In recent years, Nokia has been forced into playing catch-up with companies like Apple and Google. Hardware has been at par, if not better, but on the software front, Nokia phones haven’t exactly been able to stand up to the competition. The Finnish company has recently introduced the new Nokia 701, running the latest Symbian Belle OS. Does this phone give Nokia the edge against its competitors? Read on to find out. 

The Nokia 701

Stylish looks

Design and Build Quality

The 701 has a silver metal body with a black finish on the front, and it weighs 131 grams, which is quite light. Nokia has retained the rounded edges, which has been a trademark in most of their phones. The metal used in the phone definitely adds to its charm, and the 701 looks quite impressive in its overall design. The power button, a 3.5mm headphone jack and a microUSB slot are located at the top of the phone. The left side doesn’t have any ports, except for the charger jack. The right consists of the volume rocker buttons with the voice command key placed in between them. There’s also the lock slider and the camera button. The bottom consists of the lanyard eyelet for those with butter fingers, while the back consists of the camera with dual LED flash and 8 megapixel sensor. In terms of overall design and build quality, the 701 exudes class.

The metal back exudes class

The metal back exudes class

Features

Interface

Most people have been under the impression that Nokia hasn’t really met the standards set by Android and Apple, but with the new Symbian Belle operating system, Nokia definitely proves a point to the naysayers. The phone runs on a 1 GHz processor and it clearly shows when you’re navigating through the interface. It’s fast, quick and very responsive. Users can add up to six home screens and there’s a loop so you can get back to the first one once you reach the end. There’s a quick search option in the menu itself, which is a handy feature for those who’ve loaded a whole lot of applications and games. As far as closing apps is concerned, there are two options – pressing the ‘Menu’ button will keep the app running in the background, while pressing the ‘End’ button will terminate it. That’s definitely much better than having pressed the ‘End’ button and realizing later that the application is still running and draining your battery; an annoyance that Android users are all too familiar with.

The home screen supports auto rotation

The home screen supports auto rotation

In contrast to Android, Belle supports auto rotation on the home screen as well, although it looks best in portrait mode. Nonetheless, it’s good to see Nokia giving users options based on their personal tastes. There’s detailed customization for apps, shortcuts and widgets; arranging, deleting or moving them to a folder simply requires a long press to bring up the options. Also, they’ve added the Android-like pull-down notification bar that has quick toggle options for mobile data, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi and silent mode. Sadly, notifications for third party applications don’t show up in the notification bar; they only come up on the home screen. There’s no quick toggle button to adjust the brightness. However, these are just minor issues and the interface is extremely intuitive and responsive. Nokia might have borrowed a few ideas for the interface from Google, but most of the navigation, customizations and interface is Nokia’s own, so they deserve credit for it.

The user interface

The media, notification interface and multitasking

Media 

The music player is pretty basic, with standard options and home widgets for easy access. The album art occupies a big chunk of the screen and the shuffle, repeat and back options are located at the bottom of the screen. It does take time to populate the songs if you’ve restarted the phone, but that’s just a minor issue. More often than not, manufacturers bundle extremely poor headphones that don’t do justice to their devices’ audio prowess, but thankfully, Nokia has realized that. The bundled earphones are pretty impressive and produce good sound, with the right amounts of thump and treble. The loudspeaker is pretty loud as well. 

The phone supports MP4, H.263 and H.264 video formats and MP3, WAV, еAAC+ and WMA audio formats. There’s no support for 1080p video playback via the stock media player and we couldn’t find any third party app for that either. Videos look good on the 3.5-inch screen and colors are vivid and bright. There’s FM radio and FM transmitter options as well, so all media options are pretty much covered. 

Side views of the phone

Side views of the phone

Connectivity

The 701 is a quad-band GSM phone and connectivity options include Wi-Fi b/g/n and 3G with HSDPA at 14.4 Mbps and HSUPA at 5.76 Mbps. There’s Bluetooth 3.0 and USB on-the-go as well. The FM transmitter app is a nice feature to have. No more searching for connecting cables to play music in your car stereo. The Web browser is pretty good and allows tabbed browsing as well. There’s an option to find specific words as well via the settings sub menu. 

