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Sunday, September 23, 2007

Nokia launches 6301 Wi-Fi phone

Nokia launches 6301 Wi-Fi phone

Switching automatically between GSM and Wi-Fi networks, the Nokia 6301 will soon ship in Europe.

With a sleek stainless steel design, the Nokia 6301 phone launched today offers seamless voice and data mobility across GSM cellular and Wi-Fi networks via Unlicensed Mobile Access (UMA) technology. The Nokia 6301 phone uses UMA technology to integrate the benefits of landline and a mobile phone, including seamless indoor coverage, sound quality and affordability.

With UMA technology, the consumer can use the GSM network or a broadband Internet-connected Wi-Fi network for mobile services. This is supposed to ensure excellent indoor coverage both at office and home. European carrier Orange will be one of the first carriers to offer the Nokia 6301.

Weighing a mere 93 grams and measuring 106 by 44 by 13 mm, the Nokia 6301 also offers a 2-megapixel camera and a 2" QVGA screen, as well as Bluetooth support and microSD memory slot. Running on GSM 900/1800/1900 MHz networks, the Nokia 6301 will likely not appear in the U.S.

The Nokia 6301 will begin shipping in Europe during the fourth quarter of 2007 with an estimated retail price of 230 euros before subsidies or taxes.


Nokia's GSM/Wi-Fi phone - cheaper costs and better indoor coverage.

Nokia's 6301 is a traditional tri-band GSM candy bar phone that can seamlessly transfer your calls when in range of a connectable Wi-Fi network, offering the prospect of cheaper calls and a promise of better indoor coverage.

Look at Nokia's latest phone, the 6301, and you'll see what appears to be a standard 2G cell phone, ready to let you make voice calls and access the Internet at up to EDGE speeds.

But as is increasingly becoming common in select models from Nokia themselves, Samsung, Blackberry and for a long time from manufacturers of Pocket PC Windows smartphones, the 6301 can also connect to an available Wi-Fi network in the home, office or when out and about to transmit phone calls over the Internet, using VoIP technology, turning the cell phone into the equivalent of a landline phone.

This is done using UMA (Unlicensed Mobile Access) technology, which handles the seamless handover between GSM and Wi-Fi networks. UMA also works with any Bluetooth networks that are also connected to the Internet, although these are almost unknown in a world of Wi-Fi networking. While other phones from Nokia and others already come with Wi-Fi, Nokia's UMA phone is claimed to be the first to allow seamless handover of your phone calls and your phone's number on GSM and Wi-Fi - and that's the crucial difference.

The reward for making phone calls over the Internet whether you have an existing phone that has Wi-Fi and can make Internet calls through a separate number or identity, or you have Nokia's 6301 UMA phone, is a reduction in costs for both the user and the operator - you're connecting over Wi-Fi and using VoIP technology at lower costs than using the GSM network. Another reward for consumers is that a Wi-Fi network in the home or office will generally offer much stronger coverage than mobile phone towers do in many homes.

So, having your phone connect via Wi-Fi and still receive calls normally, with better coverage than with GSM alone, is certainly a clear benefit, letting users make cheap and clear calls from home using their cell phone.

The penalty for the user is that connecting to a Wi-Fi network on a mobile phone uses more power than connecting to the standard GSM tower infrastructure, giving users shorter talk times when only Wi-Fi networks are used.

It's for this reason that Nokia has included a desk stand in the package, which Nokia says is "to hold the phone and keep its battery charged while connected to WLAN [Wi-Fi]".

Naturally, Nokia and others are working on ways to create lower power Wi-Fi chipsets and increase battery capacity, but this is a limitation Wi-Fi delivers to all phones, with the iPhone's claimed 6 continuous hours of 'Internet Use' over Wi-Fi the only phone so far to really break the Wi-Fi power barrier.

So, how much talk time does the 6301 have over Wi-Fi, and does it matter anyway? Also, what about alternatives like Fring, other Internet phone call companies taking advantage of Wi-Fi phones and Skype itself.

Nokia's stated talk time for the 6301 is 3.5 hours with a 14 day stand-by time, although this is likely only for GSM calls, with no call times claimed for Wi-Fi yet, but whatever the talk time ends up being, the charging dock and the fact the Nokia has a removable battery mean serious users don't have to worry about battery life if they don't want to.

The 6301 itself has a standard Nokia 2 megapixel camera with 8x digital zoom, a 2-inch QVGA screen, 30MB inbuilt, a 128MB microSD card in the box, and significantly for those wanting to carry a nice selection of MP3 music files, video clips, photos or simply to have a spare gigabyte or two of space to use your phone as a USB memory drive when connected with the USB cable, the 6301 has compatibility with 4GB microSD cards.

On the topic of music, Nokia's standard MP3 player, FM radio and voice recognition capabilities for command, dialling and voice recording are included as standard. The size is 13.1mm - not quite as thin as the iPhone's 11.6m, but thin nonetheless.

No mention is made of the operating system used, but it seems obvious that it will be the latest version of Series 60, for which a range of third party programs are also available to download.

Competing VoIP Internet phone programs could theoretically be used with the 6301. An example is a free software app called Fring, offering N95 and other eries 60 Nokia users the ability to use their phone's data network to make VoIP calls to Skype users or fellow Fring users.

Skype itself is available for Nokia users, with 3 Mobile offering Skype compatibility for their mobile phones with the Skype network, while traditional Internet phone companies are also offering phones such as the N95 the ability to sign up to a phone service that gives you a regular local phone number in your location, turning your cell phone into a landline phone, able to make local calls at very low rates, while letting others call you on a landline number at cheaper rates than when calling a mobile phone number.

French mobile phone company Orange is the first operator to offer the 6310 to its customers, and promises the "convenience of a single phone and a tariff at home and on the move" - implying a cheaper rate when used at home with Wi-Fi, and the normal rate when out and about making calls on the GSM network.

Nokia says the phone will cost 230 euros and will go on sale in 'select' European markets before the end of the year.

Clearly, especially with Wi-Fi's high power requirements, we are still at the beginning of a world where making a call over a Wi-Fi network is a common as making one over GSM.

But the sands are irreversibly shifting, and the networks we can use to make calls and communicate are increasing, with WiMAX and even faster 3.5G HSDPA or 4G networks to come.

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