A Plea. If you live in the Washington, DC area, have a PC, and have a Nokia data cable, I would appreciate borrowing your services to upgrade my phone to use Java. Please contact me at sean#remove#at#remove#cs.gmu.edu
IntroductionI've purchased a Nokia 6256i and, the "annoyances" section below notwithstanding, I am very happy with it: I think it's the best option available at Verizon for the stuff I do.
The back-story. My LG TM510 gave up the ghost after a six year existence, and it was time for me to catch up with the real world. I have a Mac, am a coder and techy guy, and wanted a phone with:
- A decent calendar/address/notepad/etc.
- Syncing to OS X
- A speakerphone
- A modem
- The ability to upload and download files of various sorts
- A relatively small size
- (unfortunately) Verizon
- (ideally) Analog
- (ideally) Bluetooth
- (ideally) Java
What I did not need was a camera, mp3 player or radio, EV-DO (or the big honking screen that comes with it -- why does Verizon think people want low-quality pay-per-view on their cell phones anyway?) or a minibrowser. I've not that much into text messaging so it's not a huge draw for me, but it potentially could be in the future I suppose.
I had boiled this down to basically two phones: the Motorola e815 and the brand-new (for Verizon) Nokia 6256i. Both phones cost about $100 with a 2-year plan, modulo discounts here and there. As of the time of writing (Thanksgiving 2005) Verizon is doing what it can to hide the fact that it offers the 6256i: the phone is not offered in their corporate stores. Instead, I purchased mine at Radio shack. Why is Verizon hiding the Nokia? Some have suggested it's because the Nokia is Verizon's only non-lobotomized bluetooth phone, or that Nokia wouldn't play ball and use the horrible Verizon UI. That doesn't make much business sense to me: I suspect they've just not ramped up yet, focusing as they are on their quixotic EV-DO phone venture. Stuttery video clips on your phone, just what america wants.
The e815 is a very nice phone. It has excellent craftsmanship, it's handsome, fairly light, it has a humongous EV-DO screen, etc. But it's too tall for my tastes, it doesn't provide analog, and (importantly) Verizon has taken a number of steps to lobotomize features on the phone, cutting out Bluetooth among other things. Many can be undone with judicious use of data cables and special software, but I'd rather not hack my brand-new phone (though see below).
The Nokia isn't as pretty as the e815, it's exactly the same weight, and it doesn't have EV-DO. But it's got analog, a fully-working bluetooth, and it's smaller. And less Verizon tinkering. Less tinkering: not "no tinkering". So it's what I went with.
Phone FeaturesThe 6256i is a flip-phone with an internal (160x128, 65K good colors) and external (96x64, 4K, washed colors) screen, a speakerphone and camera, and a considerable number of features. For more specs, see the 6256i website, featuring a 3D view of the phone.
Bluetooth First and foremost is bluetooth. The 6256i is Verizon's only fully Bluetooth-capable phone. And the bluetooth (v 1.2) is cleanly implemented and works perfectly. The 6256i also has infrared and a data cable port.
Calls The 6256i is a tri-mode analog/CDMA phone, so it works literally everywhere on Verizon's network. I've found the reception to be fairly good. And the phone has quite a good speakerphone. Though the speaker can get distorted for loud sounds from your callers, your voice sounds excellent on the other end. The speakerphone works with the phone closed as well. The phone supports sound recognition for starting calls and also one-touch dialing. The sound recognition works with the phone closed or open. Contacts may be grouped, and each group assigned a different ring tone.
Camera and Multimedia The camera is 640x480, and unusually well positioned so as not to interfere with your hand. The flash is unimpressive. You can easily download (jpeg) images and movies to your computer: the movies can be viewed in Quicktime. Images can be edited on the phone. The phone has a radio and also can play various sound formats (MP3,MID,etc.) The machine comes with about 6 megs of memory by default, and with a memory card slot.
