April 20, 2009

Review of the Nokia 5800 XpressMusic

Presentation



The Nokia 5800 XpressMusic is a classic candybar design phone declined in three colours: red, blue and silver/gray. The blue and silver/gray versions are harder to come by and although Nokia charges the same for all three colours, some retailers charge a premium for these two because of their rarity.

From a technical point of view, we're dealing with a straighforward quad-band GSM phone with 3.5G HSDPA at 3.6 megabits/sec (HSUPA would have been nice but I suppose you can't have everything). 3G operates at 900/2100 MHz for the "international" version and at 850/1900 MHz for the "NAM" (North American) version. Everything you'd expect is there: bluetooth and USB 2.0 connectivity, internet connectivity over (HS)CSD, (E)GPRS, UMTS or a built-in 802.11b/g WiFi adapter, 3.1MP camera with dual-LED flash, music player, video player and a feature-rich application set.

The 5800XM had a few teething problems when it was released, much like any new phone model. The two shells of the body casing are not as securely fastened at the top-right corner as they are elsewhere. This means that there's a small gap between them through which, if it is wide enough, light has been known to escape when the backlight is illuminated. Latter models would appear to have reduced the problem and it hardly shows on my phone.

Secondly, the first batches of phones were assembled with earpieces that developed faults after some time. The more people used their phones, the shorter the time. It turns out that the contacts on the earpieces would develop a form of corrosion, which explains why the audio level would fluctuate if you tapped the end of the phone. The corrosion made faulty contacts. The problem has since been identified and the supplier of earpieces changed. Phones manufactured as from February 2009 are assembled with the new, fault-free earpieces.

Next, repeated activation of the camera and viewing of video content would make the video subsystem go dead. The camera would apparently just give out a black picture and there would be no picture in video files. If the phone was allowed to cool, the picture would come back, leading us to believe that this was a hardware fault due to insufficient cooling of a chip somewhere in the phone. Once again, reports of this fault seem to have died down on the Nokia Support Discussions forums, leading me to believe that the fault has been addressed.

Finally, until version 20.0.012 of the phone's firmware (the software embedded in the phone that makes everything work – dial *#0000# to find out which version you're running) there was no way for the user to reset the phone. Models with keypads can be reset by pressing the "3", "*" and green "call" buttons while switching the phone on. The 5800XM, being a touch phone, obviously has no "3" or "*" buttons, so that puts the kibosh on that method. There is a way round it now, though. The buttons to press while powering up are the green "call" button, the red "end" button and the "camera" button on the right hand side of the phone. This has proven necessary because some themes written for S60v5 have been known to make the phone unstable and even prevent it from starting properly. If the theme was installed in the phone's internal memory instead of on the memory card there was no way of recovering from this situation and the phone had to be taken to a Nokia Care Point to be reset.

So far, there's nothing groundbreaking about this phone. What does set it apart from other Nokia models is that it is based on Symbian OS 9.4 and the S60 5th Edition interface, which is a touch-screen interface, and its nHD (360x640 16:9 aspect ratio) LCD screen. Although this phone is being labelled Nokia's first touch-screen phone, there was a previous model that didn't know the success that the 5800XM is enjoying today. The 7710, which was released in 2004, was only sold in limited amounts in few countries, and it was a huge brick anyway. In that respect, the 5800XM certainly is the first touch-screen phone from Nokia to be this popular, having sold around 2.6 million since its launch according to a release from Nokia.

Box contents

Other than the phone itself, the battery and the mains charger, you get an 8 gigabyte microSDHC memory card, a condensed manual (a full manual can be downloaded from Nokia's site), software for MS-Windows (XP with SP2 and later), a hard case, a CA-101 microUSB cable, a CA-75 TV-Out cable, a lanyard with a plectrum of the same colour as the phone, a small stand to support the phone on a flat surface, and a spare stylus in case you lose or break the one already fitted in the back casing of the phone. Since this is touted as a music phone, there's also a set of HS-45 earbuds and an AD-54 remote control with pause/play, stop, forward and rewind functions as well as a lock switch, a button to take incoming calls and a microphone that you can speak into, thus making it unnecessary even to touch the phone for basic use.

