TECHNOLOGY: Apr 05, AU Edition

Nokia’s feature-packed 9300 communicator over-delivers on just about every score
Ialmost got arrested because of the Nokia 9300, I liked it so much. I had just gotten the handset to review the day before, and had spent the previous 24 hours eagerly trying out every one of its bells and whistles when, out of sheer exuberance, I turned the thing on in a place I should not have: aboard a QANTAS puddle-jumper that had just landed in Canberra.
Now, we were safely on the ground and the door to the plane was open when I decided to turn it on and check my voicemail, so I just assumed that any danger that a rogue SMS could have sent us hurtling to a fiery death had well and truly passed.
As it turns out, they do things differently in our nation’s capital.
Not only did a stewardess practically yank the thing out of my hand as I stepped out onto the tarmac, but as I walked to the terminal a burly fellow passenger who claimed to be part from the Transport Safety Bureau clapped me on the shoulder saying, “Mate, you cannot have that thing on anywhere airside at this airport! It carries the potential of jail and a very heavy fine!”
Perhaps he thought I had paid retail for the thing – just about anywhere you look, the pricetag tips over into four-figures territory – and needed to have a little more of my wealth redistributed.
By the time he was done, we were through the little building and I was diving out the door into a waiting cab, briefcase in one hand, schmick silvery mobile in the other, one step ahead of the law.

Brushes with authority aside (I doubt I would have been so eager to play with a $49 pre-paid jobby), the Nokia 9300 is a truly life-changing little bit of technology. Yes, it’s a good deal bigger than most phones on the market, but that’s because there’s more to it than just about any other handset available today. For one thing, it flips open to reveal a little QWERTY-layout keyboard which, though too small for even the slenderest fingers to type comfortably on, works great when held in both hands with each thumb working one side.
Above the keyboard is a little colour screen that is small but rich and crisp enough to manage a Windows-style operating system – which is where the thing’s real grunt and growl becomes apparent. One can surf the Web (though for me this was more fun in theory than in practice; I may have just been unlucky but attempts to load even quick, text-heavy sites took forever) and, more usefully, send and receive e-mail from one’s own ISP’s POP3 server as well. And, happily, it’s no more difficult to configure than Outlook Express.
(Another advantage of the screen: there’s a great little built-in golf game that shows up a treat. Not only does it save your round mid-play – allowing one to play a quick hole in a free moment and come back to the round later – but for me at least, it perfectly mimicked my playing style. As in real life, gimme putts just sometimes failed to drop, and even when my electronic setup and swing were completely in order, my drives still sometimes just skittered harmlessly along the ground, coming to rest just past the ladies’ tees).
Some of the other features seem a little less necessary, if only because the idea of working on something so small takes some getting used to – both physically and mentally. Not only does one have to get one’s small-motor skills back up to snuff to work the keys and joystick that serves as a mouse, but I found something unnerving about the fact that I suddenly had a phone with a better display and more available memory than my computer. Although it is possible to do so, I don’t think I ever see myself knocking up a quick Excel-compatible spreadsheet or PowerPoint-compatible presentation on my mobile. If that sort of work is required on the road, I’ll bring along my laptop.
But the Nokia 9300’s real selling point, I think, is to the cashed-up technophile road warrior: with its own suite of PC software and docking station (a.k.a. “Connectivity Desk Stand”), the phone becomes an organiser par excellence. For those who travel a lot for business, especially overseas, one can easily see how the 9300 would be a God-send. Between the phone’s tri-band EGSM capabilities (in other words, it will work on five continents), the ability to grab e-mail on the go and write coherent responses without having to hit the “2” key three times just to type a “c”, and the contact and personal organizing software which syncs everything up with a home or office PC, those who spend anything approaching serious time travelling overseas for business will find this thing indispensable.
Finally, some quibbles: Why doesn’t the 9300 have a camera? With so much in the way of communications capabilities, it seems a waste not to be able to take a happy snap on the thing and then e-mail it around the world.
Also, a speakerphone function would be nice as well; while obviously not polite for, say, shared offices, the one-touch loudspeaker on my own Nokia flip-phone is a lifesaver in loud spaces, and I was surprised by how much I found myself missing it once I started using the 9300.
Ultimately, the best thing I could compare this phone to would be a big super-luxury car – say, a Bentley. Oversized, more powerful than most people need, and many times more pricey than something more utilitarian that will still get you from A to B. Admittedly, the Nokia 9300 is not for everyone, but for those who can and will really take advantage of all its features, it remains a great piece of engineering and a really useful toy.