Touchscreen devices have taken off in a big way in the mobile marketplace, but despite the undoubted benefits of large screens and intuitive controls, many users are still averse to giving up a tactile keypad. Nokia is one of a handful of companies to find a compromise between the two, and the recently announced X3 Touch and Type was its first attempt at a hybrid.
Hot on its tail is the C3-01, also a “touch and type” branded phone that takes a more professional and business-like approach with a sleek aluminium chassis - available in dark grey, gold and silver - a 5-megapixel camera with flash, 3.5mm headphones jack and a large numeric keypad beneath the 2.4-inch 240 x 320 resistive display.
A power port and USB connector accompany the audio jack at the top, and volume, a lock switch and shutter button for the camera are aligned along the right-hand side. Otherwise it’s a fairly minimalist design, looks very stylish and though the metal enclosure does take its weight up to 100g, it feels extremely solid and comfortable in the hand or in a pocket.
Since there’s no directional pad, there isn’t really an “option” of sticking with either the keys or the screen - the two must be used in tandem to access and use the features on offer. Though the Symbian 40 6th edition OS isn’t nearly as versatile and flexible as rivals, it does work well with the touchscreen, offering large controls and menus that are easy to access with a thumb or finger. The main screen is fairly customisable with a range of core features and a “Go to“ menu can be set to one of the two available shortcut buttons at the bottom of the screen, offering quick access to another nine shortcuts. Accessing the key areas of the device is pretty fast after a bit of fine tuning then, and though smartphone users won’t find nearly the versatility of some rival platforms, it should still be suitable for some.
The C3-01 comes with 3.5G, wireless and Bluetooth 2.1 so is well kitted out in the connectivity department and though the built-in browser is a little clunky, Opera Mini is a viable enough alternative. A double-tap on screen or a dedicated control can zoom into sites for fine control, and both scrolling around and loading is generally fast and responsive, though we did find it slow to pick up on link selection at times and without a built-in accelerometer, full screen “landscape” mode must be enabled manually.
Audio quality through a decent set of headphones is pretty good, though not up to scratch with Sony, Apple or Nokia’s own XpressMusic range. There are a fairly limited set of features for customising audio, with a simple equaliser that offers two custom modes the only adjustments available. The display is crisp and clear for video and photo viewing, again without pushing any boundaries, and while perfectly capable on the whole, the phone’s media capabilities are best summarised along with the media apps provided - basic, but capable.
The camera and video recorder fair slightly better, and we were impressed by both the responsiveness of the display when used as a viewfinder and the end result - with photos crisp and sharp displaying accurate colours and an impressive amount of detail. Though the video recorder doesn’t perform too well if the camera is swung about too quickly, it is also capable of decent enough performance when handled with care, though a maximum 640 x 480 resolution and 15fps frame rate does restrict it somewhat to more casual use.
Overall we loved the design and feel of the C3-01, and were impressed enough by the combination of a touchscreen and large, responsive controls when it comes to offering the most efficient type of interface for different uses. At around £150 (SIM-free), £99 on PAYG or free on contract, the fact that the handset is quite reasonably priced goes some way to justifying the rather basic operation in some areas, and with good connectivity and a range of useful features this could certainly be a hit for those who want to tiptoe into the touchscreen market without giving up on tactile controls.
Though the C3-01 is a little underwhelming as an overall package, there’s enough within its armoury to recommend it at the price, and GPS aside it still ticks most boxes when it comes to modern features. This is a superbly stylish, solidly built and responsive phone that would certainly provide the less demanding user with everything they need on the move.