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(Pocket-lint) - Nokia's XpressMusic phones take aim right at Sony Ericsson's Walkman handsets, giving an offering that puts music at the core of the phone and gives you nifty features like dedicated controls, which we find here, without having to dive into menus.

The Nokia 5220 XpressMusic handset follows the trend of what seems to be a growing segment for Nokia, offering a lightweight and compact music phone that doesn’t get too carried away in offering a host of features you might never use.

The 5220 gives the classic candybar design a twist, throwing out a daring edge at the bottom and refusing to give you a square line at any point. Perhaps that's the designer trying to be cool, perhaps it doesn’t matter: it's a good looking phone.

Measuring 108 x 43.5 x 10.5mm is it reasonably compact too, but being a candybar phone it is the screen that suffers, so you only get a 2-inch 240 x 320-pixel display, in a portrait orientation which is fairly common on Nokia handsets. Around the screen are a good few millimetres that it could have expanded into to eek out a little more size, which would have been welcomed.

So you have the 12-key keypad below the screen, with the normal call/hang-up, shortcut, and four-way controller buttons. The main menu is accessed through the central button on this four-way controller, and we were forever hitting one of the direction controls instead, but this is a minor issue around our clumsy finger action, rather than a design flaw.

It is fortunate then that the keypad is rather good. Although small, the 12 buttons are firm enough in their response so you get a good positive typing action. It isn't the fastest texting phone around, but you'll certainly have no problems.

Down the left-hand side of the phone you'll find the music controls - play/pause, forward and back; on the right-hand side you'll find the volume controls. The nice thing about this arrangement is that you can easily skip music whilst doing something else, like reading your messages, and with a bit of time you'll be skipping tracks in your pocket without having to get it out.

To support the funky music theme you also get those flashing lights. Oh yes, you need flashing lights. Down the side above the music control keys and on the back below the camera you'll get little coloured LEDs flashing - you can turn it off though.

To support the music offering you get a 3.5mm jack on the top of the handset with a bundled earbud-type headset thrown in. The hard earbuds leave a lot to be desired, but also include the mic for handsfree talking, and a single button control. To get the most from the music offering, you might want to consider using your own headphones or a Bluetooth 2.0 offering, as those supplied are not great.

The phone sounds pretty good however, with a nice balanced sound, a little flat for out liking, but certainly good enough for your average commute.

To get the music on to your phone you'll find a Micro-USB sitting on the top for hooking up to your PC, with Nokia's bundled PC Suite. You may prefer, however, to simply use the microSD card - Nokia say it will accept up to 2GB, but we shot that out of the water with a 16GB microSDHC - which slots in on the right-hand side. Throw in a card containing music files and the library will update itself, so it is really easy to navigate.

The phone runs the Symbian S40 platform, so will be familiar to Nokia users, and everything is exactly where you expect to see it. Music gets its own shortcut from the home screen, so you can dive straight into the player.

File support lets you play MP3, MP4, AAC, AAC+, and WMA, which will cater for most people from a music point of view, but we found it struggled with video - with a 2-inch screen you'd not really be able to see it anyway.

In terms of other hardware specs, this isn't a fast data phone, with only GSM/EDGE catered for, so lacks the fast downloading advantage that you'd get from a 3G handset and there is no Wi-Fi either; as a result the browsing experience isn't fantastic, although Opera Mini will make things a little better, but again with a screen this size it was never going to be great.

There is a 2MP camera in the back, also supporting video capture, which is now a little behind the crowd but works well enough. The onboard speakers are loud but tinny, the sort of thing you hate to hear coming from the back of the bus, but is a playground prerequisite.


Overall the Nokia XpressMusic 5220 is a satisfying music phone. It does all the things that Nokia have been doing for years.

This phone doesn't really step out of its music breeding though, it doesn't excite from a connectivity point of view, it doesn't really impress with the camera either. Neither is this the phone for you if social networking is high on your adgenda.

This isn't a 360 phone that gives you everything, but for some people, that's exactly what they want: a happy little music phone, that doesn't really do much else.

Writing by Chris Hall. Originally published on 12 May 2009.