13 September, 2016
Nokia 220: Top Seven Tips
The Nokia 220 was designed to be a basic, internet-connected mobile. As a result, there is a good deal of functionality baked into the system software, but there isn't much possibility for adding additional software. Therefore, it is imperative to squeeze as much functionality as possible out of the system software.
We have had a Nokia 220 in the hands (and pocket) of an editor for just over a year in order to see what was really possible with a thirty dollar internet-connected basic mobile phone (the $30 Android is another story entirely). So here are our top seven tips to get the most from your Nokia 220.
6. Delete more
Double touch up for torch
We'll start with one that is clearly in the manual, but it is important to reiterate. The torch can be started by either "Menu -> Extras -> Flashlight -> On" (which is 10 touches from the locked and screen off state) or by double pressing the up directional key from the home screen (just 5 touches from the locked and screen off state). Obviously the double press is the easier method when you are most likely to need the torch—when it is dark and you've just dropped something valuable.
Speed dial for SMS
Alright, you know how speed dial traditionally works, one number key + SEND to call a specific number. Recognizing that calling isn't always the optimal contact method, the Nokia 220 allows for setting a speed "dial" as a speed SMS. In the speed dial setup ("Menu -> Contacts -> Options -> Speed dial -> Edit"), you can assign one of the nine (sorry, no double digit speed dials) to an important number and then, with the Options key, "Assign to text message." And that's it. One number + SEND opens a new SMS already filled out with contact's number—ready for your text entry.
MicroSD cards to 32 GB
The microSD card slot accepts cards up to 32 GB. Ok, that isn't particularly remarkable in the mobile phone industry—many phones, excepting iPhones, will accept a microSD card for expanded storage. But those phones have a bit more built-in storage space than the Nokia 220. The iPhone starts with 16 GB. The moderate Android device is similar. If you look hard, and are only willing to part with a Jackson and a Hamilton, you might be able to find an Android device with only 512 MB of storage space (the BLU Dash J, a 2G KitKat device with 512 MB of internal storage, is currently selling unlocked for $29.99 in the United States). Even the most basic of feature phones available in the United States (the unlocked 2G BLU Jenny II currently retailing under fifteen dollars) have 32 MB of internal storage.
The Nokia 220 boasts a generous ... wait for it ... 8 MB of internal storage. Of that, only 4.6 MB are available to the user after the system software is installed. That 4.6 MB storage space is roughly equivalent (very roughly) to one three minute pop song modestly encoded as MP3. And you thought those people with 16 GB iPhones had it rough.
In order to be able to use the phone for, well, most anything, you'll need to add storage in the form of a microSD card. We've had a 32 GB model in our test model from the start and have had no problems (beyond, maybe, the insistence the phone gives that it is "Showing files on your memory card. Go to Options to see files on your phone." Dismissing that dialog every time you visit the file system is a bit much.). We have a 12+ GB music library on that card which works just fine with the local music player.
The microSD card is (almost) absolutely necessary and, minus the file system warning dialog, seamlessly integrated into the phone software/experience.
Mini music player works with single touches
The Nokia 220 music player implements a more random shuffle function* than must music players (shuffle on the iPod was/is far from truly random, Steve Jobs made shuffle on the iPod less random in order to seem more random for iPod users—humans don't appreciate true randomness). In the music player, the left/right direction keys will jump to a random song. The left soft key doesn't take you back to the previous song but jumps to another track entirely. Practically both the left and right keys are "next random song."
In the full-screen music player, when the screen is dark, it takes two key presses to shuffle the playlist, the first touch wakes the display and the second skips to the next song. This is the typical pattern for the Nokia 220, the same double keypress happens during a phone call with a machine. When the reading of the menu is finished, and it is your turn to enter a menu selection with the keypad, you need to double touch your selection, or at least touch one key to wake the screen before your selection is routed to the phone app.
However, in the mini player (shown below, invoke it from the full-screen player by touching the END key) the directional soft keys are listening for key presses without having to waking the screen. A single touch of the left/right soft keys plays the next track. A single touch of the up soft key increases the volume, down decreases the volume. Exceptionally useful when walking or running—the mini-player requires only a single touch to control, plenty easy to do while focused on something else (and it doesn't wake the screen—power savings as well).
