3 months with Nokia Xpress Music 5800 : Review Part 1

touchcard001Part 1 (Stuff I like)

After a 3 months daily usage of the device the review is written today at allabout by Tzer2 (Author)

Stuff that I really liked about the Nokia 5800 (in no particular order):
  • It’s the size of a normal phone – Although the publicity photos make the 5800 seem like another internet tablet, it isn’t like that at all in real life. It’s actually about the same size as a standard S60 monoblock phone, and fits into any pocket very easily. See the photo later in this article for a comparison with other phones.
  • It works well as a phone – Often forgotten on smartphones is the ability to handle phone calls themselves well, but the 5800 has clearly been designed with calling in mind. The handset is the right size, shape and weight to hold comfortably for extended periods of time, the default contacts standby screen lets you call or text your favourite contacts with just one touch, and in-call options are displayed as nice large on-screen buttons. Nokia has also introduced full-screen photos for contacts.

  • You can use the 5800 with one hand – The 5800 has a narrow enough screen that you can reach almost all of it with your thumb while holding it in one hand, and the interface has clearly been designed with one-handed operation in mind.
    This is a very important real world requirement for many phone users: walk down any street in the world and you’ll see people using a phone in one hand while carrying shopping/holding hands/walking a dog/drinking coffee etc with the other.
  • It’s a durable device – Don’t tell Rafe, but I accidentally dropped my 5800 (property of All About Symbian) onto a cement pavement with such a force that both its battery cover and battery flew off. I was terrified, but when I examined the various parts of the phone there wasn’t any visible damage, literally no scratches or breaks of any kind. I snapped everything back together and the 5800 worked just as before, and it’s been working fine ever since (this happened a few weeks ago). It seems, touch wood, that there wasn’t actually any damage done at all by dropping it, so apparently Nokia’s elaborate crash testing procedures have paid dividends with this model. It may even be that the cover and battery are designed to deliberately fly out when dropped, so that they remove kinetic energy from the impact and reduce the likelihood of physical damage. Don’t try this at home though, I was probably very lucky, and dropping complex electronic devices onto concrete surfaces is never recommended…
  • It’s an S60 phone with all the trimmings – It almost goes without saying that the 5800 has got all the usual features S60 users have come to expect, such as: 3.5G high speed mobile internet compatibility, Wi-Fi compatibility, full multitasking, TV Out, microSD memory card support for up to 16 gigabytes of storage space, GPS including maps and turn-by-turn navigation, compatibility with wireless Bluetooth headphones and keyboards, a “full-blown” web browser with Flash support using the WebKit browser engine (the same engine used by Apple’s Safari and Google’s Chrome), a music player compatible with a fairly wide range of formats (AAC, MP3, WMA, RMF, MP4, WAV, AMR, MIDI etc), a video player with a fairly wide range of formats (MP4, Real, WMV, 3GPP, Flash, H.264 etc), Symbian S60 compatibility, Java J2ME compatibility, Flash Lite compatibility, built-in podcasting software, FM radio with RDS, e-mail through POP and IMAP, VGA resolution 30 FPS camcorder, support for custom interface themes etc. The list of hardware and software features is extremely long and can be read in full by clicking here to visit the official 5800 tech spec page.
  • The screen is lovely – The 5800’s 640×360 3.2 inch screen is very very sharp, in fact it’s higher resolution than the iPhone or the PlayStation Portable.
    It lets you see how a photo or video has come out much more easily than previous S60 models, it allows websites to be surfed at 100% resolution with very little scrolling, and (if your eyesight can stand it) large amounts of text can be displayed on-screen at once using small font sizes.
  • Videos look grrrrrrrrrreat – As befits a phone with an excellent screen, the playback of video files is a real joy. The screen’s quality combined with the 5800’s strong battery life (see below) means it’s totally plausible to use the phone as a pocket cinema. The bundled 8 gigabyte microSD memory card has enough space to store several full length feature films, and you can buy an an even larger capacity card if you prefer (officially 16 gigabytes is supported, but unofficially 32 gigs may work too, though I can’t vouch for it as I haven’t tried it).
  • Web pages are a lot easier to navigate – The 5800’s browser is innately better than those on previous S60 phones thanks to the much higher resolution and the touch sensitivity. The resolution greatly reduces scrolling and makes zoomed-out views clearer, and the touch interface means pages are much easier to move around and links are much easier to click on. Zooming is also much easier to do thanks to the on-screen zoom bar and the double-tap system for enlarging a particular part of the screen (see AAS’s 5800 browser tutorial for more details). And, like all S60 devices, the 5800’s browser comes with Flash compatibility, including Flash video on sites such as YouTube.
  • You can use the 5800 without a stylus – Sort of covered by the “one-handed” point above, but perhaps worth mentioning separately: the 5800 interface is very finger-friendly, and I haven’t used the stylus at all. I’m not totally sure why some people claim the stylus is required, as I literally haven’t used a stylus since getting the phone. Maybe I have phone-friendly fingers? :-)
