Tools Of The Trade: The Nokia 9300 smartphone

The 9300 will feel familiar to anyone who has used Psion's Series 3 and Revo organisers. The device looks similar, and the Symbian operating system also has its origins in work done by Psion.

The Psion's flaw was a lack of connectivity - an accusation that cannot be levelled at the Communicator. It comes with a GPRS connection, Bluetooth and infra-red. In contrast to the larger 9500 Communicator, there is no in-built wireless LAN capability, although this should not be a barrier unless you are a particularly heavy data user - not least because GPRS data charges are falling.

Nokia also allows the 9300 to synchronise directly with a Windows desktop PC via the USB cable that is included. And the same cable allows the 9300 to "borrow" a PC's internet connection, which is another way for heavy-duty users to avoid running up large download bills.

As Nokia users have come to expect, the 9300's Bluetooth connections behave impeccably, and the phone works well as a GPRS modem.

The 9300 offers several ways of accessing email, including downloading messages from a regular internet email account. Orange, which is the first network to launch the 9300, will also offer Blackberry email for business users.

Add in a word processor, spreadsheet, presentation application and a web browser, and the 9300 makes for a powerful all-round business tool. The screen can show eight lines of text in word processor mode and the browser is one of the best mobile versions currently available, rendering some web pages better than Microsoft's pocket version of Internet Explorer; the word processor produces files that open without trouble in Word.

There is not much to dislike about the 9300. It is small enough to fit in a jacket pocket but quite easy to type on at speed. The screen is clear and the battery life good - our test model was still going strong after two days' quite intensive use.

A minor criticism is that the 9300 is rather slow switching between applications, and the bundled Blackberry mail software cannot send attachments.

Multimedia functions are limited by the lack of a camera, though for some business uses that is a benefit. And the 9300 does include a media player, so it is not a completely utilitarian device.

At a network-subsidised price of more than £300, though, the 9300 is a premium product and will face competition from smartphones produced by HTC, maker of the popular XDA handhelds, as well as Blackberry devices and phones from PDA (personal digital assistant) makers such as HP, Fujitsu Siemens and Palm.

Orange is offering the handset to business users with Blackberry servers for £35 a month, including 5MB of data. The 9300 is a far more flexible device than a regular Blackberry and worth the premium. Small business and personal users might want to see what other operators offer, though, rather than buying a 9300 without a contract now.

THE VERDICT

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Pros: design, ease of use, functions.

Cons: a bit fiddly for web browsing on the move; launch network Orange offering device only to business users with Blackberry servers.

Price: from £330 plus VAT with Orange business contract.

Contacts: www.orange.co.uk; www.nokia.co.uk

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