I received a Nokia 5800 Xpress for a follow up review (my original review is here). I have been hearing rave reviews about the phone in recent weeks and I mentioned to Nokia’s General Manager for SA, Mathia Nalappan that I wouldn’t mind revisiting my initial review. Nokia’s PR/communications agency, Fleishman Hillard kindly send me a review unit for a second take and I decided to use the 5800 exclusively while I have it and see how it fits into my day to day activities and how it performs generally.
I thought I’d do something a little different for this post and I am going to basically live blog my experience with the phone so you can get a sense of either a) what you may experience picking up the 5800 and integrating it into your life, or b) what a crazy person such as myself gets up to with the 5800 under the guise of productivity. I am going to integrate a FriendFeed channel/post where I will post updates as I use the 5800 and where you can respond, reply or voice some of your thoughts in addition to commenting on this post as usual (entirely up to you). I’d like this to a more interactive experience so feel free to pitch in. I am open to trying new apps or new things with the phone too (within the bounds of reason, the law and my budget). I may post a couple more photos and videos in this post, below the FriendFeed stream so be sure to check back here.
To begin with I’ll give you an idea what kind of user I am. I use my phones to access the Web quite a lot. They are not replacements for Firefox or Safari but very useful on the go. I email, tweet and sms a lot, hence a big reason I opted for my Nokia E71 when I replaced my N73 last year. I take my phone everywhere and I have to force myself to put it down. Build quality has become important to me since I got my E71, as is speed and reliability.
With that intro aside, here I go …
One of the debates that almost inevitably come up when touchscreen devices are discussed is the debate about physical keyboards and onscreen keyboards. It does come down to personal choice but my view is that a combination of a physical and an onscreen keyboard is probably best. A device like an E71 or a Blackberry is great but you can’t match a full touchscreen with the small screen on a device like that.
At the same time there is still something about a physical keyboard that I prefer. I live blogged an event last night on FriendFeed using the 5800 and while my typing speed and accuracy is definitely improving, I couldn’t help but think how much faster I was on my E71. This is one of the reasons I am more excited about the N97 than I am about a future iPhone. They N97 has a physical keyboard (as well as the onscreen keyboard) and that will make full screen Web browsing, tweeting and blogging so much easier (for me at least). It could be that I just need more time with the touchscreen and I’ll see how that goes during the course of the next few days as I continue using the 5800.
Leaving aside typing, S60 5th Edition touch interface works really well. I am still figuring out what I need to double tap and what I can tap once but buttons do what they are supposed to do when I tap them and there is a little fade transition between screens in the home screen that adds a nice visual element to the navigation experience. I like the way the menu options are laid out in applications like the Web browser and when making calls. I keep looking for menu items in the menus and forget about the icon that opens an onscreen set of options using icons. This is when I begin to appreciate a touchscreen device even more. Navigation is that much easier although it still isn’t as smooth as the iPhone/iPod Touch.
You may ask why I keep referring back to the iPhone/iPod Touch. The reason is that I believe the iPhone UI is probably the gold standard at the moment for touchscreen UIs. As much as the iPhone’s hardware specifications disappoint, its software is well thought out, powerful and works brilliantly. At the same time hardware does make a big difference, to me at least. I wouldn’t compare the 5800 to the iPhone (there is really no real comparison, the iPhone is in a different class) but I can see myself comparing the N97 to the iPhone (when I get my hands on an N97 either to review or when I buy one) and saying that the iPhone’s UI is still superior in many ways but the N97’s superior hardware and pretty decent software make it a winner. Of course Apple may yet surprise me if/when it announces its next generation iPhone.
Back to the 5800. I still have the phone for another 2 weeks and I am glad I have been given this opportunity to use it as my day to day device. Looking back at my original review, my views about the build quality haven’t changed all that much but now that I am actually using the device, those issues are less important. If anything the 5800 is a little too small for me and my hands (another reason why the N97 hits a sweet spot for me) and, as I pointed out in my FriendFeed stream, the screen is a little too narrow for me to have a more satisfying browsing experience (it feels like I am missing some screen space).
Melissa Attree has been talking about her 5800 quite a bit and she seems to love it. She is a “marketing and communications professional” and has adopted her 5800 as her business and personal phone. Her comments about the phone got me curious about it again and sparked my desire to try the phone out again. I am glad she did because I am a lot more positive about the 5800 now than I was initially.
I haven’t used the 5800 in place of my iPod yet and I’ll make a point of doing that in the coming days. I have played around with the Nokia music player on and off and the speakers on the 5800 are terrific. I am going to try integrate the 5800 with my Mac using Nokia’s media transfer software which integrates with iTunes and use that bridge to load music and videos onto the 5800. The standard headphone jack means I can use my usual headphones (unlike my E71 which has a smaller, incompatible jack).
Bottom line for me is that I can recommend this phone. If you want a more serious business or messaging device this might not be the phone for you but it is worth taking a look at it before you make your decision. I’ll be happy to return to my E71 when I am finished with the 5800 but I will miss the touchscreen enough to feel there is something missing in my mobile experience. I’ll post more thoughts and impressions to the FriendFeed stream and it looks like those posts are being mirrored in the comments to this post (apologies for the duplication).