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Nokia's first taste of touch

First INQpressions Nokia 5800 XpressMusic
Thu Jan 22 2009, 18:51

Product: Nokia 5800
Supplier: Nokia
Web: Price: Free on contract or £249 (inc VAT) unlocked
Tech Specs: here
Talktime: GSM 8.8 hours / 3G 5 hours
Music playback time: 35 hours
Standby time: GSM 16.8 days / 3G 16.6 days
Type:GSM/EDGE 850/900/1800/1900 MHz plus 3G/W-CDMA 900/2100 MHz
Memory: 81 MB internal/ 8GB microSD card

TALK ABOUT radical transformations. Nokia's first ever touchscreen handset, the 5800, shows the approach the market leader is taking towards far more unconventional GUIs. It's very flexible but is this entirely necessary?

To illustrate the point, for example, take the number of methods a 5800's owner can select simply to input data into the handset.


There's fingertip touch, stylus touch, and even plectrum touch which Nokia claims is an exclusive. Not sure why it's exclusive but the plectrum does work well.

In the box, as well as the plectrum, Nokia supplies a tiny little stylus pen which is essential should you be rash enough to want to utilise the 5800's mini Qwerty keyboard option. Nobody has fingers small enough for the mini keyboard.

It's not entirely necessary to swap over to the full screen Qwerty keyboard, either. There's the ability to put a 'soft' keypad onscreen so you can even employ standard multi-tap to create text messages should you so choose.

There's yet another user input method - namely handwriting recognition. This INQ hack had bothered to learn Palm's Graffiti handwriting recognition system so getting the Nokia to recognise letters was a doddle.

One of the drawbacks to any touchscreen is, of course, a lack of awareness as to whether a command has or has not been accepted. To get around this the 5800 offers a tactile feedback facility which Nokia calls 'buzztouch'.

Every time you touch the 5800's impressive 3.2 inch screen, the device actively shakes so that you know something is supposed to happen. This is important since the INQ felt the 5800 is somewhat underpowered in the processing stakes and could be slow to respond.

If you chose the wrong input method, you can find yourself consciously waiting for the handset to respond. Not a good idea when you wish to make an urgent phone call.

A crucial point with the 5800 is that it multitasks just like any other Symbian device. You have to learn how to use the central (menu) button or the menus to switch tasks but it soon becomes second nagture.

The first thing that hits you when starting up the 5800, however, is what Nokia is calling the 'homescreen'. The idea here is that you set up your four closest friends/family members as four icons on the handset's 'home' screen.

The home screen is quite good because it provides 'one tap' access to the standard tasks you might want to perform with your best mates - such as calling or texting them. Plus there's a little activity log as well.

The idea is, perhaps, way ahead of its time because other options are to set up access to your mates RSS/blog feeds. Far too radical for today's environment.

Consequently, the reviewer that tried the 5800 before the INQ had turned the homescreen right off and reverted to having favourite applications as icons on the home screen. The INQ would have followed suit if this was a long-term loan.

It's easy to forget that the 5800's main purpose is to act as a musicphone. A task which it definitely performs well.

Instead of Nokia's long-standing PC Suite, with the 5800 you also get the Nokia Ovi Suite. This is supposed to make it easy to transfer content from a PC to the handset. The INQ tried this with a video file and the data simply disappeared. Not good.

The 5800 is chock full of all the facilities you'd expect from a standard smartphone. That's not just support for email but Wi-fi and A-GPS support too. Not forgetting it has a 3.2 megapixel camera complete with a Carl Zeiss lens.

The A-GPS (Assisted GPS) works really well and performed well when used as a satnav device in a car. It's easy to download traffic information, too.

The 5800 will inevitably be compared to the Iphone. So the 5800 doesn't have the double-pinch facility for manipulating video playback. So what?

The 5800 is basically a neat smartphone which manages to retain much of the old Nokia 'feel' despite being a touchscreen device.

If the 5800 is really the 'future' for Nokia handsets, then the INQ isn't entirely sure it's necessarily 'better'. Just different and traditionalists can afford to simply ignore it. Trendsetters might want to wait a bit until Nokia refines the 'touchscreen' approach, too. µ

The Good
Plenty of choice with data input methods

The Bad
Homescreen is ahead of its time and unnecessary

The Ugly
Seems slightly underpowered for slick touch operations

Bartender's Verdict




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