The new age of Nokia with its updated OS Symbian ^3 was supposed to bring about a change in our perception of one of the top mobile phone makes in the business. Sadly, after testing the Nokia N8, I’m not sure just cosmetic changes and funky designs are going to do it. The C7, like the N8 comes with plenty of functionality and features, but the 20K question really is, does it compete well enough with the others in its range? Here’s a closer look.

Form Factor
It’s really hard not dislike the Nokia C7 after holding it in your hand. The chrome and silver/gray finish gives it a cool yet classy look. The fact that it’s one of Nokia’s slimmest handset yet (10.5mm in depth) makes it a little more appealing. It weighs in at 130 grams which might seem a bit heavy but the weight gives it a very balanced feel. It feels solid in the anodized and plastic shell just like the N8. The 3.5-inch AMOLED display, although it doesn't feature Nokia’s Clear Black Technology, still manages to make viewing very clear even in bright sunlight and the overall depth of colors really stand out.

Nokia's slimmest phone yet

Nokia's slimmest phone yet

One of the silliest things about the design that really ticked me off was that it has a hot swap SIM card slot but requires you to remove the battery if you need to access the microSD card. Even if it comes with 8GB of internal space, a hot swap memory card slot is always an asset. What I liked is that all the controls are on one side of the slim handset, starting with the Volume keys and a quick access voice command key (like the BlackBerry’s) in between them, a slider for locking the screen followed by a camera button. The Micro USB (2.0) port, 3.5mm handsfree/TV Out socket and power button are located on the top. The secondary VGA video calling camera and light sensor are placed just above the display right next to the earpiece.

Another handy feature that the C7 comes equipped with is active noise cancellation. Two separate microphones divide the audio and cancel out ambient sounds and provided for clear conversations even in some pretty noisy locales.

Features and Performance
Interface

What can I say here that I haven’t already in my N8 review, but to recap, the New Symbian ^3, doesn’t bring too much to the table. The ARM 11 680 MHz processor coupled with a 3D Graphics HW accelerator would have been enough to entice even the most hardcore mobile user, but alas, the OS is still not as versatile as Android or iOS. It lacks simplicity in certain areas like messaging. The threading view is lame, to say the least. Full messages can’t be viewed in the threads. To send a message you’re required to open up a whole new screen with no option for a QWERTY keypad in portrait, nullifying the use of the conveniently large display. Incidentally, installing Swype of Symbian only offers the mode in landscape QWERTY. It’s redundant as the full QWERTY keypad is well designed and easy to use with both hands. Using Swype in this mode also requires the use of two hands.

The large AMOLED display makes viewing a real pleasure

The large AMOLED display makes viewing a real pleasure

Simply having multiple desktops that allow you to customize them only a very specific way with 5-6 panels is just not good enough. The inner menus are the same as older Symbian versions, nothing new here. A few alterations to the UI like tapping the top corner to access connectivity options are handy but it’s just a small tweak. The accelerometer is quite smooth and Haptics can be adjusted or shut off depending on your level of comfort. MultiTouch was also very fluid. On the whole the UI is extremely responsive.

Like the N8 the C7 also has a Task Manager app for accessing apps running in the background. There’s no way to ‘quit all apps’ so you can choose which ones you want to shut down. Multi-tasking was also quite a seamless chore. I received a message asking me to update the firmware and after doing so, brought upon myself a rather painful transition into phone handling. Immediately after installing the update, the handset refused to let me change or edit profiles and kept hanging quite frequently during calls while using apps etc. It would then proceed to just shut down and I had to manually restart it. That was quite absurd.

After I tried restoring the handset

After I tried restoring the handset

Media
Like the N8, Nokia has finally decided it’s time to ‘up’ the media functionality of their devices and subsequently in the excitement of doing so left a couple of things out from the mix. The Symbian ^3 music player apparently doesn’t accommodate for manually creating or adjusting EQ presets. That left a bad taste in my mouth. 5 presets, Loudness and Stereo Widening settings are all you have to work with. Oddly, there was a significant boost in the decibel level as compared to the N8 that happened to have on hand. Music quality is actually quite up there with the best though. The UI, like most of the new handset is going the ‘cover flow way and does make accessing your files a little funkier.