Tools The phone sports a good calendar, to-do list, notepad, alarm clock, calculator, stopwatch, translation tool, unit converter, and world clock. The phone is rated to send and receive a variety of SMS messages, including distribution lists, though I have little experience with that. A mini web browser (Verizon's "mobile web") also comes along for the ride. The phone also has Verizon's noxious "Get It Now" BREW downloads service, providing apps, ringtones, and wallpapers. At present the pickings in this service are very thin; but the phone is brand new.
CNET has not yet posted a review of the phone (it'll go here), but they've reviewed the 6255i, which is the 6256i without Verizon's tinkering (meaning, the 6255i has Java and an actual media player, but some early build problems).
Bluetooth, Yes. iSync, No. Workaround, Yes.
Pairing, OPP, OBEX. The 6256i pairs with OS X easily through OS X's Bluetooth Preferences, and it works with both OSX's Bluetooth File Transfer and Bluetooth File Exchange. I'm able to upload wallpapers, .mp3 and .mid files, notes, and other files to the phone through Apple's Bluetooth File Exchange application. The phone can also push files onto OPP devices without much difficulty.
DUN: Bluetooth Modem. Nokia's bluetooth modem works fine with OS X and Verizon's "Quick 2 Net" 14.4Kbps service (number: #777, username: qnc, password: qnc). This service simply uses your minutes. Verizon offers a faster 1xRTT-based data service, confusingly dubbed "National Access", but that service costs 1.5 cents per kilobyte (!!!), or you can get a National Access data plan for some number of megabytes per month (unlimited is $60 on top of your phone plan, holy crap). Verizon offers a still faster data plan ("Broadband Access") based on EV-DO, which this phone does not support. EV-DO is well past the speed of Bluetooth anyway. Annoyingly, the unlimited plan for Broadband Access is also $60.
Some quick math. Let's say that you get only 1000 bytes per second from your 14.4Kbps connection (about half the theoretical maximum). At $0.15 per minute, you get 6 kilobytes for 1.5 cents. So National Access is essentially charging you six times the rate in raw bytes just to have a faster connection. And if you have free nights and weekends, that 14.4Kbps modem just got a lot cheaper still.
The following website provides good instructions for setting the Mac and the modem up under 14.4K, as well as pointers to National Access. Here are the Modem Scripts for both National Access and 14.4K. Once again, beware, don't use National Access unless you own a small gold mine.
Syncing to OS X. Like most of its more popular phones, the Nokia 6256i is a Nokia "Series 40" phone. iSync does not yet support this series. Frustrating. Because the phone that iSync works fine with is the bluetooth-broken-for-other-things e815! Update. Apple has released a new version of iSync which supports some Series 40 phones: but not the 6256i nor Verizon's other Nokia, the 6236i. Apparently Apple hates Verizon. Any plist hacking success stories would be welcome.
This stymied me for a bit, but I've since discovered a piece of software which does quite a good job of syncing the 6256i to iCal, Address Book, text files for notes, etc.: MacMedia's PhoneDirector. This $30 program is meant to work with other Series-40 phones, and its author has never seen a 6256i (he's in Slovakia). But I've worked with the author to maximize compatibility with the 6256i, and at this point it works pretty well. Among other things, PhoneDirector can:
- Read from AddressBook.app or vCards, write to vCards (which AddressBook.app can read)
- Read from iCal or vCal files, write to vCal files (which iCal can read)
- Gather System info
- Upload and download files to the gallery
- Upload Java programs (if my phone can only use them, sigh, see below)
- Manage WAP bookmarks (untested)
- Upload/download text files to the phone's Notes
- Manage the radio (untested)
- Manage SMS messages on the phone (but this phone can't do this)
- Change the logo (but it's locked to Verizon)
Basically, at present I don't need iSync with PhoneDirector and Bluetooth File Exchange. But it'd be nice to see iSync running.
Still, though, wouldn't it be better to get the e815 and hack it? A e815 will sync with iSync: but I don't think the annoyance of having to do the hack for other Bluetooth features, plus not having analog, and the size, is worth it to me.
