Nokia’s been a bit behind the times when it comes to touchscreen mobiles – it’s been 2 years since the Apple iPhone changed the game and finally Nokia’s catching up. The 5800 Xpress Music is doing a little game-changing of its own – unlimited music downloads on a subscription-based service takes the 5800 straight into the heart of iPhone/iTunes territory. The idea behind the 5800 is certainly innovative – but is it too little, too late from the world number 1 mobile maker?
Being Nokia’s first ‘mainstream’ touchscreen, the interface is probably a good place to start – and thankfully, it’s very impressive. Initial touchscreen efforts have been poor or even woeful from most handset makers, but Nokia has put a lot of effort into its firmware.
Scrolling is smooth and simple, icons respond to finger taps by emitting a pulse vibration, and for the most part navigating through the 5800’s menus is a breeze. Where the touchscreen struggles is in typing and web browsing – the landscape-mode QWERTY keyboard is difficult to use, often resulting in you hitting the wrong letter; and the web browser struggles to accept each tap on the screen. The browser is merely functional and falls behind competitors.
Central to the 5800 is music, and Nokia has once again come up with the goods. The music player is well laid-out and simple to use (a rare treat on a mobile), and the internal speaker packs a powerful punch. And unlimited downloads? Wow. Nokia’s music store is full to the brim, and it’s all yours. Of course some people won’t be so happy to know it’s all locked to your own account with DRM, so if you want to burn music to a CD or share with friends you’ll need to pay additional fees to ‘unlock’ the tunes you download. Still – unlimited music, easy to use from the device or PC – could save big spenders lots of cash which usually goes to iTunes.
But it’s more than just music. More and more phones are including GPS with Google Maps, but Nokia’s got its own Navteq maps program which works a treat and even gives you turn by turn navigation – if you’re willing to pay extra for it.
A 3.2 megapixel camera is pretty standard these days but Nokia’s Carl Zeiss optics lens makes for some good quality happy snaps, and comes with a simple video recorder to boot. Other on-board apps are equally handy – one of the simplest and best voice recorders around, Real Player, Nokia’s own instant messaging app, a couple of games, location services and GPS data, calendar and quick links to Facebook and MySpace too – nothing out of the norm, but all satisfyingly easy to use.
The only annoyance is the occasionally slow menu navigation. While tapping through menus is simple enough, a split second lag between the tap and the device’s response can get frustrating – especially during web browsing, when the lag can be even worse.
The value of the 5800 Xpress Music is probably found in the unlimited music service – which depends how much you value your music. For the price tag, the device itself is decent enough – it’s competing in Apple iPhone territory and while the device isn’t as good as the iPhone, the unlimited music is better than paying for iTunes tracks. It’s important to remember who this phone is targeted at – it is not for business users (bad email, bad browser), it is for music-lovers – loud speaker, lots of free tracks.
A valiant effort from Nokia and a very usable device. The 5800 wins points for its unlimited music service, well-made GPS and camera, and polished touchscreen interface. It loses points for its dated web browser and email, slow response times, and lack of apps when compared to similarly prices devices. Is it the iPhone killer? No. Is it a great phone in its own right? Yes – and one worth your attention.