What's hot: First touch screen S60 Nokia smartphone. Very high resolution display.
What's not: Little UI niggles.
Review posted April 23, 2009 by Lisa Gade, Editor
While Nokia has ventured ever-so rarely into touch screen phone territory (we're thinking of the Nokia 7710, the first and last S90 smartphone, dating back to 2005), the iPhone craze seems to have gotten them on their way. Better late than never, as the cliche goes; and the Nokia 5800 is worth the wait. This is Nokia's first S60 5th Edition phone-- 5th Edition is the touch screen version of S60, while 3rd Edition is the non-touch version used on all other current Nokia smartphones such as those in the N and E series. There is no 4th Edition since many high tech companies that market products in Asia avoid the number 4 because in Chinese the word for four sounds the same as the word for death. The flagship Nokia N97 will run 5th Edition as well (released mid-2009), which makes the Nokia 5800 XpressMusic even more interesting since it gives us a sample of what's to come in that top-of-the-line model and it offers an affordable alternative to the pricey N97.
The Nokia 5800 XpressMusic was first available in Europe several months ago and is now available for the US in the NAM (North American) edition. We're reviewing the NAM model which has 3G HSDPA for AT&T's 850/1900MHz bands. The NAM version works on EDGE with T-Mobile US and overseas. The Euro version has Euro 3G (900/2100MHz) rather than US 3G and lacks a US warranty. The Nokia 5800 is a GSM quad band unlocked world phone, and it's sold direct from Nokia's US website and from online retailers like Amazon and Dell.
Priced at $399 list with no contract and available for less from a variety of online retailers, it offers a wealth of features for the money. These include WiFi, GPS with Nokia Maps, a 3.2 megapixel autofocus camera, Bluetooth and Nokia's usual bevy of built-in S60 smartphone applications. The 3.2" resistive touch screen runs at 16:9 widescreen resolution (640 x 360). It has haptic (vibration) feedback and an accelerometer. S60 5th Edition supports both capacitive and resistive touch screens, so why did Nokia go with resistive? To support character input (handwriting recognition), which capacitive can't do. While US buyers might not be in love with handwriting recognition, it's very popular in Asia for character input, and Nokia is a global company.
Touch and Display
The Nokia 5800 requires a slightly firmer press than the iPhone, but it's a light touch compared to other resistive touch screen phones. It's similar to the Samsung Eternity and requires a lighter touch than most Windows Mobile Pro phones and the LG Vu. This is in part due to the large targets (icons and menu items)-- Nokia has optimized S60 to work well with a finger and there's no need for a firm, pinpoint touch on tiny user interface items. It's a pleasure to use the touch screen with fingers, and there's no need for the included stylus that tucks into the back cover, unless you want to use handwriting recognition or sketch with a paint program (Nokia Hong Kong has a paint program available for free download). S60 looks largely the same as it does on other recent N and E series phones, so the learning curve is short for those accustomed to Nokia S60 smartphones.
You can scroll by dragging a screen of icons or a list in the same direction as you'd move the scroll bar (yes, there are scroll bars-- that's so 90's). That feels a little weird since it's the opposite drag direction from touch screen phones like the iPhone and Samsung Touch Wiz feature phones. Finger scrolling works very well in the web browser and image viewer, however. Oddly, in some cases you'll double-tap and in others single-tap to accomplish a task. For example, you single-tap an icon to launch a program, but double tap to select a list item. Perhaps Nokia did this to avoid accidental list item selection when scrolling?
There is no d-pad and the only hardware buttons are call send, call end and the S60 programs button on the front face. There's a camera button, screen lock/unlock slider and volume up/down buttons on the phone's right side and that's it for mechanical buttons. There's a touch sensitive button above the display that brings up shortcuts to the web browser, video player, image viewer, music player and Share Online (Ovi, Flickr, Vox and other services).
How to select a phone profile? You can press the power button briefly to bring up the profile selector or tap the carrier name/date at the top of the homescreen (there's an option to view the calendar too). How to set an alarm or bring up the world clock? Tap the clock on the homescreen. Want to access connectivity settings (Wifi, Bluetooth, cellular)? Tap the display's upper right corner where the Bluetooth and WiFi icons appear when those radios are on.
