Review of the Nokia 1208

The Nokia 1208 is a small candy-bar style phone offered in Canada by 7-11 Speakout Wireless. Despite its small size and lack of high-end features, the 1208 is actually a very competent phone that I would not hesitate to recommend to anyone interested in a no-nonsense model.

The Nokia 1208 is available through 7-11.

Last Updated: 14-Aug-2008

Before reading this review, please read Some Thoughts on Phone Reviewing.

The most obvious phone to compare the Nokia 1208 to is the Nokia 1600 (also sold at 7-11). Unfortunately I did not have access to a 1600 during the review process, and so I couldnít compare them side-by-side. Based on my review of the 1600 however, it seems that it and 1208 are very similar in many important respects. What I did have on hand to compare with was my Nokia N95, which may at first seem a bit unfair. However, the 1208 actually compares very favorably to the N95 in important aspects that they both share (like RF and audio qualities).

RF Performance

Click on this link for a full description of RF Performance, and how to interpret it.

RF Sensitivity: As usual, I tested the Nokia 1208 over at Square One against Howard Chu's Nokia E51. We already knew that the E51 had excellent RF sensitivity and it was possible to force that phone onto 2G. I'd have tested it against my N95, but in it Rogers guise I can't force it to 2G, thus is stays in 3G everywhere in Square One.

As expected, the Nokia 1208 performed just as well as the E51 when it came to pulling in weak signals, but this came as no surprise. Nokia seems to produce phones that do consistently well in this regard and it's almost unnecessary to even check it.

Over-the-road Performance: Because the 1208 is only a standard GSM phone (no UMTS) it is important to rate how well it can handle day-to-day network issues like handoffs. In this regard the 1208 is as good as any other 2G Nokia model Iíve ever tested (including the Nokia 1600, which did very well in this category). Handoffs are very tame, with only a mild impact on the audio. The phone provides about as close to seamless call quality on-the-move as anything out there (UMTS phones notwithstanding).

Audio Performance

Click on this link for a full description of Audio Performance, and how to interpret it.

Tonal Balance: Most of the earlier low-end Nokia models Iíve tested have suffered from slightly tinny tonal balance, but the 1208 (like the 1600) sounds very natural and smooth. In fact, itís very similar to the N95 in this respect. It could do with a little bit more low end for a truly rich sound, but thereís little to complain about otherwise.

Sound Reproduction: The reproduction of voices isnít quite as true as the N95, in that the 1208 adds a tiny bit of detectable distortion. However, it isnít all that much and Iíd still have to rate the phone B+ in this respect. Itís probably the same at the 1600, but without one to compare with directly, I couldnít say for sure.

Earpiece Volume: The total loudness of the earpiece is quite respectable, and Nokiaís volume-boost feature makes it even louder when strong background noise is detected. This is pretty much standard for most Nokia phones and the 1208 doesnít disappoint. The level of volume boost isnít as great as on the N95, but based on my review of the 1600 it seems that it is appreciable louder than that phone. Overall however, I found the volume of the earpiece to be more than adequate and Iíd give it a B-.

Outgoing Audio: This was one aspect of the phone that really surprised me. Most low-end Nokia phones (including the 1600) have only so-so outgoing audio, especially in the present of noise (see the abysmal performance of the Nokia 5200). However, the 1208 perform exceptionally well in this regard, provided well-balanced outgoing audio and very respectable cancellation of background din without damaging the audio. In fact, it was almost the equal of the N95 in tests performed on the highway with the windows down.

Speakerphone: The tiny little speaker in the 1208 doesnít produce all that much volume, and what it does produce is a bit tinny. Without a 1600 to test directly I canít say for sure if the 1208 was louder or not, but my impression is that itís not. However, the implementation of the speakerphone is first-rate. Callers may sound a bit thin, but they are clear and easily understood.

Outgoing audio in speakerphone mode is better than the incoming volume really allows for. I tried a few tests at highway speeds with the windows down, and even under those adverse conditions (when you couldnít hear the person you were talking with anyway) the phone still picked my voice cleanly and did a good job of deadening the background noise.

Support Features

Ringer Volume: The ringer volume is okay, but itís hardly stellar. Many of the provided ringtones are quite faint at the best of times, and even when the volume of the ringer is turned full, many of them are not audible in noisy conditions. However, if you pick one of the louder ones (like Swimming) itís not bad. Fortunately the little 1208 packs a very potent vibrator and it produces quite a hefty buzz in your pocket.

Keypad Design: The keypad is great. All of the keys are well-spaced and they all press with excellent positive action. The tactile feel is a tiny bit mushy, but overall it shouldnít cause anyone any trouble. I certainly liked the more traditional design of the 1208ís keypad over that of the strange stylized keypad found on the 1600.

Display: Itís a small phone and the display is very small at just 1.5 inches on the diagonal. The resolution is an ultra-cramped 96 x 68 pixels (just like the 1600), but it supports 65,000 colors. This screen is obviously not meant to do anything fancy with it. Thereís no camera on the phone and it wonít do any type of multimedia stuff anyway. For day-to-day phone use, itís quite good enough.

Icing on the Cake

There's not a lot of icing on this particular cake, and I'm really making a stretch here. The phone has no MP3 player, no camera, no multimedia aspects what-so-ever. What the phone does provide is an LED flashlight, which of course is absolutely nothing new. The light can be turned on momentarily using a sequence of keys, or you can turn it on using a menu command.


In virtually all of the categories that matter most to people who need just a phone, the Nokia 1208 is a clear winner. It has pretty decent audio, more than enough earpiece volume, and great outgoing audio. It falls down a little on ringer volume and speakerphone performance, but neither of these is a deal-breaker.

Is it better than the 1600? In some ways it most certainly is. If I had to choose between the 1600 and 1208, Iíd definitely go for the 1208. I like its keypad better, I like its speakerphone better, and I like the louder earpiece volume.

If someone asked me what they should buy for a using ONLY as a phone, I wouldnít hesitate to recommend the Nokia 1208.