Music phones are nothing new these days and almost everything from mid-range upwards will have some kind of MP3 or digital music player on board.
However, the dedicated music phone is really starting to emerge as a force to be reckoned with. Nokia and others - notably Sony Ericsson with its Walkman portfolio and Samsung - are producing handsets with large enough hard drives installed to compete with the likes of the iPod nano.
And Apple's forthcoming iPhone will only add a greater urgency for phone makers to exploit their position before the Apple brand starts chomping into their profits.
Music isn't just a hit with top-end phone buyers, though - so it's not surprising that as well as aiming at the high-ender, Nokia has launched a pair of dedicated music handsets aimed more at the youth market who don't have the spending power to purchase multigigabyte phones. And while the more expensive models have a more stylish and minimalist look about them, the Nokia 5200 (and its companion 5300) scream 'fun'.
These funky little slider handsets come in a selection of colour schemes and feature dedicated music player and a built in FM radio with volume keys down the side of the phone's body. You can, of course, choose to access music through the menu but why take the cumbersome route when you're offered instant musical gratification?
Getting music on to the phone is a fairly straightforward process thanks to the mini USB port in the top part of the phone. Even more usefully, though, if you take a look under the battery cover you'll also notice a small microSD card slot.
It's a welcome addition. As well as making transferring tracks a simple matter of using a card reader, it can really boost the phone's onboard storage capacity. A large memory is an absolute essential for a dedicated music handset that wants to be taken seriously, and the 5200 comes with only 5MB of onboard capacity - hardly enough to store more than a single MP3 track.
However, the handset is capable of playing a very wide range of file formats with different compression rates, so choose your preferred one wisely and you'll get extra mileage out of your storage space that's available to you.
Whichever way you opt to transfer your tracks across (you can also download them using Bluetooth and infrared too, if you prefer), you'll need to update the music library to make them fully accessible with the music player key by going into the Music Player menu (which you can find under the Media Icon on the phone's main menu).
The audio quality of the Music player application is pretty good. It's billed as CD quality and certainly sounds it through the supplied headphones/handsfree set (which usefully uses a 2.5mm jack that allows for changing standard headsets or upgrading to decent cans using an optional 3.5mm adapter).
There is also an option to play tracks through the 5200's loudspeaker. While it's a passable sound, it can be slightly tinny at higher volumes, so we'd recommend sticking with the headphones for optimum results.
You can tinker around with music playback too using the equaliser settings included that cover styles such as Pop, Rock, Jazz and Classical plus two user definable sets - whatever floats your musical boat. And if you need to take a call or take a quick snap with the camera (which is also endowed with one-touch access), the music will pause and resume from the same point once you've finished talking or snapping.
The one big miss from this handset (but which is addressed on the step-up 5300 model) is the lack of forward and rewind keys on the front of the phone. So if you want to skip tracks to get to a particular song you need to go back into the Music Player menu to pull up the track listing and scroll up or down to your choice. You can use the button on the headphones/ handsfree set to move forward one track at a time, too.
With the headset plugged in, you can also take advantage of the 5200's built in FM radio, which can store up to 20 station frequencies. Tuning in and saving channels is a breeze, and you can also enter the name of the station when you're storing them. You can listen to the radio via the loudspeaker as well as the headset, though you will still need to have the headset plugged in (as it acts as the radio antenna).
Once you've had your fill of the 5200's musical delights a quick tour round the rest of the features reveals a stills and video-capable camera with a maximum VGA resolution (640 x 480 pixels). This is a bit disappointing on a youth-orientated phone, given that most entry-level cameras have now progressed to megapixel status. You have to assume that Nokia's ploughed all of this phone's energies and resources into the music side of things, so a bit of cost-cutting has happened here.
There's no such skimping elsewhere though, as the support for the most popular web-based email providers so you can check your mail on the phone, video download support, a couple of Java games, WAP browsing and the usual array of organiser functions such as a voice recorder function, calendar, to-do lists, alarm clock and calculator. There's also support for Push To Talk (though this is currently not much use in the UK).
We put the 5200 through its musical paces and some light general useage, and were impressed with the battery life. Three hours of continual music playback didn't make any impression whatsoever on the battery meter, so Nokia's estimate of up to 12 hours playback looks reasonably realistic.
In terms of talk time and standby, it claims three hours and 11 days respectively, although obviously the more you use all of the phone's features, all of these figures will decrease. We got a solid phone performance out of the 5200, with excellent call handling and audio performance, demonstrating an admirable concern from Nokia for getting the basics right.
This is Nokia's entry level tune-playing mobile, and while it has a few snappy features to lift it above others on the market, it offers little to really excite. The next step up, the 5300, offers a few more eye-catching features - particular external music controls - and may prove to be more of a hit.