Nokia 1202

By Abhijit Menon-Sen <ams@toroid.org>

2009-10-13

Rounded shape brings the friendly and human feel for comfort and fits to the hand

Thus spake Nokia India's specifications for the Nokia 1202, a model I found by going to a shop and saying Don't you have anything cheaper? a few times. Listed at €25, it turns out to be the cheapest Nokia handset ever manufactured (and I got it for €19).

The phone is thin, light, and not ugly. It has a small (but very clear) monochrome screen and a large "dust-proof" keypad (a grooved rubber mat covering the keys) with a four-way arrow key and four control keys besides. Its minimal feature set is exactly what I was looking for. It does phone calls and SMS messages and has an alarm clock, but precious little else. No camera, no radio, no Java.

Nokia claims that the battery provides 9 hours talk time and lasts 636 hours (26 days!) on standby. I am deeply suspicious of such claims, but the phone has used only a quarter of its first full charge under slightly heavier than normal use over the past couple of days. That's already enough to make me happy, even if the published figures are an exaggeration.

The audio quality is adequate, but there's a strange "concert hall" (think cavernous space) effect at my end. It's distracting, but I can live with it, especially since it isn't audible to whoever I'm speaking to. The text messaging is done just right, including delivery reports that—for the first time ever—don't annoy me (no beep and no additions to the inbox, but the delivery is recorded under "Sent items"). I do wish T9 recognised names in the contact list, but I don't know of any phone that does that.

I've always been perplexed by the minor inconsistencies in the features of different Nokia handsets. My old 6610i couldn't "Insert smiley" (unlike many of its contemporaries). The 1202 can do that, but it can't be made to display both date and time on the main screen (which the 6610i could do). Some models allow you to select menu items by number, but not the 1202. Some models have a plain old "ring ring" tone, but not the 1202. Fortunately, this phone does have sensible shortcuts: left goes to the SMS composer, down to the contact list, right to the calendar; and the top-right key leads to a programmable "Go to" menu.

Tapping the "up" key twice reveals one special feature: it turns on the tiny LED flashlight. I couldn't have cared less about that when I bought the phone, but it's a surprisingly usable little light, and I caught myself using it already to hunt for my car keys. Another surprise: built-in Sudoku.

The calendar is the one place where the smaller screen is a noticeable disadvantage—there's space only for two weeks of dates, and not being able to see the full month at a glance makes it much less useful. I wish they'd packed in a smaller font instead of the bizarre "Panchangam" feature (a Hindu astrological calendar).

I like my new phone very much—but how could I not, given the Subtle texture on back, which brings a fresh feeling to end user?