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The Nokia 3650 GSM/GPRS Phone with Camera, Bluetooth, and More

by Todd Ogasawara
09/11/2003

A few years ago I started a discussion about Palm vs. Pocket PC sales figures with a wise friend. He stopped me and told me that real battle will not be for the PDA (Personal Digital Assistant) market. The real battle, he said, will be between Nokia and everyone else in the wireless phone market. I think you will agree after learning more about the Nokia 3650.

The Nokia 3650 became available worldwide in February 2003. It has a color screen, 4MB internal RAM, a bundled 16MB MultiMediaCard (MMC), a built-in camera capable of taking still photos and video, an XHTML browser, and support for both infrared and Bluetooth personal area, wireless communications. Although it has a feature set that sounds like that of a PDA, it weighs 4.59 ounces (130g) and is only a bit wider (5.1 inches x 2.24 inches x 1 inch) than a typical mid-sized wireless phone. This GSM/GPRS (Global System for Mobile Communications/General Packet Radio Service) phone can be used on the AT&T Wireless, Cingular, and T-Mobile wireless networks in the United States.

The Nokia 3650 camera phone with its unique circular keypad.
The Nokia 3650 camera phone with its unique circular keypad.

Hardware Information & End-User Features

The Nokia 3650 has so many features and feature subtleties that this review will only focus on the features that caught and held my attention. Nokia provides detailed feature lists and demonstrations on their web site (refer to the list of links at the end of this article).

  Nokia 3650 Specifications
Wireless Capabilities GSM (Tri-band 900/1800/1900 MHz)
GPRS
Infrared
Bluetooth
Size & Weight 5.1 x 2.24 x 1.0 inches
4.59 oz.
Screen Backlit
4096 colors
176 x 208 pixels
1.38 x 1.63 inches
Audio Speaker/Microphone
Speakerphone
Headset Jack
Camera: Still 640 x 480 maximum image size
Fixed lens
No flash
35 to 75KB observed typical still image file size
Camera: Video 320 x 240 frame size
15 frames per second (fps)
10- to 15-second maximum clip size
Video Recorder Update installation required to capture sound in video clips
94KB observed maximum video file size
Memory 4MB internal RAM
16MB MultiMediaCard (MMC) bundled with system
Power 200 hours standby
4 hours talk time
4 hour charge time for Lithium-Ion battery

Keypad

The first thing you notice about the Nokia 3650 is its unusual, circular rotary-style keypad button arrangement. It took me a while to adapt to this keypad arrangement. It caused me two problems even after spending a few days using this arrangement:

  1. I normally press wireless phone buttons with my left thumb. The Nokia 3650 is a bit wider than the mid-size wireless phone I sometimes use (2.24 inches vs. 2 inches). A quarter-inch difference may not seem like much; however, it caused a small problem for me since it increased the amount I had to bend my thumb. This caused a bit of discomfort when pressing the buttons on the left side of the phone.
  2. The second problem may be unique to me. Instead of remembering long sequences of digits or alphabet translations of the DTMF keypad (2=ABC, 3=DEF, etc.), I tend to use geometric visual patterns. I trace visual patterns with my thumb on the conventional DTMF keypad arrangement. The circular keypad prevents me from using this strategy.
O'Reilly Emerging Technology Conference.

The more familiar four-way compass rose navigation button (Nokia calls it a scroll key) is larger than the keypad number buttons and sits at the top of the circular pattern between the 1 and 0 keys. It serves double duty as navigation tool and selection button. It seemed to require more pressure than compass navigation buttons on other phones. The other thumb-skill you need to develop is the ability to press the scroll key in the center to select an action. I tended to press it off to one side and move the menu selection instead of selecting the action. I recommend playing one of the embedded graphical games to improve your thumb coordination.

The power button at the top of the Nokia 3650 is also a little unique. Pressing it part of the way down brings up an option menu that lets you select from a variety of functions, including changing the audible ringtone.

Color Screen

The next thing you notice is the big color screen (4096 colors, 176 x 208 pixels, 1.38 x 1.63 inches (35 x 41.5mm)). It accounts for nearly half of the front surface of the phone and is reasonably easy to read under all kinds of lighting conditions (including bright sunlight). The text displayed when browsing the Web is much smaller than the text displayed for menu items. However, the small web browser text is clear and easy to read.

Still & Video Camera

The phone's camera can take both still photos and video. The maximum resolution for a still photo is a VGA-sized 640x480 pixels (one-third mega-pixel). The photographs are stored in standard JPEG files. The files I generated ranged between 30 and 75KB. The still images were quite good for a sub-mega-pixel image captured with a very small lens that sits behind a clear plastic cover. You can see test images that compare the Nokia 3650's image quality to comparable CompactFlash sub-mega-pixel cameras used with Pocket PCs in a review article on my personal site: REVIEW: Casio, HP, and Nexian Pocket PC Add-on Cameras.

The Nokia 3650 camera mode
The Nokia 3650 camera mode.

The Nokia 3650's video recording feature is relatively unique even among the current wave of new phone-cameras. It records video in the 3GPP (3rd Generation Partnership Project) video format for wireless multimedia. The camera can record both video (15fps in a 320 x 240 pixel frame size) and sound. The recorded video can be played back on the phone. It can be beamed to another device using infrared or Bluetooth, or it can be mailed to a desktop or notebook PC. Nokia does not provide a way to connect the phone to a PC using a cable. Nokia advises that you must have infrared or Bluetooth capability to copy the files. However, you can also do this with an inexpensive SD/MMC storage card reader, if you store the still photo and video files on the Nokia-provided 16MB MMC card.

Nokia provides a free multimedia client that can play back the video on a Microsoft Windows-based PC (Nokia 3650 Multimedia Player). I found that Apple QuickTime 6.3 with an optional 3GPP component and RealOne can play back the 3GPP video files. I have not, however, found a way to play the 3GPP video files on a Pocket PC, even with RealOne Player for Pocket PC installed.

It takes a few quick clicks to get to the point where you can take a still photo or a video with the camera. The video camera setup takes what seems like 15 to 30 seconds before you can start recording a video. This means that you need to plan a bit if you want to record a video clip.

I had never used a phone with an integrated camera until I tried the Nokia 3650; now, the whole phone-camera and photoblog frenzy makes a lot more sense to me. In fact, during my 10-day evaluation and testing period I probably used the camera option (for both still photos and videos) more than the phone itself. The phone let me email a photo very quickly to anyone in my contacts list. It was easy to pull the phone out of my pocket to take a quick photo. The quality is nowhere near that of a multi-mega-pixel camera; however, I was able to capture many photos that would have been missed completely, since I do not always carry my digital camera. And it takes more time to pull a camera out of the case, remove the lens cap, turn it on, and take a photo.

Note: Photoblogging or blogging with pictures can be done without a camera phone. However, a camera phone brings a new kind of immediacy to this kind of blogging. A number of photoblog sites are linked below. Please be aware that while most material appears suitable for nearly everyone, you may find photo blogs that you find offensive.

Nokia configures the phone to save still photos and video to the internal 4MB storage RAM. However, since they also provide a 16MB MMC storage card, you should install it and modify the camera settings to store files to the storage card.

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