The spare stylus was thoughtful. What could have been more thoughtful is an in-car charger as supplied with the N96 and bundled by some operators with other Nseries phones. To be honest, the 5800XM is much the same as an Nseries device in all but name. It has the same feature set...

The hard case will certainly protect the phone from objects likely to scratch it in your pocket such as keys, change etc. but it is a bit of a tight fit. A friend's 5800XM was even scratched by the case itself over time, so if you're not careful it will actually defeat its purpose.

The lanyard and plectrum are a must-have accessory. The touch screen is more sensitive to scratching than you'd think (I've scratched mine twice already with my fingernails in just over a week) and the plectrum's edges are smooth, as is the point of the stylus. Too much use of the stylus could make it work loose from its home in the rear casing of the phone, and it's also easy to apply too much pressure.

Start-up and first impressions

The phone starts up with a reassuring buzz when you press the power button for a couple of seconds. Thereafter it takes about 20 seconds for the phone to request the PIN number for your SIM. This is a lot faster than other phones that I've owned like the N73 and N96.

Unlike earlier models, you can't bypass the "handshake" animation by pressing a key, but you can silence it the same way as with previous editions of S60, by ensuring that warning tones are switched off in the profile that's active when the phone is switched on.

The phone sits well in the hand. The proportions are practical and the weight is small enough for the phone not to be a burden, and high enough for the phone not to feel flimsy. Other than the few actual buttons on the phone there are no moving parts to work loose and the build appears solid (no creaky case like the N96 for example).

The only physical buttons on the front of the phone are the call make and break buttons and the menu button between them. When the backlight is illuminated they are backlit in green red and white respectively, but black otherwise, which is rather stylish. Just above the top-right corner of the screen is the "XpressMusic" logo which, when tapped, brings down a menu of 5 media-related applications: music player, gallery, share online, video centre and web browser.

On the left of the phone are the slots for the SIM card and the microSD memory card. Inserting the SIM card is easy enough. In order to remove it you have to switch the phone off, remove the back casing and the battery, and push the SIM card out with the stylus. It's a little inconvenient but not too problematic given that the SIM card is probably the part that you swap out the least frequently anyway.

The microUSB port, 3.5mm AV connector, charger port and power switch are all on the top of the phone while the volume/zoom rocker switch, keypad lock slider and camera button are on the right.

The phone can be used one-handed easily enough, although the placing of the keypad lock is such that it is easier to use with the phone in your left hand than in your right hand – it is a bit too low for the right thumb to get a grip on it.

The touch screen itself is pretty responsive and the phone has quite a "snappy" feel about it provided theme effects are switched off. They do tend to slow menu transitions down for no reason other than eye-candy and, although the clock speed of the processor in this phone is higher than in the N96, for example, there is only one processor instead of two.

There are four different input methods on this phone as opposed to the usual single input method on most phones. The touch screen can be configured as an alphanumeric input like a classic mobile phone's keypad, a full-screen QWERTY keypad, a mini-QWERTY keypad that uses much less screen real-estate but really requires use of the stylus, or handwriting and OCR (also requiring the stylus). Note that the full-screen keyboard reconfigures itself according to the input language. For example, it switches to a QWERTZU keyboard if the language selected is German, or AZERTY if French is selected.


Ring tones and message notification tones are loud enough and there's a reasonable range of them to choose from. When watching video content or listening to music through the speakers, they are loud enough but the quality, as expected, does leave to be desired. This is a phone after all, not a portable stereo system, so it should come as no surprise that there is no bass and precious little mid-range. The 5800XM comes into its own when you use a set of earphones. More about the music player later.

In its default setup, the phone vibrates for a fraction of a second whenever an area of the screen is pressed. This serves as feedback that you've pressed the screen correctly. However, after a few minutes of using the phone you'll have learned how to judge the pressure required and will probably want to turn this feature off to save battery life. This and keypad tones can be switched off in your profile settings. Note that the setting is independent in each profile – you'll have to make the adjustment in each profile you use.

Speaking of battery life, it is vastly improved in the 5800XM compared to other recent models. For one thing, the battery here is a 1320mAh BL-5J battery, which represents nearly a 40% increase in capacity over the BL-5F used in the N95 and N96. Not only that, but improvements in the technology used in the phone mean that it uses less power than earlier models anyway. Larger battery, less hungry phone, therefore longer battery life.