* The only predictable thing is that the music player starts with the last song that was playing on close. We seem to recall that it would play the same song twice in a row if there were only three or four songs in the library, but we've working with a 15+ GB music archive on our Nokia 220 for stress testing purposes—we obviously haven't see that recently.
Automatic answer for headphones
While on the topic of running with the phone, you'll likely be using the headphones to listen to the music player.
Occasionally someone might call that you want to talk to at that moment (hasn't happened for us, but we are hopeful someone will call us ... someday). While standard aftermarket headphones (we are using Skull Candy INK'D 2s with our Nokia 220) will happily allow you to talk on the phone, the click button remote for answering the call doesn't work on the Nokia 220. But the designers knew that and included one little feature that you might find enjoyable—auto answer. As the name implies, when this property is set to yes, the Nokia 220 will automatically answer the phone when head phones are connected. That can certainly save you if you are out running while you need to be reachable, but might not be your favorite feature if you (often) get calls you don't want to answer. Use your better judgment accordingly.
And don't worry, the Nokia 220 doesn't answer immediately. You get two rings to fumble for the phone, make your decision and ignore the call, if necessary.
The automatic answer setting can be turned on by setting "Menu -> Settings -> Accessories -> Headphones -> Automatic answer" to on.
Wait to recharge the battery
So, the battery indicator gives you a pretty good feeling of when the next time to charge will be? Not exactly for the Nokia 220. As the battery meter reaches one bar, that's the time to think about recharging, right?
Not so for the Nokia 220. With one bar on the battery, the Nokia 220 still has about three days of battery life†. With our Nokia 220, we can wait for the "charge battery" dialog before initiating that charge; there is still a good margin of safety before the battery falls over and the mobile shuts down.
How large is that margin of safety? We consistently get thirty-six hours of normal usage from the time we first see the battery low dialog until the phone powers down†.
It isn't necessary to rush to the charger when you see one bar of battery on your Nokia 220. You have a very comfortable usage margin (days) before you're left without its services.
†As with all discussion of battery performance, your experience will vary. We are almost always in a five bar GSM signal area and use the Nokia 220 a typical to moderate amount. Depending on battery age, usage pattern and network signal, your battery experience will vary.
The Nokia 220 is a great little phone for SMS communication, but the Nokia 220 has one colossal SMS shortcoming—the Nokia 220 holds only about 200 SMS messages.
Yes, you read that properly. Only 200 SMS messages.
And that isn't memory size dependent. The Nokia 220 inbox will fill with several megabytes of available space on the phone (not even to mention space available the microSD card).
We know, that doesn't sound very Nokia.
The Nokia 220, while it might look it at first glance, isn't a Nokia Series 40 device. The Nokia 220 is a Series 30+ phone, which means that it is really a MediaTek Maui Runtime Environment (MRE) phone. The MRE, and you'll have to take our word for this as the MediaTek domain from which we downloaded their Software Development Kit (SDK) has expired in the last year, SDK is a C based programming environment—no high-level programming help here. Our best guess is that the SMS app in the MRE comes provisioned with a fixed memory amount in the system space (the available space on the phone doesn't change if the inbox is full or empty). This would certainly make the programming more straight-forward (no memory management help from the runtime) and safer (no possibility of filling the internal memory such that the phone is rendered useless).
While this ... um ... shortcut might make the software simpler, it generates a mobile that is nearly unusable for even moderate SMS communication.
Seriously. It isn't all that challenging to send and receive 200 SMS in a day, or two, or three. So how then do you deal with the tiny SMS storage limit?
Delete more is the answer.
From the SMS app select "Options -> Delete more." "Mark" the conversations you'd like to delete and select "Done." Confirm the delete and you have, in one operation, cleaned out most, or all, of you inbox.
And you're ready for a new day.
Delete more is the one saving grace for SMS use on the Nokia 220—provided that you're willing to view SMS as ephemeral.
Above are seven top tips for getting the most out of your Nokia 220, a basic, internet-connected mobile. The Nokia 220 isn't expensive or particularly powerful, but with a few tips, the Nokia 220 can be much more useful.