How I Have PhoneDirector Set Up. The Nokia has a simpler approach to phone types, address types, email types, email elements (no city/state/etc. -- just a long string), etc. To successfully upload and download and remerge with AddressBook, my approach is to strip prefixes and suffixes from the name on upload, and strip addresses, notes, and email/urls from download. Then I load back into AddressBook and check for duplicates. This will remerge all the files properly except for ones with titles and company names, and prefixes or suffixes. Those I select manually and choose "Merge Selected Cards" (I only have two cases). To do this, my PhoneDirector preferences are: "not import: Prefix, Middle Name, Suffix", "Name order in vCards export: First Name Last Name", "Export one word names as: First Name", "Not export: Address, Email/Web, Note", and "Export number type 'general' as: Main". This would be automatic in iSync, sigh.
Using with a Palm This page discusses using the 6256i with Palm PDAs. I can personally say that the Palm Tungsten TX can use the 14.4Kbps bluetooth modem on the phone great, but the phone's not listed in the TX's list: just say it's a 6230. Also, Object Push works. I can send pictures from the phone to the TX, but after I send a picture, the phone can't find the TX any more unless I turn bluetooth off and on in the TX and make it discoverable again. I don't know if this is a bug in the 6256i or in the TX (I suspect the TX).
What Verizon BrokeBy enabling bluetooth on this phone, Verizon had to break something in order to maintain their grip on the ringtone- and app-buying masses. If you find out how to unbreak an item (particularly Java!) please write me at sean --- at --- cs --- gmu --- edu. Here's what it appears they broke:
Java. This phone is spec'ed (supposedly) to have both BREW (Qualcomm's app format, sold by Verizon as "Get It Now") and Java J2ME/MIDP (which Qualcomm now supports as a BREW module). But from what I can tell, Verizon has blocked access to Java on the phone. I cannot tell if they've eliminated Java; or prevented all uploading of Java files.
PhoneDirector has a Java upload facility -- and if you tweak its preferences, you can see the Java folder in the Gallery. But this folder is hidden in the Phone's gallery. I believe that normally on a Nokia phone, when you upload a program it appears in a subdirectory under the "Applications" menu (on the 6256i I believe this has been renamed the "Extras" menu, from confusing information in the 6256i handbook). But the "Extras" menu has no subdirectories in at all: it simply contains three hard-coded applets. i have reason to believe these applets are Java and not BREW.
The following thread at HowardForums discusses how to download files onto the 6255i. I am not clear whether or not it might be of some help to the 6256i java folks. Additionally, the *#BROWSER# menu (see end of this page) has some java slots in its "Download URLs" submenu. I don't know what they're for.
Ringtones. You cannot upload MP3 or .MID files and play them as ringtones. It appears there is a DRM mechanism in place, and your uploaded files need to be "protected" in some way before they will be usable as ringtones. Likewise, the Mobile Web browser will not download these files (it states they're an "unsupported format" or something like that).
The internal sound files which will work as ringtones are listed as "copyrighted" in their details: it appears that this flag is necessary to play sounds as ringtones. There is a 'copyrighted' flag -- typically unused -- in standard MP3 files, but even if you set it, the uploaded file will still be listed as not copyrighted on the phone. So unfortunately it's not that simple.
The DRM requirement can be removed from the phone through hacking with Diego, a Nokia service program. This isn't enough of a concern to me to bother.
MP3 Player. The 6255 had a nice set of MP3 player controls. These are gone from the 6256i. You can still play MP3s, but not control them in a player fashion like you could before.
Email. The 6256i is advertised (by Nokia) as having POP3 and IMAP4 email protocols as part of their messaging facilities. I don't see anything of the like on the Verizon phone. And the Nokia manual doesn't mention POP or IMAP at all.
- For a while, I suspected my phone was producing a positive voltage during talking. It felt like it, but I could not reproduce the problem with my multimeter, and have not noticed it since. May have been just me.
- Nokia has stupidly put the standoffs (which separate the screen from the body when closed) on the speaker rather than on the body. It's hard to use the phone without scratching your ear with them. Idiotic. I mean, really idiotic.