While some third party S60 3rd Edition apps do install and run, they're generally designed for a d-pad and soft keys so there's no way to effectively use them without some hacking. Thankfully, developers are releasing 5th Edition apps (Garmin, MobiSystems OfficeSuite 5, MobileDVD, QuickOffice, themes) quickly; though we still don't have the broad collection of apps that are available for 3rd Edition. Games particularly are lacking right now, though by the end of 2009, I'm sure we'll see a decent selection (keep in mind this isn't an N-Gage phone).
The programs key brings up the applications window, just as it would on any other Nokia phone. Press and hold the programs key to bring up the S60 task manager that allows you to switch between running programs. There are two home screen layouts available: the first is similar to the standard active desktop on other S60 phones, with 4 shortcut icons to applications (there are fewer icons since they're larger to be finger-friendly). It shows upcoming appointments, has a link to search the phone or Internet and a music player controller that shows when the music player is playing tunes. Two icons near the bottom link to the phone dialer and contacts. The other home screen layout replaces the 4 application shortcuts with 4 speed dials, each with a photo of the contact. Pressing the call send button brings up call history, while the call end button minimizes the current running program.
We love the high resolution, 24 bit color display. At 360 x 640 pixels, it's the highest resolution Nokia phone on the market and it's perfect, when in landscape mode, for viewing web pages and watching movies. The 16:9 widescreen aspect ratio is perfect for films, and Nokia includes a $50 Amazon video on demand gift certificate in the box along with an 8 gig microSD card.
We also appreciate the proximity sensor that turns off the display and touch screen when the phone is against the face, but wonder why Nokia forgot to include letters on the on-screen dialer keys for vanity number dialing. There's an accelerometer than handles screen rotation and it's just right: not too twitchy nor too slow.
Here's our 10 minute video review of the Nokia 5800 XpressMusic NAM. We give you a walk around the phone, show the UI, multimedia playback, GPS and more.
How do you input text? Nokia provides several options including a phone-style keypad with predictive text that does a very good job, handwriting recognition, compact QWERTY and full screen QWERTY. You can use the compact QWERTY and number pad entry in both portrait and landscape orientations, but the full screen QWERTY is available only in landscape mode.
Above: compact QWERTY. Below: large QWERTY in the messaging application.
Phone and Internet
The Nokia 5800 XpressMusic is a quad band unlocked GSM phone that supports all the world's GSM bands: 850/900/1800/1900MHz. You can use any GSM carrier's SIM with the phone, and you need not start or extend a contract to get the phone. As we mentioned, there are two versions: Eurasian and North American. We're covering the North American (NAM) version with US 3G HSDPA on AT&T's 850/1900MHz bands. This version lacks Euro 3G, so data is EDGE-only in Europe and the same is true on T-Mobile US (T-Mo uses different 3G bands and there is no version of the 5800 with T-Mo 3G). The phone detects your SIM card and automatically configures the correct data connection and MMS settings-- very nice.
As per usual with Nokia phones, voice quality is excellent and reception is very strong. This is a great voice phone, and a pocketable one at that. It works with Bluetooth headsets and car kits as well as A2DP Bluetooth stereo headsets. A stereo wired headset is included, and voice is loud and clear over that headset. The Nokia has speed dial and voice command with voice dialing. Voice dialing as usual on Nokia phones wasn't terribly accurate. Data transfer speeds over AT&T's HSDPA network are good and the phone supports DUN so you can use the phone as a wireless high speed modem for a notebook.
Messaging and email are again the same as that found on other recent Nokia smartphones. There's support for text, MMS, POP3, IMAP and MS Exchange email too.
Applications and Syncing
Since this is a smartphone, it has a full suite of full-featured PIM applications (same as any other Nokia S60 phone) and it syncs with Outlook in Windows and Address Book and iCal in Mac OSX (you can download Nokia's iSync plugin from their web site). The address book supports most every field available in Outlook and it supports groups. The calendar has day, week and month views and it has alarms, recurring events, multi-day events and tasks. There's a notes application, Zip manager, Quickoffice 4.2 for viewing MS Office files, a multi-language dictionary, Nokia Maps, web browser, email and messaging client, Gallery, call log, sample games and more. The phone multitasks, so you can have several applications running simultaneously.
