Do you like to remember the good old times? A simpler time when phones were phones, and maps and phone books were printed on a tree's worth of paper? Nokia's 7230 feels like a blast from the past: a solid, simple handset with a minimum of features and a price tag to match.
The 7230 is definitely one of the classier phones you'll find for under AU$200. Its plastic chassis is stiff and sturdy and coated to look like glistening stainless steel. The effect is lovely and reminds us of some of Nokia's best prepaid phones, like the 6300.
A slider in design, the 7230 features a 2.4-inch QVGA colour display, which is colourful and clear, but has a terrible viewing angle. A gentle tilt of the phone down and to either the left or right renders the display almost invisible. Under the slider you'll find a large, easy-to-use T9 numeric keypad, with navigation keys on the top half of the handset, just below the screen. The layout of the T9 pad should make texting friends a quick and painless experience, but we hate the nav-keys that lay flush below the screen without any clear definition.
On the back of the 7230 there's a flashless 3-megapixel camera and an external speaker grille, tied together by an attractive series of indented arcs. On the top is a 3.5mm headphone jack and a micro-USB port, plus an older-style Nokia charging pin socket for connecting those chargers we thought we'd never see again.
For a phone that you can pick up for AU$129 outright, the list of available features in the 7230 is pretty impressive. Nokia is a company that knows where to skimp on cheaper models, and what features you must include anyway. A good example is the radio configuration in the 7230; a mix of quad-band GSM and tri-band UMTS, which should amount to good 3G coverage just about wherever you use it in Australia. There's also Bluetooth 2.1 with A2DP in case you want to share photos or listen to music through a wireless pair of Bluetooth headphones.
3G data is an excellent inclusion, though the simplicity of the installed web browser may relegate your online activity to simple Google searches and Facebook. Luckily, the 7230 is compatible with Nokia's Ovi Store, giving you access to a sea of apps, like games and instant messaging clients. There's also a pretty decent email client built into the messaging menu option on the handset.
Those looking for a portable music player in their phone should make good use out of the MP3-, AAC- and WMA-capable music player. As we mentioned above, the 7230 features a 3.5mm headphone socket so you can use your favourite (and presumably better than the bundled) headphones. Nokia also includes a 2GB microSD memory card with the phone, quite a generous gift for such a cheap phone, which should make for a decent start to storing your music collection, though those with massive media libraries will want to spend a little extra for a larger memory card.
All of the features listed above are nice additions in a phone at this price range, but at the end of the day, people buying a phone for under AU$200 should expect a high call and messaging quality. Unfortunately, this hasn't been our experience with the 7230. During all of our test calls we found the earpiece speaker to be a tad too quiet at full volume and several of the people we spoke to complained about not hearing us consistently.
Battery life is decent despite a small 860mAh battery pack. Nokia estimates about four hours talk time on 3G and a whopping 26 hours of music playback, and in our tests we experience an average of two full days between charging.
The Nokia 7230 is a sexy-looking phone and a feature-packed prepaid option let down in some measure by a few design quirks and less-than perfect calling hardware. In this price range there will always be a few trade-offs, but we can only wish that these sacrifices didn't include our ability to make high-quality phone calls.