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Getting a new cell (mobile) phone

8 January 2010

This week I got a new cell phone (or mobile, as they call them in the UK).

For the last month or so I’ve been getting messages from Vodacom saying that it was time for me to “upgrade”. So I went along to see them to renew my contract.

It’s nothing fancy. It’s the cheapest offering on the list, the Top-up 75s contract, which costs R89.50 a month. You get so many calls included in the price, and if you run out, you can buy a top-up of air time. Over the two years I’ve had it, I only once had to top it up, and that was when we went on holiday and were making a lot of calls. So it’s quite adequate for my purposes.

The contract includes a new phone, but since it is the cheapest contract, there’s nothing fancy about the phone.

The old phone was a Nokia 2760. It was one of those folding jobs, where the screen and keypad are protected when it’s in your pocket, so it doesn’t begin phoning out when you bend over, or blow your nose, or fasten the car seat belt or something.

But they didn’t have any phones like that any more. They offered me a Nokia 2330 classic, which has an exposed keypad and screen. Like the old one, it had a camera, but unlike the old one, it has an FM radio. Cool, now I can listen to the radio when I’m not driving around in the car. and respond instantly to those phone-in talk shows.

So I renewed my contract for another two years, and brought home the new phone, switched the SIM card from the old one, and began exploring what it could do. Apart from the radio, and Bluetooth, it seemed it couldn’t do anything better than the old one, though the screen was a bit more readable. But some things it did a lot worse, the camera for example.

Now one of the things I like about modern cell phones is the built in cameras. I’ve always liked to have a “notebook” camera, and before I had a cell phone with a camera I had a cheap fixed-focus film camera to carry around and take photos of anything interesting just “for the record”. That is considered strange and quirky behaviour by some people, like the guy who got all uptight when I took a photo of a Dutch Reformed Church in West Park because I thought it typified a certain style of ecclesiastical architecture. The Nokia 2760 has an adequate camera for such “notebook” purposes. Nothing fancy, not very high resolution, but good enough for blog work. Actually I was quite impressed with its capabilities for available light photography in most unpromising circumstances (see Notes from underground: Cellphone cameras).

But not so the new one. Its pictures are fuzzy and out of focus, and no good for anything at all, not even blog work.

Photo taken with my “old” phone, a Nokia 2760

While it’s not great, one can at least read the titles on some of the books, and recognise the objects on the shelf. It was also taken by artificial light, with a fluorescent light at the other side of the room.

Photo taken with “new” phone Nokia 2330 classic

And that one, taken with the new phone camera, by daylight with the curtains open, in more favourable conditions, is worse than useless. You couldn’t use it, for example, to record a car accident — if you took a photo of the car that bashed into yours, chances are you wouldn’t be able to read the number plate. So it turns out that the “upgrade” was actually a downgrade. Technological advances are sometimes retards — two steps forward, and one step back.

Oh well, I’ll take it back to the shop and see if they can give me something a bit better. But I’ve already put the SIM card back into the old phone, and put an old prepaid SIM card into the new one, to be used in emergencies, like when the other phone’s battery needs charging. If they won’t change it, it’ll do for lying in the bed and listening to the radio or something.

10 Comments leave one →
  1. 8 January 2010 11:39 am

    Steve, have you removed the protective film over the lens? They normally come with a protective film so best to check.

    • 8 January 2010 3:25 pm


      Yes, it certainly looks as though the pictures was taken with the protective film left on — but in fact it wasn’t. I’d go further, and say that it looks as though it was taken with the lens smeared with Vaseline.

      Anyway, I took it back to the shop (Vodashop in Brooklyn, Pretoria) with printouts of the above two pictures, and asked them to have a look at it, which they did. And they then assured me that there was nothing wrong with the camera, it was just a poor quality one, made like that!

      So the “upgrade” was quite definitely a downgrade, and Nokia have really gone downhill if the quality of their products has deteriorated so much in just two years.

      • 8 January 2010 5:14 pm

        The camera on my Nokia E71 is significantly poorer than the one on my previous Nokia E61. I’d concur that quality, at least in the camera department seems to be going downhill

        • 8 January 2010 7:15 pm

          I’ve now written to their customer care department to ask if I can have a Samsung instead. Perhaps their quality control is better than Nokia’s.

  2. 8 January 2010 12:21 pm

    I recently purchased a fancy pansy Nokia N86 8MP so I’m not too jealous about the phone, but I wish I had a book shelf I’d be comfortable taking a photo of. Mine are so sparsely populated you could call them Spartan.

    • 8 January 2010 3:28 pm

      The bookshelf seemed to be the best thing to test a camera with, since one of the tests of quality is how many of the titles you can read, and if there is a fall-off in sharpness from the centre to the edge.

  3. 16 January 2010 10:47 am

    The end of the story:

    I went back to the shop, and complained about the poor quality of the camera, which seemed to be defective.

    They said it wasn’t defective, it was just a poor quality camera — that’s the best you can expect.

    I wrote to Nokia, and asked if it was their policy to sell phones with poor quality cameras.

    Their reply was:

    We wish to assure you that all Nokia products undergo a thorough quality assurance program with extensive research and development. Nokia maintains the most stringent quality controls available so that we can confidently provide the most reliable products in the industry.

    Your Nokia phone has an integrated VGA camera and video recorder. The camera’s resolution is 640 x 480, and enables you to create, send and receive MMS messages with high quality images, text, audio and video clips.

    Note the bit about “high quality images”.

    After reading that, I assumed that the reason my phone didn’t produce “high quality images” was that it must have slipped past the eagle eye of the quality controller,

    Just in case they hadn’t seen the sample picture in this post, I attached it to my reply.

    I got a phone call from someone then, saying that no, that is the kind of quality that is normal for this model. It seems there has been a communication gap, caused by advertising hype.

    When they say that the phone’s camera produces “high quality images”, I was led to expect that it would, in fact, produce high quality images.

    It would have saved a lot of hassle if they had just said that it produces low quality images, which, apparently, it is designed to do.

    And Vodacom has its share of the blame too — if, instead of sending messages saying that it’s time to upgrade, they could just send a reminder that your contract is about to expire, and if you renew it we will give you another phone, there would be no misunderstandings. But no, they had to say “upgrade”, which leads to the expectation that the new phone will be at least as good as, if not better than the old phone.

  4. 22 April 2010 2:48 am

    Hi Steve, thanks for your review, actually, i want to buy Nokia 2330, so i looking for about it, now i found the sample pic from 2330 and it’s bad 😀 … so what do you think about best cheap vga camera phone? can you tell me what phone that better than 2330?

    • 22 April 2010 3:23 am

      I’m no expert, but what I do know is that my “old” Nokia 2760 takes better pictures than the 2330.

  5. 22 April 2010 1:33 pm

    I found on my E71 that point and shoot results in a very poor quality image. I did discover that if I press the ‘t’ button it sets the focus and the pictures it produces are really rather good.

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