The 5800 is both a smartphone and a music phone-- Nokia was one of the first manufacturers to realize we want to work and play with the same device. The music player is Nokia's usual capable player with support for album art, shuffle, EQ, playlists, stereo widening and loudness boost. It's not as slick as the iPhone with its Cover Flow interface, but it is one of the better phone players. File format support includes MP3, AAC, M4A (iTunes format), AAC+, WMA, WAV, Real Audio and True Tones. You can use any tune as your ringtone and store music on microSD cards up to 16 gigs capacity (an 8 gig card comes with the phone). The side-firing stereo speakers are some of the best we've heard on a phone (especially with stereo widening turned on) and our only complaint is that bass can distort at high volumes. A stereo earbud headset is included and it includes an inline controller and mic that's separable so you can plug in your favorite headphones and still control music and make calls. The phone also supports A2DP Bluetooth stereo with AVRC (AV remote control). Sound quality with a good pair of Bluetooth headphones like the Samsung SBH500 is very good.
In addition, the 5800 has an FM radio, Real Player, Flash Lite 3.0, a podcasting application and access to Nokia's music store. As usual, the FM radio uses the headset as its antenna, but it can play through the speakers as long as the headset is connected. The radio application can automatically scan for and save stations and the tuner is strong (stronger than our desktop AM/FM radio).
The phone can play locally stored videos and streaming media in Flash and Real Player formats. This Nokia does a better than average job of Flash playback from sites like YouTube. It takes a while to load and buffer video over 3G, but playback is smooth and the phone remains responsive while playing video. The 5800 supports a variety of video formats, and we tested MP4 videos up to 640 x 360 resolution at fairly high bitrates. We were impressed with the phone's smooth playback with no apparent dropped frames or loss of audio sync-- very nice! Nokia includes a small folding stand that's ideal for watching movies with the phone sitting on a desk or table.
The Nokia 5800 has a 3.2 megapixel camera with a Carl Zeiss autofocus lens. That sounds like pretty good stuff, and the photos are good but not great. They're head and shoulders above the Nokia E71, and really good for outdoor shots, but indoor shots have more noise than we'd like despite the dual LED flash.
Max photo resolution is 2048 x 1536 pixels and there are a variety of lesser resolutions. All controls are touch-based, though the camera button can act as the shutter button. You can send photos via email, MMS, Bluetooth or share them online via a variety of services including Nokia's own Ovi service. Colors and sharpness are very good in outdoor shots and focus is reasonably fast. Indoors, noise creeps in, though not all shots are terribly noisy-- the cat photo to the right had relatively little noise for a poorly lit indoor photo.
The camera can shoot video from MMS size to VGA 640 x 480 and 640 x 360 at 30fps. on paper, that's as good as the imaging champs Nokia N95 and N96. While the 5800's videos are excellent by camera phone standards, they're not as good as the N95 and N96: there's more noise and less sharpness.
The Nokia has an integrated GPS with aGPS and Nokia Maps 2.0. Unlike last generation Nokia phones which were slow to get a fix and sometimes lost track of satellites during a trip through urban jungles or tree-lined streets, the 5800 got a fix quickly (even indoors near a window) and maintained a fix when driving. Nokia Maps is a capable mapping application with POIs and turn-by-turn spoken directions. It's matured over the years and now provides expedient routes in the US. Nokia Maps is free, but driving and walking directions require a subscription (daily, monthly, 1 year and 3 year plans are available at prices similar to TeleNav and US carrier-branded navigation services). A free 30 day trial is included, so you can test it out thoroughly yourself. You can use the desktop map loader to save maps to a card, or download maps over the data connection as needed. The application, like all Nokia apps on-board, supports the touch screen but maps are shown only in portrait mode.
Google Maps works fine on the Nokia 5800 as well and we could use a finger to drag maps. Garmin XT Mobile doesn't yet work correctly on the US version of the 5800. Garmin updated their software for the Euro 5800, but version 5.00.40 doesn't work on the US model. Hopefully they'll release an update soon!
Multimedia 3G smartphones don't generally have the best battery life. The Nokia 5800 proved the exception, managing better than average battery life (significantly better than the Nokia N95-3). Using the GPS for driving directions is the only activity that drains the battery quickly (get a car charger for long trips). The 1320 mAh Lithium Ion battery easily lasted us 2 days on a charge with moderate use (10 minutes of GPS use, and hour of music playback through the phone's speakers, several short calls, 45 minutes of video playback, 30 minutes of gaming and an hour of web browsing on 3G and WiFi).
