Nokia 700 review
If you ever needed evidence that the mighty can fall, then take a look at Nokia. A firm that was unstoppable until the iPhone was launched, it has since faltered and stumbled at every step. Or so it seems to some commentators. Perhaps the firm ignored the Sony Walkman lesson of "you can be big one year, and insignificant the next" but it certainly fell victim of it.
Symbian, the firm's pride and joy for many years - the N95 was a magnificent phone - was never really able to keep up with the iPhone and Android handsets. Nokia floundered with resistive touchscreens when everyone else knew capacitive was the only way. But these mistakes are, thankfully, in the past. And with the Nokia 7000 we have one of the very few remaining handsets with Symbian 3 installed, and probably one of the last ever made.
We don't think there's much arguing that Nokia has improved its hardware design every year. The 700 is a lovely device. It's small and thin, clearly aimed at those who want to chuck their phone in a pocket or bag and forget about it until they want to make a phonecall, or send a text message.
The build quality is every bit as impressive as any of Nokia's Lumia phones. The solid feeling of quality here means that you won't want to put it down. It feels so lovely in the hand, the weight is right, and the size, while small, seems to work for the phone.
On the top of the handset, you'll find a mini USB socket and heaphone jack. Along the right-hand side, there are silver buttons for volume, unlock and the camera. These are all pretty small, and our man-hands found them a struggle to operate properly.
On the front, you'll see a trademark Nokia green phone, red phone and a back button, which takes you to the home screen. The green button brings up the call list, while the red backs you out, allows you to select a profile, or turn the phone off. We miss this simple clarity in modern phones. Another nice feature the iPhone destroyed!
One thing we note, is that the Nokia 700 comes with NFC. This is an interesting decision on a phone that feels like it's aimed at low-end users. People who aren't too interested in the high-tech. The benefits of NFC won't be known for a while, in theory it would enable you to share contacts with friends, pay for a paper and chocolate bar at your local shop or travel on the Tube. The reality is, none of that really works.
What's in an operating system?
Make no mistake, Symbian is a very good OS. It may not have been well suited to touchscreen handsets, but when things were driven by keyboards, it was more than adequate. And don't forget, there is pretty much nothing that the iPhone can do that you couldn't also do with a good Symbian phone. The N95, for example, was far more advanced than the first generation iPhone which followed it. But advanced doesn't sell phones, easy-to-use does. And while Symbian has improved, it's still often clunky.
Menus, for example, have always been weak on the OS, and there's still problems, even in this generation. It might have once made sense to put the ringtones in something called "profiles", but it doesn't really any more. And as much was we love the idea of profiles, one for work, one for home, it just doesn't reflect the way most people use phones any more. Most people just want to set their ringtone, and use it for all occasions. The only profile most people use, outside the normal one, is "silent".
In the settings menu too, "apps" are referred to as "installations". Sorry, what? That makes no sense at all. We could go on about things like this for a while, but we won't. Let's just say, the Symbian menu terminoligy and layout is a bit of a dog's dinner, and move on.
And in some ways, the OS doesn't matter much to the target audience. Remember, this phone is aimed at low-use people, rather than power users.
That said though, there's lots here for people who want a capable smartphone. For example, there is good, email support. Adding Gmail is no longer a slog, or an activity that needs it's own app. You just add it via your email shortcut. There's lots of presets too, so most big email providers are covered. You can add Nokia Mail, Hotmail, Yahoo! and Exchange ActiveSync. We were using an Orange SIM too, and the phone gave us settings for Orange email - neat, and not something the iPhone does.
Praise be, a capacitive touchscreen
The 700's screen is beautiful. Very bright, and incredibly vivid. That's thanks to the 3.2-inch AMOLED display, which offers 229ppi and a resolution of 360x640. The touch aspect of it is a little more problematic though. While it mostly works well, and is very sensitive, we found sometimes it wasn't good at recognising that we were trying to scroll, which resulted in a lot of accidentally opened apps. It's not a showstopper, but it will take some getting used to.
We also did find that the screen was a little on the small side. Typing though, was mostly fine, despite its size, we never struggled to much to get the right letters - certainly no more than we do, even with bigger screens.
Despite a 5-megapixel sensor, we were not that impressed with the photographs that it produced. There's no auto-focus here, although the camera uses some clever electronic trickery to make sure photos do look well-focused. But whatever it does, it didn't impress us, producing lacklustre photos that were almost always too soft, unless you were outside in very bright sunlight.
Video is supported, and the camera can record at up to 720p. Certainly, this is good enough for YouTube, and we can't see owners of this phone directing movies on it, so no major complaints here either.
The apps situation on Symbian isn't brilliant, but there's still enough to keep casual users pretty happy. We use TweetS60 for our Twitter client, but there's no proper Facebook app in the Nokia app store. There is, however, an app that you can download from facebook.com. And this is something that will be foreign to Apple users, and slightly odd to Android owners. In fact, Nokia apps were always available outside an app store, because when the N95 ruled the sea, there was no centralised location for them.
And if that sounds confusing, don't worry - in practice it's simple. It probably won't come up all that often, but quite why Nokia doesn't include a Twitter and Facebook client is entirely beyond us.
Pre-installed comes an iPlayer, which isn't an app, but a link to the BBC site. It's the most pointless load of nonsense we've ever seen. A Virgin Media app lets subscribers access TV and such, it's a proper app too. Which is nice. There's also a program that lets you watch Paramount trailers. It is almost as pointless as the iPlayer, but at least it's actually an app, not a weblink.
As with all modern phones, the 700 has a decent music player. There's a coverflow-style interface which allows you to flick through the cover art for your albums. It works really well, and it's one of the fastest and most impressive we've seen.
Music playback is good too, it's nice and flat, which means good headphones will sound very clear and detailed. The only slight problem is that the EQ settings are quite poor, there's not a massive amount of difference between them, and the "bass boost" setting just muffles everything.
Still, flat sound allows you to customise what you're hearing with the headphones you use. If you want more bass, grab some of Dr Dre's ludicrous "Beats" headphones, and prepare to upset your eardrum.
The 700 has a microSD slot too, which means you can add up to 32GB of music and photo storage to your phone. That's pretty cool, especially in a phone that's so tiny. Can someone remind us again why this isn't possible in the massive Samsung Galaxy Nexus?
A lovely little phone
Mrs Pocket-lint has been living with an HTC Wildfire S for a while now. To be honest, we don't think she really likes it. She has her email set up on it, but no data on her mobile contract, so she can only pick it up when on our home wireless. It is her that this phone is aimed at. And indeed, when she saw it she said: "Ooh, can I have it, I like the look of that."
And that's that, as you might say. There is a market for this device, it's a large one too with probably millions of people who want a phone that does email, but doesn't have all the messing about of Android. And while we moan about Symibian being complicated, it's actually never really essential for a novice to ever enter the settings menu. The phone will work out of the box, without you configuring a single thing. You can't say that about Android, which requires 20 steps be undertaken before you can even use the phone.
The Nokia 700 might not suit advanced users, but it's beautifully built, simple to use and it makes and receives phone calls with aplomb.
The 700 isn't perfect, but it's a reasonably likable phone. If you're app mad, then you'll want to avoid it. If you're looking for a good, solid phone, then it's probably idea.
The screen is small though, so bear this in mind if you're a bit fat of finger. It is bright and detailed though, so there's little to worry about when it comes to interacting with the phone. The battery life is superb too, which will be important for the target audience, and the music player is a nice touch too.
If nothing else, the 700 proves that Nokia is still a great brand, producing great hardware. Symbian is much improved these days, but it's still a little clunky, and the app situation is still something of a mess.