Nokia is mostly interested in Windows Phone these days – which is hardly surprising since the company’s mobile phone unit has been snapped up by Microsoft, and Microsoft needs phones that carry its mobile operating system. But Nokia does have more than one string to its bow, and the Finnish company still produces some handsets based around the Series 40 operating system.
The historically minded will be aware that Series 40 is a progression from the old Symbian platform, and that once upon a time there were more advanced versions. Indeed, Symbian was once core to Nokia’s hopes for smartphone domination – do any readers out there remember the Communicator? Symbian has disappeared now, and Series 40 is all that remains of what was a ground-breaking smartphone operating system. Series 40 is a “feature phone” operating system, used in lower-end handsets, many of which are destined for the developing world.
Nokia does, though, have a small number of Series 40 handsets in its UK range, and the 515 is one of them. It looks old hat with its small screen and candybar styling, and some of the specifications are far from sophisticated – but it supports two SIM cards and it can be yours for £117 SIM-free. You just might eye it up if you aren’t bothered about fancy features and need a phone primarily for communicating by voice and SMS.
Nokia has paid a lot of attention to the build of the Nokia 515. The aluminium chassis feels solid, and I couldn’t bow the phone at all in my hands. Gorilla Glass 2 ensures the screen is scratch resistant. The phone is thick at 11mm, but it is easy to pocket.
Those old fashioned buttons beneath the screen are comfy under the fingers. I’d have preferred them to have a matte finish to better match the backplate than the reflective one that’s been used, but I can forgive that. There’s a D-pad beneath the screen which is a standard feature of phones like this, and it comprises of a directional button with a select option in the centre. This is necessary for a handset which lacks a touchscreen, along with the softmenu buttons that sit to its left and right to allow the user to navigate around menus, pick apps, wander through websites to find hyperlinks, and so on.
The screen is tiny by today’s standards. It measures just 2.4in across, and a resolution of 320 x 240 gives it a 166 ppi pixel density – a long way from the leading edge and there are times when it is simply too small (for example, when web browsing).
You can personalise the home screen in lots of ways including selecting wallpaper, font colour and size, and altering the shortcuts that appear there. You can even turn off the shortcuts if you like. If the shortcuts are turned on, you move through them using the D-pad. At the bottom of the screen five app shortcuts sit waiting for you to select them. Also from the home screen, pressing left and right on the D-pad takes you to SMS creation and the handset’s calendar respectively. It’s simple and efficient.
App support is minimal. There are a number of apps on board including the already noted calendar, a calculator, alarm clock, voice recorder, to-do list, timer, stopwatch, note taker and a few others. The handset supports Java so you can download new apps, but if this aspect of a phone excites you then you need to look to Android. The Nokia 515 can be set up for mobile email but if you’re wanting this you should really pick a phone with a bigger screen. Android, again, is a better choice.
The same is true if you want to spend any time browsing the web. It’s just too painful moving around pages and zooming in to get them to a readable size on this handset. And by the way, when you are browsing you’ll be doing it over 3G because there’s no Wi-Fi support.
Incidentally, if you want me to point you in the direction of a good Android option in a similar price bracket, look no further than the £150 Motorola Moto G.
Music playback is surprisingly loud through the handset speaker – although it is inevitably quite tinny – and the RDS Radio auto tunes stations. You have to go through too many steps to switch from headphones to speaker for audio playback, but that’s standard Series 40 operating system fare. The sole rear-facing camera shoots reasonable quality stills – for a phone in this price bracket – but forget about video which tops out at 320 x 240 pixels.
It’s not all low-tech stuff with the Nokia 515. HD Voice is built in to give you better call quality, and that does its job well. Battery life is superb – you’ll likely get through a weekend away from home without a mains charger, and if you do need a charge the use of good old microUSB means you’ll probably have a cable with you for charging other kit.
The handset also supports two microSIM cards. You can configure either as the default for calls, SMS, MMS and mobile data, or get the Nokia 515 to ask you every time. And you can augment the built in memory with a microSD card. There’s only 20MB on board, so if you want to use this handset as a music player you’ll need a card.
However, one annoyance is that to get to the card slot, and to SIM1, you need to remove both the backplate and the battery. At least SIM2, which you might pop in and out on international travels, only needs the backplate removed. Getting the backplate off is a bit fiddly as you need to use a little pin of the sort more usually reserved for SIM card caddies.
The Nokia 515 is a real enigma. It’s well made and has a solid build quality, but it has some key features lacking – most notably Wi-Fi, the omission of which is a terrible mistake. People wanting a relatively simple phone could be drawn to this handset, but I’m not sure I would recommend it. I’d definitely advise you to consider the Motorola Moto G before taking the plunge, as its asking price really isn’t that much more than Nokia’s effort.
Manufacturer and Model
SIM1 3G; SIM2 2G
2.4in, 320 x 240 pixels
48 x 11 x 114mm (WxDxH)