First Look: Nokia C7

The Nokia C7 is one of those phones that falls into a gap that no one can identify. It isn't the top of the range, it isn't the bottom. It doesn't exhibit all the features that Nokia think you want, but it doesn't really have anything missing. As such, the Nokia C7 feels like it is designed to a price point, remembering, of course, that it needs to offer something more than the C6 that languishes below it in Nokia's Symbian 3 smartphone portfolio, and something less than the N8.

Nokia said today - making reference to Apple - that one device wouldn't suit all people and that they would continue to make a range to suit different budgets and tastes. That is, then, the role that the C7 fulfils. We got our hands on the new model at the launch at Nokia World 2010 today in London, and this is what we thought.

Perhaps we are doing the C7 a disservice, underselling it a touch. It sets off with something of a disadvantage - it doesn't have the aggressive design of the N8 or E7, instead it owes more to the Nokia handset of yesteryear like the 5800, especially around the top.

Pick it up and it feels much better, thanks to a wonderfully crafted metal back. It doesn't have the wow factor that the HTC Legend does, a device that it may well find itself pitched against when vying for customer interest. What it really lacks is a unified sense of cohesion - there are panels lines and joins that only help to emphasise the borrowed design elements, almost as though different parts were selected and stuck together.

The Nokia C7 measures 117.3 x 56.8 x 10.5mm, so it is certainly sleek. The curved edges around the back means it nestles nicely in the hand where we found it to be nicely weighted and balanced.

The C7 is a full touch phone, so you are at the mercy of the 3.5-inch capacitive AMOLED display. From what we saw the colour reproduction was good, with nice deep blacks setting things off nicely - something that Nokia is calling "ClearBlack Display". Despite this marketing tag, it only has a resolution of 640 x 360 pixels so it lags behind the current market leader, the iPhone 4, and most of the Android big boys when it comes to screen resolution.

This will mean that photos don't quite have the same impact and video lacks some of the detail. It also won't be as capable at rendering fine text in the browser for example. Symbian seems to fit this resolution however, with the same size and resolution display on the N8 and the same resolution on the smaller C6.

The phone runs Nokia's new Symbian 3 software, which has been redesigned from the ground up to be faster and easier to develop for. Once you dive into the C7 (as is the case with the N8, E7 and C6 too) it all looks like previous software versions, and we think Nokia have missed a trick to make a clean break and come in with something more appealing. Dive into the menu and you might think you are looking at one of last year's handsets. This is fine for existing Nokia owners, but when it comes to attracting newcomers it might do Nokia no favours.

There are some nice touches to the software, but we really can't pass judgement until we've had a review device for some time to really get to know it. For those worried about social networking, this is incorporated as core application on Symbian 3, integrating with contacts and your calendar, but lacking the pizzazz with which something like HTC Sense tackles the same problem.

Three home pages are offered on the C7, a common S^3 feature, which can be customised. In the samples we saw today, these pages did look at little cluttered, with widgets being small, rather than bold and exciting. Actually seeing the information they were offering wasn't something you could do at a glance, so everything becomes a glorified shortcut to get to the application proper.

When it comes to applications you are going to be dependent on Nokia's Ovi Store, which just isn't as exciting as the Apple App Store or the Android Market. Nokia announced a range of incentives to appeal to developers today and they know that this is the make or break point: customers won't stay loyal if they can't get to the funky apps that everyone else is getting (the same could be said of Samsung's Bada platform).

Returning to the hardware, Nokia seem to have settled on 8-megapixels as the magic number for their cameras, supported by dual LED flash. This it a step above the current smartphone average of 5-megapixels but that doesn't always translate into better pictures. This is something we'll have to look at when we review the phone in a full review, along with the performance of the 720p HD capturing camcorder feature.

Elsewhere you get all the connectivity you'd expect, with HSDPA, Wi-Fi b/g/n, GPS, Bluetooth 3.0, etc. Interestingly you also get an FM radio and an FM transmitter (as you do in the N8) so you'll be able to broadcast any tunes to your car stereo for example. There is 8GB of memory, with an expansion slot accepting microSD cards up to 32GB.

We didn’t see as much of the C7 in action, but with a user interface that is essentially the same as the N8 and the E7, we've seen a fair amount of what is on offer today. We haven't been able to really get to work on the browser, but we know it comes with Adobe Flash Lite 4, which will tackle some, but not all, web video.

Verdict

We step away from the Nokia C7 with that lingering feeling that it is just ANOther phone. Nothing really jumps up and grabs us. The new operating system is better, but we think it should have had a visual overhaul. The touch response seemed good enough as we played with the phone, but at times it lacks the snap that a high-end Android handset, or the iPhone 4, gives you.

The specs on paper look fair enough and if the hardware performs and the price is right, we're sure that the C7 will wriggle into its place in the modern smartphone world. Final judgement we'll leave until we have had the phone in for a full review.