Nokia's smartphone division may have taken a battering recently due to a string of underwhelming handsets, including the N900 and N97, but the company does have a long history of producing well built, easy-to-use candybar phones like the immensely popular 6300 and the equally loveable 6700. The latest model in this dynasty is the 6303 and it looks to be a worthy successor.
The primary thing that has set these handsets apart from the masses is their build quality and the 6303 doesn't disappoint. While the bulk of the body is made of plastic, the front section that surrounds the screen and keys is made of stainless steel, as is the battery cover. The result is a phone that feels very solid and has a reassuring weight to it, though at 96g it's by no means heavy. Its slim body and rounded edges also mean it slips easily into a pocket and is comfortable to hold. If you're not a fan of the black and blue finish, a silver model is also available.
The controls on the 6303 are simple, with a keypad sitting below a D-pad and buttons for call answer, call end, and soft menus positioned under the 2.2in, 240 x 320 pixel LCD screen. Up top is a power button-cum-keypad lock-cum-profile selector while the right edge adds a volume rocker and the left edge is barren.
The main buttons are all large enough to easily locate and though they don't have the sharpest of breaks, it's still easy to tell when you've pressed a key or not. Certainly, we found we were able to type at a decent pace with few mistakes. The only real downside is that the D-pad is a little small, but it's only a minor annoyance.
As for that screen, it makes both text and images sharp and crisp - a virtue of its relatively high resolution in such a small frame. It's also bright and colourful and has superb viewing angles; so good, in fact, that colours and contrast stay true almost to the point of viewing the display completely side-on. The screen is also transflective, meaning it is still readable when the backlight is turned off. This enables it to display a basic readout showing date, time, and profile when the 6303 is in standby. The screen's slight downside is its surface, which is a relatively soft plastic that we would imagine could scratch easily. However, a colleague has a two year old Nokia 6300 that has a very similar screen finish and it's still in great condition (it's never been protected by a case, either).
On the back of the phone is the single speaker, which delivers surprisingly rich and powerful audio. Next to this is the camera, which has autofocus and a dual-LED flash. It's nothing too clever but is definitely a step up from what you'd expect at this price. It can take a useable picture in most scenarios and the flash has a decent range of a couple of metres. The app is also quick to load so you shouldn't miss that vital hilarious antic.