A tool you can use to view and record the power consumption of your phone in real time is Nokia Energy Profiler.

Audio quality during voice calls is very good. The sound in the earpiece seems a bit richer than with many phones. This is particularly noticeable when using a 3G network where the sound is transmitted in much better quality than with a GSM call. The phone being 111 mm (4.37") long, the mic is close enough to the mouth for voice to be picked up without too much background noise.

The GSM/UMTS antenna is located in the bottom of the phone, near the mic, ie. as far away from your head as they can put it, which means that you won't be frying your brains while making long calls.

The built-in accelerometer makes the phone aware of whether it's in portrait or landscape orientation. This enables the phone to draw the various menus and input screens accordingly. The home screen, however, is always in portrait mode and the full-screen QWERTY keyboard in landscape mode regardless of the phone's orientation.

Standby screen

There are three models of standby screen available. The selection is in the settings under Personal / Home screen / Home screen theme.

Firstly there is the usual "Shortcuts bar" scheme which allows you to put shortcuts to 4 frequently used applications on your home screen. This is similar to the "Active Standby" of Nseries and Eseries devices in its design. It can also show you upcoming calendar events, the status of the music player and FM radio, and the search tool that allows you to search through your phone's content (messages, notes, contacts etc.) for information.

Then there's the "Contacts bar" scheme, which allows you to put up to 4 of your contacts onto the home screen in order to have voice and messaging functions for these 4 contacts easily to hand.

Finally, there's the "Basic" scheme with nothing but the clock and other usual things up the top of the screen. There are no shortcuts on-screen, everything has to be accessed via the menu.

People who use their phones to keep in close contact with a limited number of people will find the "Contacts bar" most useful. I use mine a lot more for data (internet access, e-mail etc.) and therefore find the "Shortcuts bar" most useful. Those not yet fully at ease with a smartphone will probably feel most at home with the "Basic" scheme, progressing to either of the other two as their confidence builds.

USB connectivity

The 5800XM comes with a CA-101 USB cable. Unlike some phones (more and more in fact), the 5800XM does not draw power in order to charge its battery through its microUSB connector. You can, however, use a CA-100 adapter that connects a free USB port to the 2mm charging connector (but it does require a second USB port as well as the one used for data transfer), or you can use a CA-126 charging and data cable that plugs into a single USB port on one end and has both a 2mm charging plug and the microUSB connector on the other end, thus allowing you to transfer data and charge the phone at the same time using only one USB port.

There are four different connection modes.

"PC Suite" mode is used for most things. You can transfer data to/from the phone's central memory or the memory card, synchronize your contacts, calendar events, messages and notes using PC Suite or OVI Suite, and update your phone's firmware using Nokia Software Updater. This mode is also used for the phone to act as a broadband modem giving you Internet connectivity on your laptop, for example, while on the move. Always check with your mobile network operator about tariffs and what you can and can't do with the connection established this way (many operators forbid the use of their services for VoIP Internet telephony for example).

Connecting the phone in "Mass storage" mode makes it behave like a USB pen-drive. Exclusive control of the memory card is given to the host computer and it appears as a removable drive in Windows' "My Computer". No additional software is needed for this since the phone observes industry standard "usb-storage" protocols. It can be used in this way to transfer music and videos to the phone and photos and videos shot with the phone onto your computer with any operating system that observes these protocols (Windows ME and later, Linux kernel 2.4 and later, Free/Open/NetBSD, Solaris, MacOSX and many more).

"Image transfer" mode is used to connect the phone to a PictBridge-compatible device such as a printer. It allows you to organise photos on a sheet and print them directly on a printer without the need for a computer.

Finally, "Media transfer" mode allows you to transfer music to the phone and incorporate it into the phone's library in one operation. Using the "Mass storage" method of copying music over requires an extra step for the music to appear in the music library and it also requires that identification tags be embedded in the music files so that the phone knows who the artist is, what the song's title is etc.

Bluetooth connectivity

Provided your computer has a bluetooth adapter, you can also exchange data with the phone over a wireless connection. All the functions described above except the "removable drive" thing and updating the phone's firmware, both of which rely on particularities of USB connectivity, can be done with this type of connection.