Nokia's first touch screen S60 smartphone is a success overall. It's easy to use, fun and has a compelling set of features. Not to mention it has excellent call quality and reception. Nokia could add some polish and abolish those scroll bars, but these small complaints don't stand in the way of using the phone nor do they annoy us unduly. If you're a Nokia fan and want to join the touch screen crowd, the Nokia 5800 XpressMusic is a great way to start. It's relatively reasonably priced and has a wide set of features to meet most any need. We love the capacious widescreen and excellent video playback, stellar call quality and easy syncing to PCs and Macs.
Pro: Large, very high resolution display is a joy to use, especially when web browsing, viewing photos and watching videos. Excellent voice quality and reception. Familiarity of S60, yet well on its way in terms of touch optimization. Great video playback performance, excellent music experience. Absolutely no need for the stylus unless you want to use handwriting recognition or draw. Good GPS performance. Reasonable price for a very well-featured S60 touch screen smartphone Good battery life.
Con: In most cases the 5800 requires 5th Edition versions of 3rd party apps (software junkies take note).
Display:24 bit color resistive touch screen LCD. Screen size diagonally: 3.2". Resolution:
360 x 640, supports both portrait and landscape modes.
Ion rechargeable BL-5J battery, 1320 mAh. Battery is user replaceable.
Claimed 3G talk time: up to 5 hours. Claimed GSM talk time: up to 8.8 hours. Claimed music playback time: up to 1.5 days. Claimed max video playback time: 5.2 hours, 3.4 hours with nHD/MPEG4 640 x 360 high quality video.
Performance:ARM 11 compatible CPU, 369 MHz processor. 64 MB built-in RAM. 128 MB Flash ROM with 2.85 megs
Size:4.37 x 2.04 x 0.61 inches. Weight: 3.84 ounces.
Phone:Unlocked GSM quad band 850/900/1800/1900MHz world phone with EDGE. 3G HSDPA for AT&T's bands (850/1900MHz). Euro version has different 3G bands.
Camera:3.2 megapixel camera with Carl Zeiss autofocus lens and dual-LED flash. 3x digital zoom for photos and 4x for video. 2048 x 1536 max photo resolution. Can shoot video with audio at VGA 640 x 480 max resolution, 30fps. Secondary QVGA (front-facing) 2-way video conferencing camera captures video up to 176 x 144 at 15fps in H.264 format (video conferencing not supported by any US carrier).
Multimedia / Audio:Built-in stereo speakers, mic and 3.5mm standard stereo headphone
jack. Supports Bluetooth A2DP stereo with AVRC. Voice recorder (records in AAC format) and music player included. Supported video formats: 3GPP formats (H.263), Flash Video, H.264/AVC, MPEG-4, RealVideo 7,8,9/10, WMV 9. Supported audio formats: AAC, AAC+, AMR-NB, AMR-WB, AU, AWB, eAAC+, M4A, MIDI Tones (poly 64), Mobile XMF, MP3, MP4, RealAudio 7,8,10, RMF, SND, SP-MIDI, True tones, WAV, WMA, WVE. Supports USB mass storage mode and MTP for music transfer over USB as well as UPnP. Includes AV cable that connects via RCA connectors to video and left/right audio channels on a TV or projector.
WiFi 802.11b/g and Bluetooth 2.0 +EDR.
Software:Symbian OS 9.4 with Nokia S60 5th Edition. Web browser, messaging, email client, Mail for Exchange, notes, calendar, contacts, voice command, speed dial, Real Player, Flash Lite 3.0, music player, Gallery, video player, FM radio, podcasting, Share services, demo games, WorldMate, translation dictionary, Zip manager, QuickOffice 4.2 (via free download), Nokia Maps 2.0 and Download (powered by Jamster).
SDHC microSD card slot compatible with cards up to 16 gigs. 8 gig card included. USB 2.0 High Speed port (sync/transfer cable included).
In the box:Phone, battery, world charger with US prongs, extremely short USB sync cable, standard stylus and guitar pick stylus with lanyard, stereo headset with detachable controller + mic, AV cable for TV connection, manual, software CD, Amazon video gift certificate, 8 gig microSD card and small folding stand.