I like to call it “ringtone rage".

It’s a social phenomenon well known to users of public transport. It involves, usually, a man aged between 26-45 boisterously sharing the earworm du jour with other unwilling denizens of his bus/train/metro compartment.

As a form of communal entertainment, this sometimes works. But the biggest problem with this practice has, so far, been the dodgy quality of speakers on budget feature phones. They tend to prefer pure volume over balance, and could probably convert even the staunchest of drum and bass to soundscapes of blackboard-scratching treble.

Two views: The X2 comes in two colour variants--red/black (pictured) and silver/white.

The Nokia X2 is the solution to this problem. It’s probably the world’s most portable boom box, featuring a pleasingly loud, but remarkably solid set of stereo speakers on its back. We tested sound quality with an eclectic playlist, and found it quite impressive for a phone-embedded set. Bass performance wasn’t always exemplary, but the sound was consistently rich (comparatively speaking), and never grating.

“Remarkably solid" describes many aspects of the X2—not all of them good. Its design, for instance, is a half-hearted attempt to move away from Nokia’s trademark bland sturdiness. The back of the phone is all brushed-metal and curvy, but the front sticks to a spartan, straight-line geometry that looks disappointingly plain. The black-and-red colour variant is the better of the two available options—making up in vibrancy what it lacks in elegance. The silver-and-blue just looks tacky.

The design reinforces the sheer toughness of the phone—it’s hard and well-constructed, and could possibly survive many environmental hazards. Typing feels like exercise, and takes a little getting used to.

Elsewhere, the X2 runs the familiar S40 Symbian operating system. The music player is functional, and the OS connects to Nokia’s Ovi Store for any apps you might require. The 5-megapixel camera is excellent, though the addition of auto-focus would have been welcome.

Perhaps this is a fallout of the flood of inexpensive Indian mobile brands eroding Nokia’s market, but the company seems eager to shoehorn as many “high-end" features as it can into its new line of budget phones. The X2 is no exception—it has Bluetooth connectivity, a full-fledged Web browser and a message-client for email. Most of these run smoothly, with no visible lag even while the music player is active. Battery life is good, and there are no visible problems with call quality or reception.

You may have noticed that this review has tempered every positive aspect of the X2 with a “But.." disclaimer. We’ve mentioned in Mint reviews before that Nokia phones are no longer purchased out of excitement, but after a cold calculation of what gives you the best value for money. The X2 doesn’t change that situation.

It’s a competent phone, but not an exciting one. But it does give you solid software in a solid shell for 5,899. At that price, it’s a great choice as a budget “music" phone, beating other new entrants such as Sony Ericsson’s Spiro or the Micromax X505. And let’s not forget its important social role—in lessening the pain of ringtone rage, it might make commuting easier on all of us.