As former Channel 4 controller Michael Jackson probably gets sick of saying, the name may be familiar, but the similarities end there. Nokia released a C6 smart phone earlier this year, but this version, distinguished only by that 01 suffix, is actually very different.
It’s smaller and lighter, mainly due to fact that it doesn’t have the original’s slide-out QWERTY keyboard, but it also has a better camera, more memory, and the latest Symbian 3 operating system.
Measuring 104 x 53 x 14mm and 131g it’s a chunky little handful – not particularly long or wide but deep and on the heavy side. Otherwise it’s a standard-looking Nokia smartphone with the 3.2-inch touchscreen surrounded by a metal frame with a curved aluminium back cover. Beneath the screen are touch sensitive call start and stop buttons flanking a large, raised home/menu button. On the sides are a screen lock switch, volume buttons and camera shutter, with USB syncing port, 3.5mm headphone jack and Nokia charging plug on the bottom. On the back is a large speaker, 8-megapixel camera lens and dual LED flash.
The 3.2-inch AMOLED touchscreen looks, frankly, gorgeous, especially when viewing video, and does a good job of showing itself off even in bright light. Incidentally, it offers exactly the same pixel resolution that you’ll find on the 3.5-inch screen on Nokia’s C7 – but here it looks just a smidgeon sharper. It’s capacitive and multi-touch too, though it’s not quite as sensitive as, say, the iPhone or some of HTC’s recent models, requiring a few too many double presses than we’d like.
Email accounts are easy to set-up, though the onscreen keyboard is a little cramped for comfort, even in landscape QWERTY mode. There’s a nod to social networking convergence with an app that lumps Facebook and Twitter together – though unlike HTC’s FriendStream or Sony Ericsson’s TimeScape, it won’t display all your updates as a single flowing stream.
Additional apps are available from Nokia’s Ovi Store which is growing slowly but steadily, though it’s still far behind its Apple and Android rivals.
The Nokia C6-01 runs on the new Symbian 3 operating system and while it’s definitely an improvement over its predecessor, it’s nothing like the ground-up reinvention that is currently saving Windows “mobile”. That annoying business of single tapping some list items and double tapping others seems to be gone, but you still need to switch between icon pages and lists, and when you’ve dug down through various levels of icons, it’s easy to get confused about where you are.
The three home pages are laid out in a grid system and can be populated with all sorts of shortcuts and widgets. It’s not as clear-cut as Windows Phone 7 or iOS, nor is it as pretty as Android can be, but it’s functional and effective once you get used to it.
The Symbian browser now supports Flash but the look hasn’t been improved in this version, and while pinch-to-zoom capability helps you to get around, the menus and text input functions are ugly and intrusive, which really just takes the fun out of it.
The 8-megapixel camera is minus the Carl Zeiss lens that’s become familiar on Nokia’s higher end snappers but it’s not a bad effort all the same. It takes about 3 seconds to launch and features include face detection, 2x digital zoom, a variety of scene modes (though no macro) and options to tweak exposure, light sensitivity, white balance, contrast and sharpness. Picture quality is generally fairly good, with decent colour balance and reasonable sharpness. 11Video recording is in standard VGA resolution (it lacks the C7’s 720p HD video) and the quality level drops accordingly.
It comes with a 2GB microSD memory card and you can bump that up to 32GB, though you’ll need to remove the battery to get to it – so no hot-swapping. Battery life held up fairly well, giving us 2 days of prolonged use.
Carphone Warehouse is offering the Nokia C6-01 for £300 on PAYG or free with contract from £15 a month. You can also find it SIM-free from about £260.
Nokia seems to have settled into a bit of rut, producing decent, dependable, workmanlike handsets which get their various jobs done, but with little flair or fun. The heart of the problem seems to be the Symbian OS, which despite its recent update to 3 status is still clunky and awkward, and several steps behind its rivals. Still, if you’re already a Symbian user, the C6-01 delivers a decent camera and robust build, even if its browsing and social networking skills aren’t up there with the best.