If you’re looking for a new mobile that’s environmentally sound then Nokia is hoping the 3110 Evolve will be up your street.

The Nokia 3110 Evolve is essentially last year’s 3110 Classic with an eco-friendly makeover that includes covers made partially from renewable materials, an energy-efficient charger and greener packaging.

An eco-friendly phone

While this currently puts the 3110 Evolve above other handsets in the green mobile stakes, potential buyers should be aware that while this is a welcome development, this phone is still some way short of a fully carbon-neutral, environmentally friendly handset.

Still, Nokia’s efforts at improving the environmental sustainability of its mobile line-up are better than most. This involves here the introduction here of ‘bio-covers’ made from over 50 per cent renewable organic sources.

Using unpainted materials for these means less fossil fuel consumption in the manufacturing process. Nokia has greened-up the packaging, too, using 60 per cent recycled materials.

Also cutting down on wasted energy is the charger that comes with the phone. This new high-efficiency AC-8 charger reduces no load energy consumption, which means it minimises the amount of energy used if it’s accidentally left plugged in after your phone’s been charged.

The usual Nokia features

We anticipate Nokia expanding its latest environmental initiative across its range soon, but for the time being anyone looking for a gadget-heavy greener mobile may have to compromise or hold fire.

The 3110 Evolve is built on Nokia’s popular and widespread Series 40 user interface rather than the S60 Symbian operating system used by Nokia’s higher end Nseries models. It lacks the latest 3G connectivity too, so high speed multimedia content processing is limited too.

As such, the 3110 Evolve includes some typical Nokia Series 40 phone features, including a multi-format music player, FM radio, swappable MicroSD card memory, a mobile web browser and various web-based applications, plus standard email and organiser apps.

Disappointingly though, it sports an entry-level 1.3-megapixel camera on the back panel that offers lower quality imaging than you might expect. Similarly limited is the screen Nokia uses here, a modest 1.8-inch 262,000-colour display with a low 128x160 pixels resolution.

These aren’t compromises required for environmental integrity – they’re the same types used on the earlier 3110 Classic version.

Does green have to mean dull?

The look and feel of the phone is little different to the 3110 Classic too, apart from those bio-covers we mentioned. The natural grey look is, frankly, dull and doesn’t do the rather plain design any favours visually.

It’s a shame that Nokia didn’t adapt this eco-worthy technology to a smarter-looking phone than the ordinary 3110, just to show that eco-friendliness doesn’t have to mean drab.

The no-nonsense glossy black front has a large and very manageable numberpad and navigation pad-centred control layout. It’s straightforward to use, and responsive enough for efficient texting.

The phone itself weighs a lightish 87g and measures an average 108.5(h) x 45.7(w) x 15.6(d) mm, so is reasonable to hold and use.

The screen isn’t as good as Nokia’s standard mid-range QVGA (240x320 pixels) displays, and the Series 40 menu system and fonts used look a little more ungainly on it than, say, on 6500-series or 5310 XpressMusic models.

It still offers a similarly structured kind of menu experience, with the option of Active Standby shortcuts and information onscreen to help negotiate menus.

Basic camera

The display provides a full-screen view for camera shooting, so you don’t have to squint as you’re composing shots. However, the results you can achieve with the 1.3-megapixel camera are limited.

It’s fine for taking snaps, but its maximum 1280x1024 pixels resolution is amongst the lowest you now get on all but the most basic of mobiles.

There’s no place for an autofocus system to get sharply focused compositions or macro mode for close-ups, and no flash for illuminating dark shooting conditions.

On the plus side, you can get reasonably good colour rendition in natural light and its images aren’t bad for a 1.3-megapixel shooter. But available detail is limited, and in low-light or at night, the camera struggles, with images poor and plenty of picture noise evident.

Decent music player

Nokia also includes basic picture and video editing software in the phone, plus a selection of pre-shooting settings options for tweaking shots. But as a better option, we’d have like to have seen Nokia upgrade to a higher quality camera on the Evolve.