Bluetooth is also used for connecting the phone to a wireless earpiece or for streaming music to a stereo headset or an in-car hifi system that's bluetooth-enabled. It can also be used to connect to a car kit for hands-free calling. Note that a wireless earpiece or a car kit is a legal requirement in the UK. You can be fined on the spot for using your phone by holding it to your ear while driving since both your hands should be on the steering wheel at all times.

Music

The music player blew me away. It is every bit as good as the one in the N96, if not better since at least one bug has been eradicated since that version. The phone no longer forgets that the "loudness" audio corrector is switched on when playback stops.

It plays back all the best-known codecs including AAC, eAAC+, MP3, WMA, AMR and a few others. However, a bug in the AAC/eAAC+ decoder means that whenever the player is about to play back such a file, you hear a snippet of it played back before the beginning of the piece of music. This does not occur with MP3 files, for example.

You'll want to lose the earbuds that come with the phone and invest in some decent noise-isolating earbuds at the very least. You might even want to go that extra mile and splash out on noice-cancelling earphones once you've heard what this phone can do. There's practically no noise (hiss). This is a vast improvement over the N95, for example.

Nokia have yet to master gapless playback. If you're listening to a live album, for example, where there is no break between tracks, the Nokia music player will stop after playing one track and pause for a fraction of a second before playing back the next track. It is slightly annoying that something so obvious and so simple to implement should still be absent from a phone being sold as a music phone...

If you transfer music to the phone using the "Nokia Music" application on your PC with the phone connected in "Media transfer" mode then the music library on the phone is updated automatically while music is being transferred. If, on the other hand, you use the phone in "Mass storage" mode and copy your music files over that way then your files will need to have their identification embedded in them somehow. The easiest way is to use ID3v2 tags in MP3 files. Once the music is copied over, you tell the music player to update its library manually. When it does that, it scans the memory for new music files that weren't there last time you did this and adds the identification embedded in them to its database. It also removes from its database details about files that are no longer stored in the phone.

Whichever way you used to identify the music tracks and transfer them, they're sorted by artist, album, composer and genre. Playlists can be made and it is also possible to change the order in which songs appear in playlists by dragging them up or down the list. One advantage of a touch-screen interface...

As well as the loudness control mentioned earlier, there is a stereo widening feature, an 8-band graphic equalizer (with several editable presets and the ability to add more) and the usual track shuffle and repeat features.

There is also an FM receiver with RDS. As is the case with almost all phones that have an FM receiver, the headset's wire serves as the FM antenna. A wired headset therefore has to be connected for the receiver to work, which also means that you cannot use a bluetooth headset to listen to the radio.

Phones with a built-in FM antenna are beginning to appear.

Camera

As can be seen from this photo, the camera is not the sharpest available but it is perfectly acceptable for spur-of-the-moment snapshots. If you really want something high-resolution and sharp then you probably shouldn't be using a cameraphone in the first place. Unlike Nseries devices, this phone only has a 3.1 megapixel camera. 5 megapixel cameras and above (the N86 8MP, as its name suggests, will have an 8 megapixel camera) are the exclusive domain of Nseries devices.

You have the choice of three different resolutions: 640x480, 1600x1200 and 2048x1536. On V20 firmware, you can use information coming from the built-in GPS receiver to "geotag" (or "location tag" as Nokia calls it) photos you've taken. With this, your position when you took the photo is recorded in the image and can be used by image sharing sites to display a small map of the area where the photo was taken (like here) alongside the photo itself or to display a cloud of photos over a map.

The usual flash control functions are there (auto, force on, force off, anti red-eye) as are the usual scene type controls and effects (black and white, invert, sepia). The built-in image editor also allows you to perform a few basic operations (cropping, resampling, adding clip-art and text etc.).

The accelerometer also serves in still camera mode to rotate the picture captured so that landscape mode and portrait mode pictures come out as expected.

This phone will also shoot video at various qualities ranging from 176x144 low quality for sharing via MMS to 640x480 at 30 frames per second. One thing I liked straight away was the 640x352 widescreen video format!

At 176x144 quality, you get h264 video and AMR audio in a 3GP container. For the other qualities you get MPEG4 video and AAC audio in an MP4 container.

Video can also be location-tagged, and the LEDs normally used for the flash can be used as a torch to illuminate the subject being videoed.

