Nokia is hoping to take on the touchscreen giants of the mobile phone realm with the launch of the 5800 XpressMusic. But can the company who commands almost 40% of the market conquer the touchscreen world as well? We get touchy feely with the new XpressMusic phone to find out.
While the handset isn't shipping in the UK until 2009, Pocket-lint has been merrily playing with the new phone for the last couple of weeks with a handset that Nokia is calling a final unit, rather than a prototype attached to a wire at the launch.
The 5800 XpressMusic is a narrow but fat device sporting a 3.2-inch touchscreen display, a selection of buttons dotted around the design and 3.2-megapixel camera on the back. Roughly the size of the HTC Diamond, the phone is considerably smaller than both the iPhone, the BlackBerry Storm or even the Samsung Omnia. Compared to the T-Mobile G1 this device should probably be called nano.
Beneath the screen is a menu button as well as hang-up and dial buttons while the sides offer the usual volume controls, dedicated camera buttons and a toggle hold switch. There is even space tucked in the rather heavy set casing for a stylus. Above the screen on the front there is a nifty touch button that offers a drop down menu no matter what application you are in to give you quick access to music, images, sharing, video, and browsing.
From a technical specifications point of view, the 5800 phones offers the usual array of goodies: HSDPA, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity, GPS, a 3.5mm headphone jack, front facing camera for video calling, however, disappointingly just a 3.2-megapixel camera. We know this still beats or matches the competition, but why Nokia hasn't just thrown in a 5-megapixel camera as found in other Nokia devices of late is not clear. Beyond that, the system runs S60 but the new 5th edition, obviously for the touch interaction.
With haptics providing feedback, it’s a very touchy feely experience with the emphasis on the feely. The interface is very N95/N96 although you can see touch has been a deciding factor in some of the thought processes. Rather than opt for a menu interface from the get go, the home page gives you four icons, which you assign to your friends. From there you can then phone or message them at the press of a button, rather than having to search your contacts book every time and it's a nicely thought-out idea.
Inputting commands is all via the touchscreen and when it comes to entering text you get a number of options. Like the HTC Diamond there is a full QWERTY keyboard option, which forces the handset into landscape mode, a mini QWERTY keyboard option that means you've got to either have the fingers of a Star Wars figure or use the stylus, or an alphanumeric keypad whereby you're back to T9 texting. Failing the keyboard, the 5800 offers a handwriting mode where you can use the included stylus or, in a nod to the cool, a plectrum (included in the box) and this in our usage has, provided you want to use the stylus, been the easiest way to input text into the handset.
Failing the stylus, and let’s face it if you want to be "stylus boy" you would have opted for a Microsoft Windows Mobile device, the landscape QWERTY is going to be your best option, however unlike the iPhone or the Storm, Nokia doesn't appear to auto-correct your mistyped words, although you can copy and paste, giving it an edge over the iPhone for text fans.
Elsewhere you get the standard web browser from Nokia. According to Nokia you can watch Flash videos as found on Pocket-lint, however in our usage we weren't able to access them. The Adobe Flash Player simply says "Sorry your platform is not supported", however we were able to watch YouTube videos full-screen via YouTube.com
Surfing on the web is fast, clearly depending on how you are doing it - Wi-Fi or HSDPA, and for those with Wi-Fi hotspots you can, as with most Nokia handsets, set up wireless access from within the phone very easily. Receiving this unit from Nokia we tested it with Vodafone, however no operator has yet been earmarked for the 5800 at the time of writing.
Other features of note are the share options, whereby Nokia has used the ShareThis icon (green one at the top of this page), which is very clever - it's a small detail, but we liked it.
Coming with 8GB of memory inside there is plenty of room for music, video or images. Music and video playback are helped by a decent music player with the addition of a 3.5mm headphone jack so you aren't forced into a proprietary offering like Sony Ericsson.
Fears of slow loading images that we experienced in our First Look have vanished and while we occasionally got a loading screen, this was shown for less than a second rather than the couple of seconds at the launch event. It isn't an issue.
When we first saw the Nokia 5800 XpressMusic we thought it was more akin to the Samsung Tocco than the iPhone. Now we've had more time to play with the phone it would be better to suggest this is more Windows Mobile that an interface you can use with your fingers.
Due to the small screen size - it's 3.2-inch but still very thin - icons, keys, and buttons are all very fiddly, an admission by Nokia in including the stylus.
The trouble is, if you've finally made the decision to go touchscreen the last thing you want to do is use a stylus and if you don't mind, you'll have already gone touchscreen with Microsoft a long time ago.
That said the Nokia fan club will most likely love it. It's a good evolution from the S60 interface bringing some nice touches.
The phone might have the consumer in mind, but the stylus interface means it’s unlikely to appeal to anyone other than Windows Mobile users looking to get a bit of street cred without losing the safety blanket of the pen.