No color option is a bad color option

No color option is a bad color option

Another addition to the media basket is DivX and XviD codec support which means saying goodbye to video conversion. Just drag and drop your videos onto the ample memory and you’re good to go. 720p .AVI files look really good on the large display and makes watching full length movies, YouTube clips or recorded videos really comfortable on the eyes. Access to NatGeo, E!, CNN Videos and Paramount Movie trailers come with preloaded apps, most of which only bring up content that I was unable to actually view. A variety of errors kept popping up since the services aren’t yet up and running it seems, so they’re a bit redundant as well, for now.

An image editor for photos is built-in. An FM transmitter is also available for streaming audio to a compatible device. The FM radio worked without a hitch and managed to bag signals quite well throughout my city travels.
Connectivity
In terms of the connectivity the C7 has everything you’d expect from a smartphone in this price range – Wi-Fi, 3G (HSDPA, HSUPA), EDGE, Bluetooth v3.0 with A2DP, USB, FM transmitter and Nokia’s latest edition USB-on-the-go. The native browser could still use some improvement so I went with Opera Mobile off the Ovi store that worked extremely well as an alternative. Thanks to Nokia’s email service, setting up accounts is quite a simple task. Support for Microsoft Exchange and ActiveSync is available.

For some reason I was unable to use the Social Network application with the C7. No matter what network I was on – Wi-Fi or EDGE, I kept getting a ‘Network is not available. Please try again’. Needless to say that was a bust! The stand alone apps for social networking were better options. Since the built-in Nokia app was on the fritz I was unable to integrate my contacts (a painstaking process anyhow) to their respective networking Ids.

Ovi Maps 3.0 for GPS with A-GPS support is preloaded and although it took quite a while to locate satellites almost every single time I tried to use it, there’s nothing wrong with the application itself leading me to believe it’s just one more issue with the handset.

Misc. Features
Other than the regulars like the Calendar, alarm clock, calculator and Nokia’s Zip file reader, Adobe’s PDF reader and notes etc. There’s very little more that bears mention. The QuickOffice version included is a read only so you’ll have to pay a little to get the option of editing or creating new documents. Text to speech is not new to Nokia’s arsenal of features and so is the dictionary. Nokia has also thrown in F-Secure that brings Remote Locking, Wiping and location functionality to the security features and Psiloc’s World Traveler that’s a great aid for those who travel extensively.

Camera
The C7 comes equipped with an 8 megapixel camera strapped on and dual LEDs for the flash. The settings are identical to the N8’s including 720p video recording (@25fps) with video stabilization. The only extra feature that the C7 has if compared to even Nokia’s now benched 5800 XpressMusic is Face detection.

Without autofocus, images, although reasonably clear, tend to be out of focus in certain portions. There’s an unnecessary amount of sharpness that’s part of the auto setting which makes images appear a little too tweaked and the artifacts stand out a bit more than they need to. Lower the sharpness and you shouldn’t have too much of an issue.

Close ups just don’t work out too well without autofocus. It's hard to get a bead on what you really wish to focus on.

Close ups just don’t work out too well without autofocus. It's hard to get a bead on what you really wish to focus on.

So on the whole the C7’s camera, although decent, loses its charm simply due to the lack of autofocus.

So on the whole the C7’s camera, although decent, loses its charm simply due to the lack of autofocus.

Battery
The 1200mAh battery presents a decent amount of usage. With a full charge it’ll easily run for over two days with nominal usage. This would include calls, messages, emails, music and web access. Stand alone talk time averaged in the 5-6 hours range which is not bad at all.

Plenty of good stuff with the C7, if it didn't keep hanging so often after the update

Plenty of good stuff with the C7, if it didn't keep hanging so often after the update

The Bottom Line
There’s no argument that the C7 is a pretty well designed handset and comes with loads of functionality, however, there are a few hic-ups with the device that really turned me off. Firstly the update I installed pretty much disallowed using the handset for too long before it hung and shut down, then the Social Networking application refused to work and all the video streaming apps showed me plenty of content non of which I was allowed to view. Let’s also not forget that the 8 megapixel camera isn’t even autofocus which is definitely a bummer. So, with a price tag of Rs. 19,600 (MOP), this C7 comes off as a handset to very seriously consider before purchase. Don’t judge this book by its cover.

If there are any Nokia C7 users out there facing similar issues, I urge you to send in your feedback via our comments section. We’d like to know if this is a generic issue with users or a fluke. I would normally attribute some of the issues to the handset being an untested prototype, however, in this case I was given a brand new device for testing that came sealed so the issues pose a rather strong concern. Do let me know readers, what's your experience.

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