2012-11-28

Nokia 113 review

Few thoughts on Nokia 113 cell phone.

Overall

Nokia 109, 110, 111, 112 and 113 phones are latest budget phones based on S40 platform (Series 40 6th Edition Lite). These phones seems almost identical and I think differences were dictated by marketing, not based on technical limitations:

  • dual SIM or single SIM support depending on model
  • different batteries used
  • different keyboard construction / styles
  • no camera in Nokia 109

Described phone is running with v03.09 firmware (RM-871, dated 09-06-12) and v03.32 after upgrading.
Phone package is quite small.

This may be standard nowadays, but charger cable is quite short (~ 1m).
 Included battery, BL-5CB has 800 mAh capacity. It is mechanically compatible with BL-5C (1020 mAh and higher with 3rd party replacements).
Back speaker protected with some mesh, same one is used at front speaker hole. Although front and back speaker holes are placed near to each other two independent speakers are used and they are separated with PCB. Famous "sound leakage" problem (people around you hearing call better than you) from some other cheap Nokia phones is not visible.

Display

128x160, 1.8", 114 ppi. Home screen has some customization capabilities. When display is turned off nothing is visible, so you can't check clock on standby like with E52 or even cheap old 1600 model.

Keyboard

Made of glossy plastic similar to one used for display. Markings are placed on the back side of transparent buttons, so they won't wear. Dust resistance might be not a strong side. Directional pad is little creaky when using up direction.

Call quality

No complaints, although I believe my previous phone (Alcatel OT-501 which survived over 10 years) had better radio range and/or more reliable handover algorithms - Nokia seems to loose reception more often when on the move.

Battery

  • charging time (BL-5CB): about 2 hours (charger rated at 450 mA)
  • standby time:
    • first full charging cycle, 10-20 minutes of calls per day, few messages, 2-3 hours of mp3 listening total, phone turned off at night time (stopped it due to alarm bug): 7.5 days standby
  • no noticeable capacity decrease after 3 year usage, i.e. I'm charging it exactly once a week unless I'm using audio player for a long time (train trip)

Audio

Included headphone set is marked as WH-102. It should be enough for phone calls, but when listening music  they (as expected) sound lot worse than i.e. cheap Panasonic in-ear headphones. Phone is able to distinguish headphones with and without microphone and is offering to use own microphone in second case.
Audio player has basic function set and some drawbacks that are making it unpleasant in use.
Font size used by audio list can not be changed.
When scrolling through list scroll speed is constant (it doesn't go faster when up/down is pressed for a long time), so it may take lot of time.

Feature that I'm missing most (and thus probably wouldn't be able to leave Sansa Clip) is special treatment for audio books:
  • not including audio books in general music list (with Sansa I'm either listening to audio book or music with random order mostly and I don't think anyone would want these mixed together).
  • individual and automatic bookmarks for audiobooks
Fortunately Java-based KD Player can be installed and it's quite pleasant to use - highly recommended.

On the plus side of default player - somehow it allows to use higher volume than KD Player (important for some audiobooks in my case), it is signed (no data access confirmation each time) and starts and closes almost immediately (KD Player takes few seconds).

In my view sound quality of sound offered by media player is decent. I'm not sure if I would be able to distinguish it from my Sansa Clip when playing. It is significantly worse when playing is stopped though - with efficient in-ear headphones background noises are audible. Another unpleasant detail is clicky sound that is audible when audio amplifier is powered down (after few seconds of inactivity).
Radio reception is quite good, similar or even little better than with Sansa Clip. Little drawback is no option to automatically switch to mono reception on signal drop. Second feature that I would be glad to see would be possibility to use radio without headphones connected, even if it would be limited to strong stations only.  Yet another feature I miss is option to record radio (from what I could find it may be available but only in some firmware versions, depending on local law). It also seems that radio recording with PC is not possible as propagated noise is too high when connecting headphone jack / antenna with PC audio in (this does not seem to specific to this model as I've seen same with Sony Xperia).


Alarm

Alarm in Nokia 113 might be little louder but it has some nice features I didn't have in my previous phone:
  • automatic snooze (if alarm is not turned off it repeats itself after specified time) - although this is not reliable, see bug list
  • offer to turn phone on after turning alarm off
Basic alarm is single (weekdays can be specified). More entries (repeated daily/weekly/monthly... with optional alarm) can be added via calendar.