  • The battery life is very good – Despite its larger screen, the 5800 has far more stamina than, for example, the N95. Presumably this is because the 5800’s battery is quite large (1320 mAh) and the new version of S60 has enhanced power-saving measures.
  • The speakers are loud – There are stereo speakers built into the side of the 5800 which have a very loud maximum volume, and pretty good quality as phone speakers go. It’s great for listening to music or podcasts while you’re brushing your teeth [and I thought this was just me – Ed], and putting the phone on a hard surface makes the speakers sound even louder.
  • Full headphone support – Thanks to the 3.5mm audio jack you can use absolutely any standard headphones with the 5800.
    It’s also compatible with Bluetooth wireless stereo headphones through A2DP/AVRCP.
  • The photo and video viewer is sensibly designed – If you browse photos or videos, these automatically use the entire screen and keep the on-screen buttons hidden. The buttons appear if you touch the screen, but then discreetly disappear soon afterwards if you don’t use them. It’s a shame this scheme wasn’t used on the web browser (see later in the article). The viewer also supports gestures, with a sweep across a photo in full-screen mode moving onto the next photo in the gallery, and a backwards sweep moving back.
  • GPS locks quickly, Nokia Maps works well on a large touchscreen – The 5800’s GPS lock time is pretty good, and the touch-based version of Nokia Maps suits the screen thanks to the high resolution (useful for seeing small details such as street names) and the ability to touch the map directly (useful for selecting points of interest and moving the map).
  • The intuitive touch-based shortcuts – When you think about how a phone interface should work, it seems obvious that, for example, you should be able to set an alarm by just touching the on-screen clock. This and many other obvious shortcuts (jumping through audio or video files by touching the required part of the timeline, touching the date to access the calendar etc) make so much sense that they don’t require any learning at all, you know what they’ll do before you even try using them.
  • The new S60 icon set looks clear and attractive – S60’s icons over the years have traditionally been a bit of a mess, with a confusing mixture of different styles (sometimes images, sometimes folders, sometimes images overlaid on folders), but in my opinion the latest icon set is the clearest and best so far. The 5800’s icons look very sharp, very cute, very distinctive, it’s easy to remember which one is which, and they get across their functions very well. It’s nice to see Nokia using this same set across all their new devices, which should help users migrating from one device to another. Let’s hope Nokia sticks to this and keeps a consistent interface across their range for the next few years so that users are able to switch between devices easily.
  • The S60 Settings menus have been simplified even more – In the old days, the Series 60 settings system was horrendously complicated, but more recent versions of S60 have tried to make things easier. The 5800 has continued this work and the latest settings menu system is all in one place and much easier to navigate, with the settings icon prominently displayed on the front page. Specific settings are also accessible directly from their relevant applications, for example the time settings section can also be accessed from the Clock application.
  • Lots of text entry options including a predictive keypad – There are four different ways to enter text (full-screen QWERTY, half-screen QWERTY, keypad and handwriting), and you can switch between them at any time. Oddly enough though, despite two different QWERTY options being available, I’ve found I’m still quickest entering text with a good old predictive numerical keypad, and it’s great that Nokia hasn’t forgotten us old-school texters. The keypad option also (yet again) carries the significant benefit of being usable with one hand (see earlier in the article for why this is so important).
  • The animated transitions – Okay, this is a very shallow reason for praising a phone, but the screen and dialogue box animations on the 5800 do add a nice touch of class. S60 always felt a bit lacking in the “pizzazz” department, and the absence of gloss sometimes made it seem a bit old-fashioned, so the addition of such gloss is to be welcomed. The transitions also make the interface easier to understand, for example the circular animation next to an app you’re opening will help newcomers realise that the icon circle means an app is still running. On top of that, they’re all simple, quick transition effects which don’t get in the way, and they can even be switched off if required.
  • The sparkly little touches – There have been lots of other small but helpful changes which make the S60 interface easier to comprehend for newcomers, such as making the background behind dialog boxes turn black and white so that you focus on the box itself, or putting a subtle dark background on the top of wallpaper so that the status bars are visible. Most of these are old tricks borrowed from desktop computers, but they’re good tricks, and it’s nice to see them become a part of S60.
  • The screen-lock switch – The N81 first introduced the concept of the flick-switch which deactivates the screen and keys, but the 5800 is where this feature makes the most sense. You can use it while the phone is doing anything, it’s easy to remember how it works, it can be activated with one hand, and it’s also useful for conserving battery life by instantly dimming the screen.

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