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Nokia 100 Review

Version one of this review was, by my own admission, worthless. It was full of absent-minded connections and comparisons to Nokia and the mobile phone economy in general. This long-winded and unfocused review was just given the boot because, as fate would have it, my beloved Lumia was stolen from me. So instead of writing a review of this phone from the perspective of it being merely a backup phone of sorts, I can now write a full-fledged review of how this phone actually works in real life.

With that out of the way, I think it’s important to stress that I do actually own this phone. So while I shall try to avoid bias, there were obviously other choices that I could have gone with but elected to avoid. I bought this phone anticipating that it would serve as a backup phone in a time of need, such as now, or would be a useful way of staying in contact with my brother when he visits Germany and subjects this phone to his usual rough handling.

What you are looking at is a 10€ SIM-locked prepaid phone for O2. It can be found unlocked and, naturally, on offer from other carriers, but this version isn’t any of those. No, it was the very cheapest (new) phone I could find on eBay Germany at the time I chose to buy a new phone. Let’s move on and see if I made a good purchase.

Well, it’s a candybar. It feels and looks thicker than it probably needs to be, but I imagine that was done for the purpose of durability or ease of use and handling. Or, perhaps more likely, the chassis and exterior of the phone was designed first and then handed over to an engineering team to take it from concept to reality.

Either way, the exterior of this device is functional and there’s no doubting that it is, indeed, a phone. For anyone who has ever used a mobile phone, using it is a no brainer. If there’s one complaint I have with the aesthetics and build of the phone, it’s that it is somehow almost too small and too lightweight. I don’t doubt the durability of the device, however.
Okay, so what is it? What we’re looking at is a mostly matte-gray plastic bar interjected with black pieces. A two-piece exterior shell (dual-body?) composes the bulk of the tactile surface, with the front-half being permanent and the rear-half sliding off to gain access to the battery and SIM card slot. A thin piece of matte-black plastic runs between them, appearing diagonal when the phone is viewed from the side. The only area where the plastic grows into something else is on the top of the phone, where the 3.4mm stereo/headset jack, LED flashlight window and mini-barrel charging port are to be found. The latter most item is identical to that found on most modern Nokias except for the newer MicroUSB charging variety.

The bottom of the phone has some rather interesting molding work done on it, all of which was done probably just to make it appear less boring. There’s a small bit of texture that has been added to make it easier to remove the back panel when it comes time to access the battery or SIM card. A small bit of porting was added towards the top to serve as an outlet for the loudspeaker, which in my case is conveniently the same place that my index finger rests when I hold the phone to my head. (Why is that convenient?... I often accidentally answer a phone call in speakerphone mode, and my finger conveniently suppresses the noise quite sufficiently to avoid any embarrassment while I quickly revert to normal phone mode.
Flipping the phone over reveals some glossy black plastic, which serves as the visual frame around the LCD display. There’s also a little cut out made for the earpiece acoustics located just above a small silver Nokia logo. While the color display works surprisingly well in all sorts of lighting conditions, it is nothing to write home about. Colors become distorted quite easily and often inverse without even having to view the display from an extreme angle. It’s almost a wonder that alternatives color themes are even an option of the operating software.

Below the display is a whole set of rubbery buttons. You’ll find a four-way navigation key that surprised me at being just that- I had become accustomed to a navigation key that featured a center select button. Ignoring this omission until later, there’s two soft buttons and the call/end buttons connected to eachother as if they were rocker keys. Since the buttons are all rubber, they aren’t actually real rocket buttons, but this fact isn’t really important on such a cheap phone that values durability through smart budget construction as it would be on a pricey phone that values design and user experience over all else. Similar to the rubberized alphanumeric keys, which are quite easy to use though only time will tell if they retain their appearance or begin to wear away and become less clear. The last item on the front of the phone is a small microphone puncture made as an audio channel for the microphone.

When my phone arrived, my first course of action was, of course, to turn it on. The logic behind this was that a backup phone is only useful if it has been tested to the full of its abilities in a real-life scenario. That meant I needed to shut down my Lumia 710, take our the SIM card, slot it into the 100, and use it for a day as my main device. Simple enough, and indeed everything worked without a hitch. Due to the design of the 100’s SIM card slot, I didn’t really need to use a MicroSIM to full-size SIM adapter, though I easily could have. I simply had to generally align up the MicroSIM with the phone’s contacts after having slipped it underneath the SIM retaining ring, and then everything was good to go.

By default, my phone had an orange theme selected for the UI. I quickly got rid of this, and I’m surprised that O2 didn’t do so as well… their colors are all blue, after all. Beyond that, this is a phone; definitely not a smartphone. Sure, there’s a built-in Solitaire game for killing time. But features such as the ability to toggle between SIM memory and phone memory for storing contacts just reinforces the point that this phone is extremely simple. I wonder how long till phones are essentially empty shells and stream all of their content, much the same as the OnLive service for video games. But I digress.

How does the phone perform? Well, I’m afraid there are not many ways to benchmark a device such as this. But I can give you a qualitative take on how well this thing works: somewhat sluggish. I feel as though most things on this phone have a small amount of lag, and doing things such as sending a text message are further burdened by an extremely lengthy multiple screen process that one has to go through just to accomplish such a simple task. What happened to the better versions of S40, Nokia?
Considering I bought the Nokia 100 to be a backup phone with no intention of ever using it to the same degree that I have now, after the loss of my Lumia 710, how satisfied am I with my purchase? The answer isn’t easy to make, but I think that I am quite happy with my decision to take the 100. That’s because, as a backup phone, it’s nice to have around. The alternative would have been a basic Samsung candybar, a phone which has only one awesome feature: fake phone call. But that’s note a phone I want to keep around as a backup phone.

As a phone to use, however, the Samsung got rid of some of the sillier aspects that Nokia decided to endow the 100 with. Namely, while it wasn’t the fastest device, it required a lot less button pressing to accomplish anything. It also was  only given the option of three different wallpapers and “themes” and, in doing so, essentially confirmed that Samsung was aware of the sub-par quality display. But I’ll tell you what: I like the themes. It means I can make this silly backup phone “mine.” And when one loses the phone they’ve been using for months (in my case) or years (in most other peoples’ cases), it feels as if one has lost a bit of their identity. And the ability to make the replacement their own is comforting.

So yes, I’m glad I bought this phone. The battery is great, the reception is fairly reliable and call quality is acceptable though lacks the finer degrees of a 3G phone call. But it works, it doesn’t look bad and it doesn’t bother me either. I will be replacing this with another smartphone, but right now I’m alright just coping. Maybe I can even cope until the Lumia 920.