Connectivity

Nokia 109...113 has no USB. Since accessing SD card requires removing back cover and battery Bluetooth seems to be only viable option. Nokia PC Suite is working without problems.
Transferring 4 MB file to SD card takes about 30 seconds.
Contact management is a joke - importing contacts from previous phone requires lot of try-and-error - see http://discussions.nokia.com/t5/PC-and-Mac-Software/Nokia-PC-Suite-how-to-import-contacts-from-a-csv-text-file-into/td-p/387426/page/3. It seems that CSV entry import fails if last column content is empty. PC application fails also to delete duplicated entries.

Under linux (Ubuntu-based distro tested) some phone management is available through Wammu, although some functions as reading SMS messages seems to not work correctly. File transfer should be possible with Thunar, although gvfsd-obexftp crashes when trying to upload file. File download from SD card seems to work.
Update: running (l)ubuntu from 2015 this doesn't seem to be an issue. To exchange files with phone it was enough to pair with it (Preferences/Bluetooth Manager) and use Bluetooth Manager to browse phone with PCManFM (default file manager).


On Windows I highly prefer OBEX file explorer from this codeproject article: http://www.codeproject.com/Articles/29805/Exploring-OBEX-Devices-Connected-via-Bluetooth by Giorgi Dalakishvili than Nokia bloatware.

Internet

Opera Mini downloaded from Nokia Store is working fine.
Nokia Browser was updated from v 2.0.5 to v 2.2.0 at first use.


Games

Bit of warning. If you do not intend to play games that are included as demo (Asphalt 6, Real Football) - delete them. If you give this phone to someone else or even play with it by yourself there is high risk of buying full version with just few clicks (these games are sending premium SMS). Included games are not much of a treat unless you are 8-bit Atari fan. Do not confuse them with games that you may know from "bigger" phones even if names are the same.
Asphalt 6 screens:

Camera

Picture quality is poor to acceptable in good light conditions.

In worse light conditions, i.e. indoors picture quality is unacceptable in my opinion. Apart from high noises there is strange pattern visible in almost every photo (it is not caused by dust or dirty lens, but I don't know if this isn't problem specific to my unit):

Nokia 109 seems identical to 113 but it has no camera. It is slightly cheaper and in my opinion it may be better choice - less things to broke.

Upgrading firmware

Official page says there is no software update yet, but there are at least three versions newer than mine.
Firmware update is offered by PC Suite but updater is stuck at step 5 of 6 ("Preparing...") and is leaving Sleep2010.exe process running when closed - real crapware. The only way to install software updater was extracting installer content and then manually run NokiaSoftwareUpdater3.msi found inside. Unfortunately this application requires USB connection, so in the end it is useless with Nokia 113.
Looks like only option to update firmware is using FOTA (upgrading using built-in function that is downloading firmware over GPRS/EDGE).
Firmware download (03.09 -> 03.24, ~4.5 MB download) takes about four minutes with EDGE transmission. Upgrading took another 2 or 3 minutes and few restarts. Version 3.24 is not the newest one (see mrcrab.net) and in next try another 1634 kB package was offered. In this second update cycle 3.32 firmware was installed (dated: 25.09.2012). Buying small data package (I've bought single 100 MB to be used in 24 h time for less than $1) is recommended - with connection issues possibilities more transfer may be required. Make sure battery is not running low.

Actually Nokia 113 has USB support, but standard USB connector is not available. USB signals are routed to service pads, see Successfully Flash Nokia 110 Via usb by Mx key [Pinout Inside] thread.

What brings new firmware? Visible changes from my point of view:
  • EA games (40 games from EA as gift)
  • "Nokia account" in settings menu
"Official" changes between 3.26 and 3.32 (source):
  • A warning is now given when the volume is too loud
  • Camera settings menu is now visible also in landscape mode
  • Improvements to device memory management.
  • General performance & usability improvements
Update from 3.32 to 3.47 required 3108 kB download (2-3 minutes using EDGE). As a part of upgrading creating device data backup was recommended. Backup option was available from upgrading procedure menu and data was stored to SD card.
Changelog of 3.47 release:
  • Phone software stability improvements (why can't they describe what was actually fixed?)
  • Improvements for Bluetooth headset audio quality
  • Video streaming support and Youtube icon added
  • Updated version of News & Offers application
Spotted changes:
  • automatic software update setting was switched to once a month
  • broken: tag reading by mp3 player (as mentioned previously: default mp3 player is useless in my opinion)
Youtube streaming capture:

video
As shown on video actual playback is done by internal media player, not browser. Rough estimation of youtube video download size is 0.5-1 MB per minute.

