Nokia 9300 Communicator Review


This is the only smart phone that has a 640 x 200 (yes, 640 pixel wide) screen and a very usable keyboard. It is heavier and bulkier than most newer smartphones. Is it worth it for about $350 from Ebay? It is for me, your mileage may varies. Read on for more details. I have owned this phone for five days. I will update this review as I discover more things.


My second Sony Ericsson phone broke. Same thing—the charging connector got dirty enough that it is not longer charging. It’s not so bad if SE has a separate battery charger that I can use to charge a battery outside of the phone, but they do not. In my old Nokia 8900 days, I have an desktop charger that charges a second standalone battery.

I also am increasingly mobile but without my laptop, i.e. in my car, in between meetings, etc. The new biz requires lots of immediate email interaction, so it’s time for a good email phone. I would have gone for , and in fact waited for, the new blackberry 8700 but it kept getting delayed (for the T-Mobile, my carrier) launch. I would have switched to Cingular, but their data plan is a lot more expensive. For T-Mobile

Why the 9300, and not the 9300i

Nokia just came out witht the 9300i. The "i" version is identical to the old version except it has wifi. Normally wifi would be a good thing, but from all the reviews that I read, the 9300 CPU is slow enough that the browsing via wifi is not faster than using Edge. With my T-Mobile $19.95 unlimited data plan, I can stay on Edge all day. Also, since the 9300i is new, it is much more expensive. Where-as the 9300 can be had on E-Bay for $350 or less.

E Bay and US vs World version

If you look around, the 9300 still sells for about $450 on the web. I got mine from E-Bay for $320. However, when it arrived, it turned out to have a Italian or Spanish keyboard. I contacted the seller and they were willing to give me a full refund, but I ended up keeping it because of the price. The keyboard is ok except for a few of the critical puntuation keys, the "@", the ":" etc are in the wrong place. So buyer beware.

Besides the keyboard differences, there are actually two versions of the 9300 available. One is for the world GSM frequencies 900/900/19000, the other one is for US GSM frequencies 850/1800/1900. You can tell by the FCC ID label on the back of the phone:

PDN RA-2 : 9500 (900/1800/1900) PDN RA-3 : 9500 (850/1800/1900) PYA RAE-6 : 9300 (900/1800/1900) PYA RA-4 : 9300 (850/1800/1900)

The phone that I got from EBay turned out to be the US GSM version.

First Impression

  • - Phone is heavy -- the specs says 5.89 oz. It's, heavy!
  • + The phone is smaller than it looks in picture, but still bigger than all phones that I have.
  • - The back cover does not fit well, it’s soft plastic with tiny little tabs and require careful insertion to close it. I hope it does not break in the future.
  • - The cover phone joystick round pad is difficult to push because it is very narrow.
  • + keyboard is nice, easy to do surface typing with two fingers. Each key hs sculbtured with the center raised a little. I can slide my fingers over the keys, and as long as I center my finger on the right key, I can press it accurately.
  • + The screen is nice, full page (wide) browsing !
  • + The user interface is very easy to use (more later).
  • + The speaker is loud, which is a good thing. This is my first phone with speaker phone built in, it works very well.

Phonebook and the Telephone Application

Up to this point I have always rely on storing my phone book on my SIM card. I do not sync my phones with Outlook. For the 9300, the SIM Card based phone book does not really work, since there is no “load from SIM card to memory” option, and all the multiple phone numbers on the SIM card are split into individual entries. The SIM card phone numbers are available as a separate "database", but to make it works well, you really have to use the smartphone’s contact database as the source after syncing it with Outlook.

Also, the contact database is also the only allowable source for 1-touch dial on the phone. So after syncing my full Outlook contact list with the phone, I can assign 1-touch dialing to contacts in the database.

One Touch Dialing Not available in Telephone Application

One annoying thing -- 1 touch dialing is only available on the cover phone. Since there are a few numbers I call often, if I want to use the speaker phone, I have to

  1. close the phone
  2. 1 touch dial the number
  3. open the phone to use the speaker phone.

Another way is to:

  1. Open the phone
  2. Use the access keys to switch to the telephone application
  3. Use the right softkeys to click recent calls
  4. select the contact,
  5. use the softkeys to call the contact.

It is not too difficult, but I'd prefer a 1-touch/1-key calling on the keyboard telephone app. Maybe I'll go write an OPL app later to do this.

Telephone Application does not easily allow direct numeric dialing

Yet another lack of feature. You cannot easily just dial a phone number in the telephone application that is not part of your contact database. You have to enter the number, search will fail, and you click dial, then it will dial what you entered. The alternative is to close the communicator and use the cover phone. There really is no excuse for having such a poor telephone application on the PDA side !!

Setup and Personalization

These are the things that I did to setup my phone:

  1. Slow down the "mousepad/cursor" - control panel/general/display/cursor speed
  2. The standard cover phone wallpaper makes the LCD looks like it's broken. I changed it via: control panel/general/display/wallpapers/cover
  3. Internet Connection - Use the nokia website to send an advanced internet setting to the phone directly. You only have to open the message, with the given password, and save it to have the setting activated. I then go to the control panel to give the internet setting top priority: control panel/connections/internet setup
  4. Bluetooth, I want to get this working so that I can sync via bluetooth because I am out of USB port on my laptop: control panel/connnetions/bluetooth/pair, search for my laptop, create a passcode, and get paired.
  5. You can tell that I am treating this more like a PDA then a phone. First I paired the phone with my laptop, then my headset (AX).
  6. auto locking the cover phone -- I normally do this because I don't want to accidentally start a 1-touch-dial call. But I found out that if I enable auto lock, the entire phone is locked and I have to enter the unlock PIN just to unlock the the cover phone. Too much work. So I just manually lock the cover phone (joystick, *).
      ringtones, alerts etc -- Initially, I looked all over in the control panel to see where I can change the sounds. All the sound settings belong in the profile menu, which make sense once I think about it.


  • Switching profile—just hold tab the power button on the cover phone. I love this Nokia feature.
  • Speed dial on the cover phone —just hold down a numeric key on the cover phone. There is no need to press the numeric key, then the call key like the Sony Ericsson.
  • On the keyboard/application -- "standard" cut and paste keys work, ctrl-C, ctrl-V, ctrl-X are your friends.
  • Reload browser page - ctrl-r
  • Email -- to delete a email, press the backspace key. There is no menu item for deleting an email.
  • Go offline -- The browser and email client by default stays online. It is not a problem if you have a unlimited data plan. If you want to go offline, the quickest way is to press ctrl-u (for "unconnect"?)
  • How to do hard reset: Remove and replace battery, during startup, press Ctrl-Shift-F.
  • ...I'll add more as I discover them...

Edge/Data speed

I tested out the connection speed using DSL Reports mobile speed test. The faster I got was about 120k. So it's probably an Edge connection, but not really very fast.

The email client and the web browser will default to stay connected to the internet once used. I discovered this when I noticed that the GPRS indicator shows connected all the time on the cover phone. I can expect the email client to default to stay online to check emails, but the web browser? Press ctrl-u to go offline for either one.