I have had my new Nokia 5800 for about 3 months now, having bought it in January 2009. During the period, it has gone through two firmware upgrades - first from v11.0.08 to v20.0.012, and the second one from v20.0.012 to v21.0.025. The first updated clocked in at about 133 MB and was available only via their NSU (Nokia Software Update) service the second one weighed in at only 4 MB and was available OTA (Over the Air).
Of the two, the second one seemed to have worked its magic on the phone, really making the interface more responsive, while the first one delivered the bulk of the enhancements. With two major upgrades in less than 3 months, it is ample proof that Nokia is indeed looking to the Nokia 5800 as a testbed to iron out any and all problems with its touch platform, before it start rolling out the big guns - the E series and the N series. That said, back to the question at hand - what really works with this phone.
- Screen: This is probably the most gorgeous feature of the phone, that you see as soon as you switch the phone on. With a width the same as VGA and a height only a third short of VGA, the resolution is great. And there is no better way to experience this than by playing one of the bundled videos. (You may end up trying out the bundled Dark Knight trailer.)
- Sound: The other think you will notice when you play the aforementioned trailer, is the sound. For a tiny set of speakers on a palm-sized phone, the sound is remarkably good. You can actually make out the different frequencies, and including, a very solid handling of base without the expected crackle.
- Basic phone functions: The Nokia 5800 does a good job at doing what it is supposed to do - act like a phone. It is surprising how many smartphones are so choc-a-bloc with features, that somehow the basic functions of a phone take a back seat. Not with the 5800. Calling, maintaining connectivity, the speakerphone, contact management etc are all exactly as expected. Not having to sacrifice a phone to get a smartphone is a terrific feature of the 5800.
- Size and Weight: At 109 grams, the phone is surprisingly light. And it fits beautifully in your palm, without being too wide or too narrow in depth. For me, the form factor of an iPhone did not seem as comfortable. The small details, like the recessed edge of the touch-screen, for example, adds a lot to handle of the phone. The build of the phone is pretty solid too. Even though it is built of plastic, there is very little of the plastic-y creaking during operation.
- Storage: The 5800 comes bundled with a hot swappable 8GB Micro SD card. The hot swap means you do not need to switch the phone off to remove or add the card. Nokia, by bundling in a decent sized card, adds a lot to the bottom line of the deal.
- Variety of Input methods: One of the advantages of a resistive touch-screen is that you can have input methods other than just the finger. A capacitive screen depends on the capacitive effect of the human finger to register a touch. So, it fails with a gloved hand, or a stylus. The 5800 on the other hand, comes with a stylus, a pluck (ex-guitar pick), finger, finger-nail etc. And taking the flexibility further, the phone comes with a variety of methods to input text - a full QWERTY keyboard, a mini-QWERTY, a T9 style touch input and even a stylus driven hand-writing recognition method.
- Battery: One of the surprising aspects of the phone is its long battery life. One the days I ignore it, with just a couple of calls, the battery seems to last and last. With a little more strenuous usage, the phone easily lasts a couple of days on a single charge. Of course, no amount of batter-life is enough, but what the phone brings definitely counts as a plus.
- Multi-tasking: A smart phone is supposed to do more than one thing, at the same time. With one of the three dedicated buttons dedicated to multitasking, it is not an after-thought. That said, the phone does struggle once a number of large applications are running in the background. But as long as you don't treat it like a laptop, it does a pretty good job.
- Proximity & ambient light sensors: Small capabilities like this get lost sometimes. But the ability of the phone to set screen brightness automatically, switch off when held to the ear all add up to a solid user experience.
- Other hardware capabilities: From a capabilities perspective, the Nokia 5800 is stuffed. In addition to everything else it comes with an FM Radio and twin cameras including front-facing camera for video calling. The primary camera comes with a short range flash, not for a room, but definitely great for those pub snapshots.
- S60 platform experience: The Nokia 5800 is built on top of the S60 platform, version 5. The version 5 is the new touch enabled operating software, that includes sensor frameworks to deal with the other hardware capabilities of the phone. Having the legacy of the S60 platform, means the the basics are already in place. Phone, contacts, copy-paste, application control, basic UI characteristics are all tried and tested. Applications too follow a well established method to interact with the end users. While the 5800 sometimes feels like a clunky touch interface, the core of the system is in place and works like a charm.
- Price: Has to be one of the best features of the phone. Retailing for under $400 (unlocked and unsubsidized) it is almost half the price of the iPhone and the Sony Ericsson XPERIA X1. Not having to jail-break anything or break warranty for flexibility is one of the best features of the phone.
In short, the biggest positives of the phone are its capabilities - the sheer hardware capabilities and the underlying S60 software. Which leaves the interface components and applications. Coming up in the next post - where the Nokia 5800 definitely needs a little help.
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