Firmware 3.51:
  • Fix for the Media Player sometimes not recognizing the albums, artists and genres. (broken in 3.47 / 3.48)
  • General performance & usability improvements. (right...)
  • problems with update from 3.47 - required removing micro SD card, otherwise installation failed
  • after updating Trekbuddy certificate stopped working "Certificate invalid according to device's date") and I have no idea how to fix it, reinstalling application didn't help

Internals

  • PMB 8810, aka X-GOLD 213: low cost dedicated 65nm SoC from Infineon (now: mobile division is part of Intel) integrating:
    • GSM transceiver
    • ARM1176 MCU @208MHz
    • GSM/GPRS/EDGE class 10 Modem (DL 208 kbit/s; UL 18 kbit/s)
    • FM Radio with RDS
    • QVGA and camera drivers
    • USB 2.0 FS
    • class D audio amplifier
    • DC/DC converter for white LEDs
    • battery charging controller
    • various serial interfaces
  • LFH1001 (only in dual SIM versions?)
  • K5N1229ACC (NAND Flash?)
This SoC is quite popular, some phones that are using it:
  • Nokia C1-xx, Nokia C2-xx, Nokia Asha 200, Nokia X2-05, ...
  • LG GX300, LG GU230, LG T310, ...
  • Samsung S3550 Shark, GT-C3530

Standby time

  • after first charging: about 5 days (10-15 minutes calls per day, upgrading firmware, some internet and other apps testing, few hours of Bluetooth connection)
  • second charging: about 8 days
  • with lower usage: 14 days

Current consumption

Measured with multimeter with no True RMS and using high-current (10 A) range with 10 mA resolution, so don't treat these values as absolute:
  • startup: up to 200 mA
  • standby, idle: below measurement resolution
  • home screen, backlight on: up to 100 mA, dropping to 20 mA when backlight is dimming; current consumptions when i.e. playing snake is similar
  • radio, volume = about 50%: 20-30 mA
  • audio playback with built-in mp3 player: 20-30 mA at medium volume, 40 mA at max volume (16 Ohm headphones)
  • audio playback with KD Player: similar results as with built-in mp3 player

Other applications

Initially Trekbuddy was working with problems, often giving java.lang.OutOfMemory exception when scrolling map. This was fixed when two configuration options (Menu->Settings->Misc) were enabled: 
  • lowmem I/O
  • large atlases
  • (if nothing else works) 1-tile scroll
Trekbuddy is working fine without (quite unconvenient) 1-tile scroll enabled with maps with 256x256 pixels tails. With 512x512 tiles 1-tile scroll had to be enabled.
When application was installed by directly copying jar + jad files it's certificate was not validated. Use PC Suite to install application.

Tricks

  • hangup key displays date/time when keyboard is locked

Bugs found

  • can't use camera ("Low Battery" message) when phone is charged battery is low when charging was started (beside that I would prefer if phone would allow to use its features even when battery is low) - still present in v3.32
  • camera sometimes stores images in jpg format, sometimes in nrw (Nokia RaW) format - can't tell what is causing this - I've found suggestion that no key should be pressed for a few seconds after taking photo; NRW format seems to be hard to read with common tools, libraw seemed a good tool, but it fails to decode Nokia raw anyway
  • occasional problem with turning phone off - phone turns back on after few seconds to few minutes
  • alarm snooze function is unreliable - alarm is not repeated if phone is turned on and waiting for PIN (see previous bug) or when it received new SMS
  • after name for radio station is assigned no RDS is displayed

Hardware problems

  • small plastic latches on the back cover that prevent it from accidental slide tend to fail over time - it's not a big problem as it doesn't falls easily despite of it and also bit of tape on the inside makes it almost impossible to slide accidentally

Overall opinion

At the moment I'm using this phone for three years straight and while it hadn't suffered any rough treatment (e.g. I'm using cheap protector for display as plastic display would catch some scratches for sure) it has virtually no wear signs - I'm impressed with its quality.

I've also bought Nokia 206 for mother - phone with almost identical firmware but with larger display (320x240, noticeably better colors and contrast) and camera that is actually useful (still only 1.3MP but good enough for occasional use in good light condition). It seems that newer phones with higher model numbers are not necessary better as both Nokia 215 and Nokia 225 are running S30 OS thus are not allowing to use java applications (e.g. alternative mp3 player).

TO BE UPDATED...