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Nokia 3230 - Stereo or Not?

14th January 2005

 Nokia 3230 Press Release Back in November we looked at the Nokia 3230 which we concluded was a pretty good handset with a large screen, decent operating system and good multimedia support. We liked the removable memory, large screen, FM radio and the overall design of the phone. We also liked the stereo MP3 playback, which we assumed was in the 3230 as Nokia stated that it had a "Stereo FM radio and MP3 player" in their press release (see image on right).

For quite a while, Nokia had been rumoured to be preparing an iPod style handset, and the Nokia 3230 was assumed to be the project name for this, but in fact this may well have been the aborted Nokia Neo project. Given expectation amongst industry watchers that the 3230 might well be the "music" phone people were expecting, the press details that were announced with the phone were widely assumed to be saying that the Nokia 3230 was capable of stereo MP3 playback. Considering that the retail package will include a Nokia HDS-3 stereo headset, then this seemed to be supporting evidence.

However, it soon became clear that Nokia's initial statement was confusing, and debate raged on various forums such as Mobile Review, Mobile Burn and Howard Forums to this effect. Like many, Mobile Gazette was under the understanding that this was a unit capable of stereo MP3 playback, however it appears we may have been wrong. Sorry.

The indications are - from people who are seriously familiar with the insides of Nokia handsets - that the 3230 is little more than a warmed-over Nokia 6260 which isn't capable of stereo MP3 playback, unlike the Nokia 6630 which is.

The killer revelation happened over at the HardwareZone forums in this thread where forum member dreamz13 confirmed that the 3230 plays back dual mono MP3s and has stereo output of FM only.

Now, to many people the issue of stereo/mono playback on the Nokia 3230 is no big deal, but this particular handset is being promoted on the back of its otherwise impressive media capabilities, and a key function of a multimedia device like this is MP3 playback, and frankly mono playback is just nowhere near good enough. It's such a serious flaw that it undermines the 3230's credibility in this market segment.

What's worse is this - did Nokia deliberately try to mislead the press? Well, nowhere does Nokia explicitly make a statement saying that the Nokia 3230 has stereo MP3 playback, and indeed the whole mono/stereo issue is carefully avoided in any publicity material. But to us, the phrase "Stereo FM radio and MP3 player" is ambiguous, and if you spend some time reading the various forums you can see the confusion caused. Probably this is just a case of sloppy writing rather than a conspiracy, but we strongly believe that it's time that Nokia officially clarified the 3230's technical specifications in their publicity material so as not to unwittingly confuse potential customers.

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