Nokia has its own media sharing site at share.ovi.com. Your captured images and videos can be uploaded directly from your phone without the need for a computer. More about "OVI" later.

The built-in photo browser allows you to access all the pictures and videos on your phone and manage them by tagging them and adding them to albums that you can create. From this application you can invoke the image editor and also send objects by e-mail or MMS, or have them sent to another device by bluetooth. There's also an experimental picture browser developed by Nokia that's better at presenting pictures and even includes face recognition. It is available here.

Messaging

With its multiple input methods, this is an area where the 5800XM excels. Text input is now so easy. Predictive input is there with dictionaries for each of the languages supported by the phone, although auto-completion of words like in Sony-Ericsson and Motorola phones at least is not.

Like in S60v3FP2 devices such as the N96 and N85, there is only one "New Message" option. The default is a text message, but the messaging application changes the message type to a multimedia message automatically if something is entered into the "Subject:" field of the message or if you add content other than text (a photo or a small video file, for example).

The 5800XM supports the new extended MMS specification where messages can be up to 600KB in size as opposed to 300KB for classic MMS messages. Obviously, your network has to support this as do the recipient's network and handset.

E-mail is also supported. Text is sent as plain text rather than HTML (HTML in e-mail is an abomination and is partly responsible for the plague of spam and malware that e-mail is in general nowadays) and encoded as UTF-8. Files can be attached.
Both POP3 and IMAP4 protocols are supported, with ot without SSL encryption. SMTP can be authenticated with various methods.

Useful functions in the e-mail client are the addition of a signature and the "send copy to self" function.

When replying to an e-mail, however, the client gets things a little mixed up. The text of the message you're replying to is not quoted and is placed after your signature when it should be quoted correctly (a ">" and a space in the left margin of each line), any signature sent to you discarded and the quoted text placed before your signature. Nor does the mail client include References: or In-Reply-To: headers in replies to received mail. The guys who developed this mail client need to find out how e-mails are constructed before attempting to write software to do that.

Web browser

The built-in web browser in this phone is based on the Apple WebKit engine and therefore has, among other features, a full AJAX-enabled JavaScript engine with an Adobe Flash Lite 3.0 plugin. Other than the screen's size and resolution that are obviously far below the level of desktop and laptop computers and the fact that the "machine" running it is a bit slower, there's little to tell this browser apart from its desktop cousins from the point of view of sites that are supported. There's even full support of alphablended PNG files (unlike MSIE on Windows, which still relies on a kludge involving DirectX and an ActiveX control).

If the text is too small then double-tap on the screen and you'll invoke a zoom. You can press and drag the contents of the screen around... The usage of the browser is pretty intuitive. With full-screen, landscape mode activated, this browser is really quite usable – far more so than browsers on keypad-driven phones.

You can control whether it remembers form and password data, cookies, and whether it should download all content, just images (but not Flash content) or neither in order to keep bandwidth usage down to a minimum.

One feature I miss from the S60v3 browser was the prompt to delete the browser cache automatically when you close the browser down after viewing content on a secure page. You have to think to do this yourself now.

GPS and navigation

The GPS receiver in this phone is sensitive, fast to acquire a fix and accurate. The GPS in my N96 could not get a fix where I am sitting (on a sofa maybe 9' or 10' away from the window) but the 5800XM can, and it is accurate.

Of course, the GPS on its own isn't much good. It'll tell you where you are, but that's all. It won't tell you where you are in relation to other things and it won't tell you how to get to wherever you want to go. That's where navigation software comes in.

The UK SIM-free model I have comes with a 90-day licence for navigation in the UK using Nokia Maps. Tell Nokia Maps where you want to go from and where you want to go to, and you will be given turn-by-turn vocal directions just like you would from any in-car navigation system.

Alternatively, you can use Google Maps, which is entirely free to use for non-commercial purposes, but you don't get turn-by-turn vocal directions.

PDA functions

This phone is not a PDA by any stretch of the imagination, but it does include several features of a PDA that make life easier.

To start with, there's a "notes" application, which as its name suggests, allows you to jot down notes for future reference.

