GPS, it’s not a huge surprise either.
Apart from that, there’s more than enough apps to cover your basic needs from a phone nowadays, and there’s always more apps available to download from Nokia’s Store, which now seems like it has more content for S40 devices than Symbian.
The Camera on the Nokia 206 is a rather low 1.3 Megapixels that can take pictures at up to 1280 x 960 pixels and video at QCIF at 10 frames per second.
Nothing to really write home about at all, and provided you dont have very high expectations out of it, the results are about acceptable for this price range. There’s no LED flash, so you can only really take pictures in day time or when there’s ample lighting, and low light images have a lot of noise in them. Colors are accurately reproduced, though sometimes over saturated and high contrast. Details are fuzzy, but what can you expect out of a 1.3 Megapixel shot anyway. Video results are quite disappointing though.
There’s various fun effects that you can use in real time in the camera app itself, and there’s even a neat self-portrait mode where the camera will talk to you so that you align your face with the back of the camera for a decent portrait shot.
Worked well enough for me, and pretty cool, heh.
Here’s a couple camera sample images from the Nokia 206 to give you a better idea:
The Call Quality:-
Call Quality is decent enough, considering this is a Nokia phone. No problems with signal strength or dropped calls. Voices came in loud and clear through the earpiece though they did admittedly sound slightly muffled from time to time.
Folks on the other end of the call, said I sounded loud and understandable, but had a slight hint of distortion to my voice. Could just be my carrier though *shrug*
The Nokia 206 features Nokia’s new EasySwap technology which allows you to change SIM cards without having to turn off the phone. You can even select one SIM card for mobile data and text messages and there’s also a “Counters” app pre-installed to help you keep track of call durations, mobile data usage and messages for each SIM card.
Both SIM cards are available and connected to the network at the same time (so-called ‘dual standby’), but while one SIM card is active, for example, making a call, sending or receiving a message, or transferring data, the other is unavailable.
The Battery Life:-
The BL-4U Li-Ion 1110 mAh battery of the Nokia 206 is officially rated at over a month of standby time, and about 20 hours of talktime, which is pretty darn insane.
On moderate usage, with light web browsing, about an hour of fm radio listening, 10 minutes of camera usage and about 30 minutes of calls, I was able to easily get a couple days worth of usage out of the Nokia 206. I’d think that you could very easily get about two days worth of heavy usage out of this one, for sure.
Simple, classic and cute, the Nokia 206 is a great little mobile phone for folks that want the very basics and are on a strict budget. Ofcourse you cant multi-task like you can with a smartphone, but the trade-off is that you get a really quick, simple, easy to navigate UI. The only real con is that the camera isnt too great, but you cant really expect much at this price range. Currently the Nokia 206 is priced at about Rs 3700 (approx US $68) at Nokia India’s online store.
Considering it’s price, it’s a pretty great little phone and admittedly has a real charm about it in the cyan blue color. Ofcourse if you’re looking for something with a QWERTY keyboard, there’s the slightly more expensive but much larger Nokia Asha 205, and if you’re looking for a touchscreen, I can only recommend the much more expensive Nokia Asha 311. Apart from that, what other competition is out there anyway?
If you’re just looking for something for calls and texts, with great battery life and occasional bit of Facebook or Twitter thrown in, the Nokia 206 is where it’s at. Heck I’d even say it makes a great second phone incase you’re used to your smartphone running out of battery too quickly, and you want a wonderfully vintage phone as backup.
Chances are, if you’re considering a Nokia 206, you probably already know what to expect and hopefully now have a better sense of what kind of device it is.