The Nokia 8390 has been generating a lot of interest from WAPsight readers, so when Nokia offered to send us one for a product review, I was anxious to see for myself what was generating all the excitement. After receiving the shipment and searching through the manual and various other papers in the box I almost missed the envelope containing this incredibly tiny handset. The size was particularly surprising considering the 8390 has GPRS functionality. It measures 97 mm in length by 43 mm wide has a depth of 17-19 mgg and weighs in at 2.9 ounces and operates over a single-band 1900 GSM network.
Putting first things first, the voice quality was very good. I made several test calls using three different handsets in the same areas to make sure I was testing the phone and not the network reception. The 8390 had consistently good sound quality in comparison to the other handsets. It also comes equipped with a headset for voice dialing, voice commands and handsfree operation.
Besides voice calls, the 8390 has the ability to send and receive short text messages, the ability to define ring tones for different caller groups, and the ability to compose your own ring tones with PC Suite Software. Other features include call waiting, conference calling including having a private conversation with a conference call participant, call forwarding and automatic redialing. The 8390 also has one-touch dialing, voice mail, and a voice recorder for recording personal notes or for recording an acive phone conversation (up to approximately 180 seconds).
The next feature I spent some time with was the sending and receiving of text messages and e-mails. It was really quite a lot of fun with the predictive text and the ten photo attachments available. The key pad is angled nicely allowing for easy accessibility to the keys without fumbling over several at one time.
The 8390 has many useful features which perform functions similar to a PDA including a calendar, to-do list, a calculator, and an alarm clock. The clock has a countdown timer and a stop watch feature which measures split time and lap time. The 8390 can send or receive e-business cards consisting of a name and phone number. The calculator converts currency for international travel. Last but not least, the 8390 comes with four popular Nokia games: Snake, Snowboarding, and Bumper, and Pairs 2.
In addition, the 8390 has an infrared port which wirelessly transfers data so you don't need a cable or additional software. The connecting device must be IrDA compliant with transmission and reception to or from a compatible phone or device. You can also use your handset as a wireless modem with your laptop computer, giving you access to the Internet or corporate networks wherever you are.
However, the real interest with this phone is in its GPRS technology. General Packet Radio Service is a technology used to send and receive data via packet delivery over a wireless network allowing you to stay connected to the Internet. Applications using GPRS include the WAP 1.2.1 (XHTML) browser, and modem connections for making high speed digital data calls.
Menu shortcuts are a good timesaving feature Nokia has also included on the 8390. When you scroll to a menu item, the menu number appears on the screen above the scroll bar. If you learn some of these menu numbers, you can use them to access different features quickly instead of scrolling through the menu. So getting to your home page is as easy as stroking 111 and voila! Also, the scroll bar indicates where you are in the menu. Each numbered "tab" on the bar represents a different menu item so a different tab appears each time you press the scroll key up or down. This really assists with navigating the OS.
The browser includes six options beginning with Home which opens the browser and takes you to your service provider's home page. Second is Bookmarks which shows a list of all saved boookmarks which help you find a WAP site quickly. Third is Service Inbox which allows the receiving of notices from your service provider about new email messages, changes in stock prices or news headlines. Fourth is Settings which provides options for changing connection settings, appearance settings, and authority certificate. Fifth is Go to Address which accepts a url address you enter; and sixth is Clear Cache which empties the browser's temporary memory and frees up space.
You can set up to 25 bookmarks to save your favorite sites. If your network supports an automatic connection, you can choose to have the GPRS context created as soon as you turn your phone on. The connection stays on in the background all the time, as long as you have network coverage. You can take advantage of this continuous connection when browsing the Internet. When you are finished browsing, the connection stays active for quick access the next time you need to download information. After running several comparisons, the "always online" feature brought up my homepage in under five seconds. However, when I used the "when needed" connection, the time was a consistent 17 seconds. In addition, you can still receive a call if you are using the WAP browser over GPRS, your data call is put on hold and you can just press the key to answer an incoming call. After you end your voice call, the GPRS connection automatically resumes.
Strengths of the 8390: The strength of this handset was the easy readability of the display screen and its overall size. The touchpad is well-lit and very ergonomic with easy stroke functionality without tripping over your fingers. The OS is easy to navigate due to the hierarchy model with all paths leading back to the beginning. The menu shortcuts are another time-saving navigation feature.
Weaknesses of the 8390: A switch to turn the light on and off at the viewer's discretion would be a nice feature to have. This phone doesn't support J2ME. And we'll have to wait for color in future Nokia handsets.
We know from our readers that they love Chat functionality and unfortunately the 8390 doesn't offer mobile Chat. However, this may be a US carrier issue as much as a handset issue as few US carriers have picked up on this phenomenon as yet. There was also a great deal of difficulty in obtaining the gateway setup parameters from our local GPRS carrier. This also appears to be primarily a US issue. In a similar scenario in Europe, a two minute call to that carrier's customer service yielded quick access to that carrier's gateway setup information.
Overall, the Nokia 8390 is a great mobile device for someone wanting good phone functionality, good text functionality, and added PDA features. It is easy and fun to use. The more I use GPRS handsets, the more excited I am about the possibilities this technology has to offer. Although the networks have a lot of growing to do, our experience was very positive. The phone responded well when the network was available.
Some tips on setting up your GPRS handset: Get as much "bang for the buck" as possible with a one-button stroke. Program your handset for maximum benefit and usability. Get your bookmarks ready, program your own homepage, etc. Then when you're away from your desktop, you have your personal information at the ready using a minimum number of keystrokes. Creating a personal environment on your handset makes for a very user friendly and fun mobile experience.
AT&T just cut an agreement to offer the Nokia 8390, so U.S. customers should start seeing these handsets apearing on the shelves soon.