I ran the Nokia 5800 XpressMusic to a lot of stress test to dig beyond the touchscreen hype and found some surprisingly great features as well as shortcomings. Let me share with you why I thought the Nokia 5800 falls short of expectations but will remain on top of a lot of people’s must-buy list.
Make and Construction
When I first read that the Nokia 5800 has a 3.2 inch (360×640 pixel) display screen. The three buttons at the lower part of the screen serve as shortcuts (Call knob, App Launcher and Cancel/End button — from left to right.) The other keys on the side include a dedicated camera button and volume controls. The SIM card slot (usually placed inside the battery compartment) is found on the left side along with the microSD card slot for easy access.
There’s a well placed slider-lock at the center-right side of the device that serves as a screen lock/unlock mechanism (easily reached by the right thumb or the left middle finger when holding the phone).
Aside from the glass screen, the entire device is made up of plastic so it feels light for its size. It’s a little thick at 15.5mm. I think it would have been nicer to the grip at 12mm or 13mm.Â The phone’s casing feels solid but battery cover suffers from the usual creaks (pretty common with NSeries phones).Â The hard-rubber carrying case is nice and the plectrum, which doubles as a stylus, can be attached to the case to avoid being misplaced.Â
Connectivity and Mobile Web
The Nokia 5800 comes with all sorts of wireless connectivity – 3G/HSDPA, WiFi, Bluetooth and GPS — so it’s all set in that department.
Usability and UI
The phone came with a stylus (with an extra one) and a plectrum (guitar pick) which gives you an impression that you will be using them more often that just your fingers when navigating the touch screen UI. Personally, I have an aversion to stylus as they remind me of the old, clunky PDAs. There’s haptic feedback which I think is a necessary feature for resistive touchscreens.
Fortunately, with the 5800, you are still able to make a phone call and send text messages with one hand, though half the time you’d end up using your fingernails instead of your thumb. The 5800 gives you 4 options for text input — full QWERTY, mini QWERTY (for portrait mode), handwriting recognition and the normal virtual phone keypad — which is nice because it provides the user more ways to type in text depending on the need and screen orientation. The system remembers your last input method and shows it in future instances until you change it.
The Media Bar is a small touch sensitive portion of the phone just at the top outer border of the screen that drops down to some shortcuts — Music Manager, Video Center, Internet and Photos.
The touchscreen is quite responsive but sometimes, it requires two taps to select an item or hotspot. Scrolling down with the finger takes a bit of practice and can become easy but scrolling up is almost impossible (that’s when you need to use the stylus). Haptic feedback makes things much easier though.
Multimedia & Photo Quality
The sound speakers are the loudest I’ve ever heard on a mobile phone and worthy of being in the XpressMusic class. I find it odd though that the speakers were unevenly placed on both the left side of the phone which makes me wonder that if you position it horizontally on the cradle for some hands-free movie viewing, both speakers are facing downwards (not upwards where the sound will have more open space to propagate). I guess that adds to the bass effect.
Video quality is good but not very impressive. If you compare the 5800’s 3.2″ screen at 360×640 resolution against the Xperia X1’s 3″ @ 480×800 pixel, you can see which screen has more pixels packed per square inch (more pixels per square inch, better video quality). The Nokia Video Manager (an app that automatically converts video files transferred to the phone) makes a low-quality compressesion that videos played on the 5800 ends up very pixelated. I converted my own videos (using Super) to match the settings I use for the iPhone 3G and while the output was better, the videos still appear dithered and the colors a bit faded.
I was puzzled why 3.2MP Carl Zeiss camera didn’t perform as well as other Nokia phones with the same optics. I took several sample photos below:Â
Doesn’t work well at night and the dual-LED flash only performs better on close up shots. The picture of the steel Buddha here can be compared to the same taken with the Nokia N78 here.
What’s Missing or What I Would Have Wanted
- USB port charging. Nokia already did it with the N85 so I don’t understand why the newer models don’t have it.
- Updated firmware. The unit that I had some occasional hang-ups (apps not exiting properly) and one instance that the phone rebooted on its own.
- Internal Storage. There’s only about 90MB of internal phone memory. The phone comes with an 8GB external microSD card so the only way to expand your storage is by replacing it with a bigger capacity (like 16GB).
- Faster Processor. Sometimes, you’ll feel that the ARM 11 369 MHz CPU is slow. The Qualcomm MSM7201A 528 Mhz processor would have been better (the ones on the HTC Touch HD and SE Experia X1).
Of course, some of the items in this list would affect the phone’s final price so it’s a trade-off.
Over-all, the Nokia 5800 XpressMusic is a nice-to-have phone but fell short of my expectation as a flagship touchscreen phone. I guess, and because Nokia was late in the game, I expected them to score high in changing the way touchscreen phones interact with its user. The device’s dependence with the stylus ruined the experience (just like many stylus-touting touchscreen phone) and the plectrum was just a fancy addition that serve no extra function other than it symbolizes music (as in XpressMusic).
The S60 platform holds a lot of promise. It was great with a lot of NSeries and ESeries Nokia phones but it needs to be refined more for the touch screen. Had the Nokia 5800 been launched in January (or even June) of 2008, I would have given it more excuse. If this was the first touch screen phone I’ve ever used, I might have liked it a lot but after trying out the Omnia, Xperia X1, Touch HD, LG Cookie and iPhone, I’d put the 5800 somewhere in the middle.
What’s most surprising with the Nokia 5800 is the price tag. It’s already a high-end phone but the price seemed unbelievably affordable. We’ve seen the N96 priced at 37k and the Nokia 8800 Arte at 47k. Even the 2-year old Nokia N95 8GB is more expensive than the 5800 — and this tells us something about how Nokia perceives its flagship touchcsreen phone.
Nokia knows its the king of alphanumeric candybar phones. It’s also getting a good boost in the qwerty smartphones. Yet, they are relatively behind the touchscreen race (despite the fact that they already had a discontinued touch screen phone 5 years ago) although this battleground is still fresh. Most consumers are wary to shell out 30k or 40k for a touch interface they are not familiar with so the 5800 is positioned really well as an affordable full-featured touchscreen phone.
For its features, I think the Nokia 5800 is still worthy to be priced at the 25k to 35k range but Nokia puts it at a very sweet spot of Php19,990. They did this to play catch with the rest and I believe they’d done a great job with marketing it as such. Nokia fans will surely love owning this little piece of history from Nokia.