The Nokia C5-03 has arrived on UK shores, but unlike Nokia’s recent touchscreen efforts, it’s running good ol’ Symbian S60, rather than the newer, more polished Symbian 3, now officially renamed as Symbian. Confused? We don’t blame you: unfortunately, in 2011, this phone is a bit of an anachronox. Read on and find out why in our full Nokia C5-03 review.
The Nokia C5-03 (not to be confused with the excellent Nokia C5) was announced late last year, and as we suspected at the time, it’s a successor of sorts to the Nokia 5800 and Nokia 5230 budget touchscreen phones. Sadly, for the price and the OS you’ll have to put up with, it’s almost certainly not worth considering.
We’re doing a reverse Bisto and starting with the best bit: the Nokia C5-03 is a delightfully sturdy, slim phone. It feels smaller than its 105.8x51x13.8mm dimensions, thanks in part to the smooth curve of its plastic backing – which somehow doesn’t feel remotely tacky. The front is all screen, while the sides are unsullied by ports, and the physical buttons below the screen sit so low as to be invisible when looked on from the side, but are still easy to press.
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And the touchscreen?
Here’s where things start to get hairy. The 3.2-inch, 640×360 screen is is perfectly crisp and gawkable. But! Just as we thought we’d laid that ghost to rest, we discover it’s resistive. Resistive touchscreens are typically cheaper to produce than capacitive ones found on most smartphones, and accurate to exact touches.
The problem is of course, that you don’t get exact touches with a fingertip, and since there’s no stylus included with the Nokia C5-03, you soon encounter problem number one. Never mind the lack of pinch to zoom gestures: it’s almost impossible to type.
In landscape mode, you’re presented with an awful QWERTY keyboard that takes up the whole screen and misses every other button press. You’re far better off keeping things in portrait mode and thumbing out text messages the old fashioned, 0-9 way (There’s no portrait QWERTY option, with good reason).
But we’re getting ahead of ourselves here. The real problem with the Nokia C5-03 lies with the operating system.
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We suspected the Nokia C5-03 might be doomed before it even shipped courtesy of its operating system, Symbian S60 5th edition. It’s here complete with all the frustrations you had with on the Nokia 5800 more than two years ago. Obnoxious screen pop ups when you try and turn the Wi-Fi on, screen whiteouts that last seconds when you tilt the phone or leave an app – it’s all here, and it feels like Nokia has done nothing over the course of two years to correct it. One of our rants from last year can be read here, and still very much applies.
To be clear – we don’t object to Symbian S60 on low price phones. Symbian at its core is flexible and power efficient, and Nokia still sells low price Symbian S60 phones with buttons that are absolute corkers – like last year’s Nokia C5. And on the plus side, the Nokia C5-03 does run Ovi Maps, which now offers turn by turn navigation with pre-cached maps. So that’s nice! Free satnav and all.
But Symbian S60 just does not cut it for touchscreens, and in 2011, you don’t have to put up with it either.
Performance and battery life
The Nokia C5-03 comes with 3G and Wi-Fi connections, and even with both milling away and plenty of use, the phone ran for three full days, so we’re more than pleased with the battery life. Call quality is respectable too: like the pint sized Nokia C6, this too has a surprisingly beefy speaker.
The camera isn’t all that bad either, bar the lack of a flash: a five megapixel sensor with slightly washy results is made up for by a camcorder mode with a digital zoom slide, a handy UI feature few competitors include. But all this doesn’t make up for the price Nokia’s asking for.
The problem of price
Nokia prides itself on its ability to turn out solid hardware at low price points – this is how it’s able to sell so many handsets in developing countries. But the Nokia C5-03 isn’t all that cheap (£189 SIM-free on Nokia’s online store), and more to the point, in the UK, this is accentuated by the presence of heavily subsidised smartphones on Pay As You Go – something not so common in other markets, where the poorest customers can’t be relied upon to top up regularly.
As a result, we can’t possibly recommend the Nokia C5-03 when you can buy an Android phone with an astounding screen for £100 upfront (The Orange San Francisco), or a Palm Pixi Plus for £110 on O2, which is just as small, but has a better screen and a physical QWERTY keyboard.
And even if you’re a Nokia loyalist, we can’t recommend it when you can pick up the Nokia C5 for a lower price, complete with buttons to make Symbian S60 all the more usable.
We understand that Symbian S60 5th edition still serves a purpose in world where everyone wants a touchscreen, but not everyone can afford one. But in the UK, where we’re spoiled for (cheap) choice, we feel Nokia is actually doing customers a disservice by continuing to flog this creaking operating system.
If you must have a Nokia touchscreen, pick up a Symbian 3 series phones like the similarly sized Nokia C6. However, there are incredible touchscreen options at low prices these days, and none of them are big N branded.