- You can answer a call in speakerphone mode without opening the cover. But you can't end a call without opening the cover and pressing stop!
- The only way to initiate a call in speakerphone mode with the cover closed is to use voice recognition. No way to browse phone numbers or use one-touch dialing.
- The phone's offline behavior is bizarre. The phone has two offline modes when the lid is closed: the "light" sleep mode where the light just goes off but "Verizon Wireless" and a tiny timestamp are shown; and the "deep" sleep mode that shows up later, where a larger clock is shown in the darkened screen. In the first mode the time is nearly impossible to read, but you can wake the phone up to see the time by pressing the record button. In the second mode the clock is easier to read but there is no way to just wake up the phone to light the screen and read the time: pressing the record button starts recording! Nice to see you must squint to see what mode nokia has put the phone in.
- As many have mentioned, the menu button is far too small, and it's very easy to press one of the cursor keys by accident instead. I do it all the time and it's quite aggravating.
- The phone is also oddly top-heavy: the speaker portion is nearly as heavy as the body, quite unlike most other phones.
- My phone's front screen appears to be rotated about 5 degrees counterclockwise relative to the outer frame in the body. Not enough to be a problem, enough to be noticeable and annoying.
- Idiozeitgeist compares the 6256i keypad to that of the e815, and he's right, the e815's keypad is definitely superior. The Nokia's keys are flat and they shouldn't be. This being said, I've found that negotiating my around them without looking isn't as hard as I would have expected, because the 5-key has pimples on it to mark it, and the keys are all by and large separated by moats which I have no problem feeling. Still, no comparison to my original TM510, whose keys were rubber and finger-shaped. Great keypad that.
Others' Annoyances... that I've not verified but don't really concern me.
- The radio requires you to plug earphones into the unit as it uses them for an antenna (sheesh).
Non-annoynaces...that others have claimed but I dispute.
- I've heard the phone creaks a lot. Mine doesn't.
- I've heard the phone keypad doesn't light up. It does, and quite impressively. Try it in the dark.
- Some wonder why the camera is in the bottom-left corner. It's brilliant: when you open up the phone, the camera's way up top, away from your hand.
RepairsHere I'll post problems I or others have had with the phone.
- The internal microswitch in the voice-record button has broken. I'll have to turn the phone in for repair.
- Others have reported the 6255i (and in one case, the 6256i) developing cracks along the mold seam on the phone's hinge. Nokia was supposed to have fixed this, but may not have yet.
WallpapersI'm not a big fan of pictures as wallpapers, as it's hard to read the text. Here's some gradients for the main and mini screen. Use them as you wish. I've noted that the 6256i mini screen displays grays with a pinkish hue and generally washes out colors. The main screen is decent.
Nokia's manual for the 6255 and 6255i (which interestingly also says it's the manual for the 6256 and 6256i) talks all about Java games etc. which don't exist on the Verizon version. The official Verizon version of the manual is quite different.
SecretsI wouldn't fool around with these unless you either (1) know exactly what you're doing, or (2) want to buy a new cell phone.
- Press *#BROWSER# to activate a secret menu for setting the server for the mobile browser. No need to use Verizon's pay-money version, right? I use wap.oa.yahoo.com (Yahoo! Mobile) as my primary gateway. Another option is wap.google.com, but I find that less useful.
- Press *#MMS# to activate a secret menu for multimedia message settings.
- Press *#0000# to see the model name.
- Press *#837# to see the phone version information.
- Press *3001#12345# for the service menu. This includes NAM settings, the field test menu, etc. I would not play with this. One item people have done in other Nokia phones is use the service menu to change the "alpha tag". Ordinarily this would replace the phrase "Verizon Wireless" with whatever you'd like, but it doesn't work on the 6256i. Don't mess around in this area unless you'd like to buy a new phone.
- Press *#SLOT1# for slot cycle 1 and *#SLOT2# for slot cycle 2.
- Press *#2820# for Bluetooth device information.
- Press *#743# to get the System ID.
- Press *#3872# to set EVRC settings.