Nowadays, just because you want cheap a mobile phone, it doesn't mean you have to settle for a model that will blow up in your hands, crippling you for life. Times have changed, and the penny-pinching shopper now has a huge range of decent options available. The Nokia 2730 Classic, for example, is a 3G phone that's available for free on a £10-per-month contract, £50 on a pay-as-you-go deal, and about £70 SIM-free.
No school like the old school
The 2730 is an archetypal Nokia handset, with a sturdy, elongated, candybar frame. Around half of the phone is taken up by an alphanumeric keyboard, navigation button and other controls. It's surprisingly chunky, at 14mm thick.
Around the sides, you'll find a microSD memory card slot, a micro-USB port and, blessedly, a 3.5mm socket for plugging in your own headphones, so you don't have to use the bundled hands-free set. A chrome trim surrounds the handset, while the back is mostly matte black. A 2-megapixel camera sits on the rear.
On the front of the phone is a small, 51mm (2-inch) QVGA screen. With a resolution of 320x240 pixels, it's clear enough, but the handset looks like it could have accommodated a larger display. The screen's glossy coating also makes it a real fingerprint magnet.
Cheap but not so cheerful
Navigation is handled via a five-way button, 'confirm' and 'back' keys on either side of this, and answer and call-end buttons. With a brushed aluminium finish, the keypad, like the other controls, looks very classy indeed.
This illusion is, however, quickly shattered when you actually use the buttons. Stiff and unresponsive, they feel very cheap. Applying just a little pressure to the answer and call-end buttons causes the entire section of plastic in which they sit to sink into the handset. We suspect this phone might not survive more than a few trips to the pavement.
The stiff keys make texting at speed pretty awkward, and really hamper the 2730's usability generally. That's a shame, because the menus themselves are pretty intuitive. The menu icons are arranged in a pleasing grid, but cycling through them feels ever so slightly sluggish. We doubt it'll drive you up the wall, though, unless you're a particularly impatient person.
The 2730 offers 3G connectivity, which is pleasing in a phone of this price. It certainly makes browsing the Web a speedier experience than it would otherwise be. Access to Nokia's Ovi Store app store is included, but the number of applications that are compatible with the 2730 is severely limited. You will, however, be able to download social apps like Snaptu, which will let you update services such as Twitter and Facebook on the move.
The 3G connectivity mostly comes in useful for browsing the Web. That's made easy thanks to the Opera Mini browser, which comes pre-loaded on the 2730. Using the browser means you'll have to grapple once more with the sub-par navigation key, though.
The 2730 has a 2-megapixel camera. It takes pictures, but that's about all we can say for it -- its images are low-quality, and the camera software is sluggish and menu-heavy. By the time you've fiddled around to find the right settings, you'll probably have missed whatever moment you were trying to capture. The camera can also record video, but any footage you shoot will look extremely choppy. The video is probably too naff for even the least fussy of happy slappers.
The phone's call quality is decent-enough, but we wish there were some volume keys on the side of the handset. As it stands, you'll have to press up or down on the navigation key, which, in our experience, means taking the phone away from your face. As a result, you might miss what people are saying on the other end of the line.
The 2730's battery will last a few days, but you'll whittle it down much more quickly if you're using plenty of data.
The Nokia 2730 Classic is cheap and its 3G connectivity is very welcome, but its poor build quality lets the whole package down. At this price, you can't expect perfection, but other mobiles offer similar functionality and decent build quality. Check out the Orange Rio and the LG Cookie Fresh GS290 before making up your mind.
Edited by Charles Kloet