Then there's the "Contacts" application. All mobile phones have a simple address book at least. The Contacts application here is more than an address book in that multiple phone numbers and e-mail addresses can be stored against each contact as well as a photo and a note. Default numbers can also be set up so that you're not asked which number to use each time you want to send someone a message or call them. Contacts can also be sorted into groups to which you can address group messages and to which you can assign a particular ringtone. Caller groups are also used by profiles (see further on).

The mainstay of the phone's PDA functions is the calendar. You can set meetings, memos, anniversaries and To-Do notes. If your home screen is set to "Shortcuts bar" and if the calendar is enabled in its settings (only V20.0.012 and later, you get everything on display with V11.0.009 and earlier) then these events will appear on-screen provided they're less than a week off. Or sort of, anyway. If the next event is under a week off then you'll just see "Next cal. entry dd/mm" or "Next cal. entry tomorrow". If the next entry is tomorrow then it will be displayed as well. If there's a forthcoming event due today then it will be displayed as-is without the "Next cal. entry" line. Meetings that are "over" are removed from the home screen when they expire. Calendar events can be set with or without an audible reminder.

So, this basically serves as a kind of electronic diary.

One feature I miss from older S40 phones is the "birthday reminder". You could set up a special case of anniversary including the person's year of birth. When the reminder is due, it also announces the person's age. The workaround is to set up an anniversary to remind you of something like "John Smith 1967". From that you can infer that the person was born in 1967 and thus calculate their age yourself when their birthday comes round.

Personalisation

Most phones nowadays allow the user to install what's known as "themes", which alter the colours and graphics used by the phone to display various elements such as scroll bars, popup dialogue windows and buttons. These themes, just like any other software, can be installed either in the phone's central memory (limited to about 65MB) or on the memory card inserted into the phone. S60v5 is no exception, and more and more themes designed specifically for the 5800XM (and the soon to be released N97) are appearing. Unfortunately, bugs in early firmware versions mean that the phone will sometimes lock up depending on the theme being used. If the theme in question is in the phone's memory then the only way to recover the phone is to reset it completely and wipe all the third-party themes and software installed, not to mention the user's contacts and messages (if they're stored in the phone's memory – they can be stored on the memory card), and calendar events. The phone is wiped clean. The only way to achieve this was to take the phone to a Nokia Care Point until firmware V20.0.012 was released. The user can now reset the phone themselves if need be. However, this is no longer necessary anyway if the offending theme is installed on the memory card. All you have to do is remove the card, start the phone up normally, select the default theme, insert the memory card again and uninstall the theme in the normal manner using the application manager (found under "Settings").

For this reason, it is recommended to install themes onto the memory card.

If the only thing you want to change is the picture displayed on the home screen then you can simply use an image as a wallpaper. If the image you want to use is the same size as the screen, 360x640 pixels, then it will cover the screen entirely, unlike earlier editions of S60 where a bar at the top of the screen would still be filled with the default wallpaper of the active theme. S60v5 offers a much "cleaner" way to alter the phone's appearance in that respect.

Profiles are also a large part of the personalisation process. Settings that define the ringtone your phone will emit when there's an inbound call, how loud it will ring, what notification it'll give you when there's an inbound message, how it should give you feedback when you press something, and what contact group(s) the phone should ring for, are all grouped together in what's known as a "Profile".

Profiles can be selected directly by tapping on the date at the top of the screen (or on the name of the currently active profile if a profile other than "General" is active) and selecting the desired profile by tapping on it.

Profiles can be selected, edited or set as a timed profile by going into Settings / Personal / Profiles. A timed profile is a useful feature re-introduced into S60 as of the 3rd Edition with Feature Pack 2. It is in the older S40 interface but disappeared with the introduction of S60.

When you set a timed profile, you tell the phone when you want it to end. At that time, the phone reverts automatically to the original profile. This is a useful feature in that I have a profile I called "Night", which includes a quieter ringtone, makes no sound when a message arrives and only lets the phone ring for a set group of contacts. I set the timed profile at night and make the phone revert to "General" profile in the morning. With the N95 (S60 3rd Edition with Feature Pack 1) I would sometimes forget to switch back to "General" profile in the morning and end up missing calls from people (clients mainly) that I would like to speak with but not at night!