Video shooting is possible too, at a low quality 176x144 pixels size at 15 frames per second.

Tune playing is a stronger suit for the 3110 Evolve – once you get a MicroSD card sorted and load up some tracks. There’s no USB cable supplied and no MicroSD card either.

With only 9MB of user memory onboard, you’ll definitely need to buy a card to enjoy the rather decent music player. It supports cards up to 2GB, and you can now pick up one of these for under a tenner.

Connectivity options

The lack of a USB cable (the phone has a miniUSB connector on its base), means you’ll have to source one yourself or use a card reader or Bluetooth to transfer tunes over to the phone. Infrared connectivity is another connectivity option for PC or laptop users.

Once you’ve got some tunes sorted on to your card, the multi-format music player delivers a decent quality audio performance through the supplied set of stereo earphones.

The player app uses a typical Nokia music player interface, with a bunch of regular categories in the music library under which tracks are organised (artists, albums, genres, composers and track lists).

The earphones are reasonable quality though nothing special; you could upgrade them if you spend again on a cheap 2.5mm to 3.5mm adapter and plug in better quality standard headphones.

The FM radio inside does a good job at providing another hassle-free route to entertainment. You need to plug in the headset for reception, but like the music player it can also be listened through the earphones or through the loudspeaker.

Don’t expect good sound quality through the speaker though – it’s the sort of typical poor quality you get with most mobiles. 

Nokia's browser settings

The main Nokia XHTML browser suffers from the low resolution display too, which doesn’t offer enough real estate for a good mobile internet experience. It feels a bit basic, and without 3G you’re relying on slower GPRS and EDGE data speeds.

Interestingly, Nokia displays its eco-friendly credentials again here with bookmarked links to WWF sites in the browser…

Nokia does offer the option of using an alternative mobile-optimised Opera Mini browser, which comes pre-loaded on several Nokia models and is again present here. This renders pages in a way that looks presentable onscreen and offers a more flexible way to negotiate webpages than the native browser.

In addition, Nokia has loaded up the 3110 Evolve with its WidSets application and Yahoo! Go mobile software. Each enables you to set widgets onscreen, allowing you to get regular updates from web-based services, including blogs, social networking sites and other online services.

They’re worth exploring as a low-effort alternative to regular browsing.

Plenty to keep you entertained

The Nokia 3110 Evolve naturally handles email as well as MMS and texting, and supports instant messaging too.

Nokia has provided a familiar spread of organiser functions and timer applications (calendar, to-do lists, notes, world clock and so on) and has slipped in a couple of games – Snake III and Sudoku2.

More can be downloaded, with a link for Nokia’s download catalogue in the Applications folder. Nokia’s Sensor short-range Bluetooth-based mini social networking app is another Series 40 regular that appears here too.

Impressive battery life

While Nokia has upgraded the battery charger that comes with the 3110 Evolve, the battery pack and typical power consumption is the same as that of the 3110 Classic.

Nokia quotes a maximum 4 hours of talktime or up to 370 hours in standby, which should give users a respectable real-usage running time. Our sample kept going for just over three days with moderate usage, including a small amount of tune playing.

The call performance of the phone was consistent and reliable too.

The environmentally friendly option

Some phone buyers will certainly be attracted by the more environmentally friendly aspects of the 3110 Evolve, even though its green credentials are less than perfect. It’s a welcome move from Nokia, however, and it will be interesting to see how far Nokia takes its environmental concern in future models.

Currently the 3110 Evolve, with its plain looks, disappointing camera and display, suggests some feature compromise is required if you want a more eco-friendly mobile.

That of course isn’t the full picture, and this is unlikely to be the case with future greener Nokias. We expect to see some of the policies debuted here being carried over to more of its range soon, and we’d hope to see some better-specified choices for the environmentally aware mobile buyer.

Looks:  3/5
Ease of use: 4/5
Features: 2.5/5
Call quality: 4.5/5
Value: 3/5