Lastly, Nokia has bundled in NFC technology, but it’s still in the nascent stages so we’ll have to wait till NFC actually hits the road and is more beneficial than just activating extra stages on Angry Birds, or simply transferring data. Even right now though, the technology shows a lot of potential. If you have an NFC-enabled speaker or headset, all you need to do is touch the device to the phone and you’re connected. It’s simple, fast and uncomplicated as compared to connections using Bluetooth. The 701’s connectivity options are impressive, and the only thing the device lacks is HDMI-out. 

Connectivity and misc. features

Connectivity and misc. features

Misc. Features

The most impressive feature of the 701 is that it’s bundled with the Vlingo application. Yes, it’s available on other platforms as well, but having a voice activated assistant pre-installed on your phone is definitely impressive. The stock voice-activated button on the right helps you get to the menus and sub menus and the Vlingo app lets you do the calling, texting and searching bit. There’s Shazam as well for your music listening needs. Nokia has pre-installed Quickoffice, but we had to purchase an activation code to edit documents, so that’s pointless. A separate social app gives you Facebook and Twitter integration on your phone. There’s a YouTube app bundled in as well, but it’s basically a shortcut to the mobile version of YouTube on the Web. The other helpful apps include a dictionary, notes, recorder app, video and photo editor, message reader, a mobile ZIP file maker, and a file manager. Movie teasers, a dedicated Nat Geo app and CNN Videos have been bundled in as well. 

Another aspect worth mentioning is that Nokia has given an in-depth user guide on how to get used to the phone, and that’s pretty neat as the OS is still relatively new. 

Camera functions

Camera functions

Camera

The 701 comes with an 8 megapixel fixed focus camera. Yes, you read that correctly – fixed focus. That’s a big downer and hence close up shots of images aren’t impressive at all. There’s a dual LED flash for your night shots, and it works pretty well. Images don’t appear too bright or washed out and if you properly tweak the settings, you’ll come up with an impressive snap even with a dark background. Camera settings are pretty standard and the most notable feature is multiple face detection. The camera seamlessly recognizes multiple faces and it can be seen from the image we clicked. There is a virtual as well as a physical button for clicking snaps, so both user preferences are taken care of. Images in the outdoors pick up a good amount of detail. Results are bright and there’s good color retention too. 

Multiple face recognition

Multiple face recognition

Video shooting is possible at 720p and 30 fps. There’s stereo recording as well with a dedicated noise cancellation microphone. Zooming into subjects is a little rough, but there’s image stabilisation for videos and it works pretty well. The sensor captures details quite well and HD video recording quality is comparable to that of the Xperia Ray we reviewed. Overall, that’s impressive performance for a fixed focus 8 megapixel camera.  

A look at the image settings

A look at the image settings

Battery Life

The phone comes with a 1300 mAh battery and we were worried that battery life would be the weak link for the 701. Our doubts were proven wrong as the phone managed to complete one full loop of our battery test, which included two and a half hours of video, two hours of audio, two hours of music streaming via EDGE, and one and a half hour of talk time. That’s comparable to the Evo 3D, which comes with a 1730mAh battery.

We put the 701 through some heavy real-world usage as well, including multitasking, with Wi-Fi and mobile data settings switched on, and a few applications (Web, mail, music player, gallery and two games) running in the background. The battery lasted a full day with brightness settings maxed out. So it’s fair to say that, as far as power and battery management is concerned, Nokia has pretty much nailed it.  

Gallery

Nokia's answer to Android phones?

Verdict

The Nokia 701 is moderately priced at Rs 16,700. If you’re not too fond of the Android experience and find Apple products way too expensive, the Symbian Belle OS is definitely a good alternative. It has a few extremely minor issues here and there as mentioned in the review above, but it’s absolutely at par with the other smartphones out in the market. The only noticeable problem for Symbian right now is the app store; it’s dwarfed in comparison to the Android and Apple markets.

As far as the hardware is concerned, the camera lacking autofocus may be a problem for some, but besides that, it’s just fine. For those obsessed with specs, there’s NFC, Bluetooth 3.0, voice activated commands (now that Siri has got everyone excited), an FM transmitter and 8 GB of internal storage. The phone is powerful and at the same time zippy and fun to use. So, if you’re looking for a slightly different experience than what Android and iOS offers, the Nokia 701 is definitely worth a buy.

Publish date: October 19, 2011 1:51 pm| Modified date: December 18, 2013 8:45 pm

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