Peripheral services

OVI is Nokia's portal to its online services ("ovi" means "door" in Finnish). By signing up for an account on ovi.com and registering your phone with the site, you're gaining access to, among others, the following services:

- share.ovi.com: upload your photos and videos and organise them online so that you can share all of them or groups of them (in albums) with other people.

- OVI sync: keep your calendar events, notes and contacts up to date and synchronise them between the site and your phone. Entering large numbers of contacts may be easier using your desktop or laptop computer, and then all you have to do is sync the phone and they're all transferred to it. It is also a safeguard against data loss.

Conclusion

In conclusion I'd say that this phone is one of the easiest phones to use that I've ever owned. Its crisp, high-resolution display and the touch screen interface also make it one of the most "fun" phones I've ever used. Compared to earlier models such as the N82 in particular, or even the N95, this phone is a little bit of a disappointment in the camera department. I knew it wasn't going to be as good as those phones, but it still wasn't really up to my lowered expectations, at least not as far as still shots are concerned. It did, however, exceed my expectations in the video department. The image quality of footage shot by the 5800XM is very acceptable, and it plays back video extremely smoothly. Far better than the N96 ever has.

The killer app for this phone – if you live in the UK and have access to a WiFi network, that is – has to be the BBC iPlayer. Point your mobile browser to http://bbc.co.uk/iplayer and allow yourself to be guided by on-screen directions. The 3.2" widescreen display makes for a pleasant viewing experience.

Two features that are new to S60v5 and that I really find useful are message grouping and scheduled backups.

If message grouping is activated then, rather than showing you a raw list of messages in your inbox and sent items, these messages are grouped into virtual folders, one for each day of the current week (starting on the day of the week defined as the start of the week in your calendar settings), one for messages sent or received during the previous week, and one for earlier messages. This way, if you want to make some room and delete messages two weeks old and older, you can simply wait until the last day of the week acording to your calendar settings and then go into the messaging inbox, select the "Older" virtual folder and then "Options", "Mark/unmark", "Mark". This marks all the messages in that "Older" virtual folder and you can subsequently delete all of them in one go with "Options", "Delete". Above all, it makes for a display that's far less cluttered with old messages.

It has been possible to back up the contents of the phone's memory (messages, contacts, notes and calendar events, user files, settings, Internet bookmarks) onto a memory card since the initial release of S60v3 at least. The way to access that backup feature has changed over time but since S60v3/FP2 it has been accessible through the file manager, and S60v5 is no exception. What changed in S60v5 is the possibility to schedule a backup automatically either once a day or once a week. No more forgetting to do a backup. If you do something to crash the phone then you'll not lose more than a day's or week's data depending on how frequently you set the backup to occur. Not only that, but the scheduling is managed efficiently. If the phone is connected to a computer in "Mass storage" mode when the backup is scheduled to take place, the phone will not be able to perform the backup because the computer will have exclusive control of the memory card. Instead of deciding to skip the backup in this case, the phone waits for the phone to be disconnected from the computer and starts the backup there and then.

Now, the phone supports SyncML profiles allowing the user to synchronize the phone with a remote service (such as OVI sync). This is a useful feature since it provides, among other things, another backup facility. However, it would have been great had Nokia thought this all the way through and also provided a system to schedule regular automatic synchronizations.

If there were areas where I'd like to see improvements, they would be:

- Sort out the stability issues with themes. Right now it's not really "safe" to install them.

- Provide updates for this phone over the air rather than using Nokia Software Updater. NSU runs only on MS-Windows and can therefore only be as reliable as that O/S, which doesn't inspire confidence. All the updates of my N96 were provided OTA so why can't it be done for this phone?

- Sort out the build and get rid of that gap in the case.

- Improve the image processing algorithms used by the camera software and produce sharper images with better colour balance.

On the whole, though, I find this phone to be a very positive experience. I do not regret at all buying it and would recommend it to friends.


Thanks to Psychomania for some of the pieces of information here :)

April 14, 2009

Coming soon: review of the Nokia 5800 XpressMusic

Having recently bought a Nokia 5800 XpressMusic phone to replace the N96, I will shortly be reviewing the former giving you my opinion (for what it's worth) on the phone's features, design and above all the new S60 5th Edition touch interface.

Suffice it to say for now that I'm very pleased with this device and have no intention of switching back to the N96.

Stay tuned for more in due course...



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