Nokia C5-03 budget touchscreen smartphone
Pocket friendly in more ways than one
Review With touchscreen smartphones all the rage, handsets with a decent spec and a 3in or larger screen are now filtering down to PAYG packages priced at around £100. For that sort of money you don't have a huge choice - the Orange San Francisco , Samsung Europa and Sony Ericsson X10 Mini  stand out as the few worth considering. The latest to join them is Nokia's C5-03.
Deal breaker? Nokia's C5-03
Of course that price brings with it some compromises. To begin with C5-03 uses S60 Release 5 or as it's now called Symbian^1 which is starting to look like Bronze Age technology in an Iron Age world. As an operating system and interface it's both limited and inflexible, even when compared to Symbian^3, which the Nokia C6 and C7  use, never mind Android.
The screen itself is also built down to a price. The resolution of 360 x 640 may be tolerable as is the corner-to-corner size of 3.2in, but it's resistive rather than capacitive and the LCD panel's visual performance is poor. The colours are not overly vivid, the image not particularly bright, viewing angles are restricted and performance in direct sunlight is wretched.
It's not all bad news though. The C5-03 is another example of the currently excellent build quality from Nokia, matched by a clean, smart design ethic, complete with multiple colour options. And at only 106 x 51 x 14mm in size and 93g in weight, it is very pocketable. In fact, leaving aside the microscopic X10 Mini, it’s arguably the lightest touchscreen phone around.
Externally the C5-03 features volume and on/off/lock keys on the right hand side along with micro USB and 3.5mm audio interfacing up top. The call and menu buttons below the screen have a solid feel to them that belies the price point and the plastic materials. The handset can be recharged from either USB or the 2mm mains adapter that plugs into the bottom of the handset.
Lacking flash and autofocus, the 5Mp snapper is a no frills affair
The C5-03 comes with all the basic smartphone bells and whistles including 802.11b/g Wi-Fi, 10.2Mbps HSDPA, A-GPS with Ovi Maps for free turn-by-turn navigation. Naturally, there’s Bluetooth, a 5Mp camera and an RDS FM radio. You also get free 2GB MicroSD card to complement the meagre 40MB of available built-in storage. One thing the handset is missing is a proximity sensor to bring the screen to life when you take it away from your ear. Once the screen has timed-out you need to revive it manually.
Powering the C5-03 is a 600MHz ARM 11 processor with 128MB of RAM. That may not sound like much but Symbian^1 doesn't need much CPU grunt and the result is an OS that positively zips along. The UI is pleasantly fluid too with no stalls, hiccoughs or hesitations. Fire up the picture gallery though and things do slow down with thumbnail previews of large image galleries taking a noticeably long time to load.
Inherent limitations aside, this latest version of S60 has had a few improvements applied to it. It now features smoother and more reliable kinetic scrolling and consistently uses a single-tap rather than a mixture of single and double to launch apps and open files.
The resistive panel isn't a complete deal-breaker either. Of course you won't mistake the C5 for an iPhone 4 or Nexus S but the touch-screen still reacts smartly to taps and the landscape virtual keyboard is a nice bit of design, so messaging and typing aren't a problem. Hold the phone in portrait though and you have to make do with a virtual numeric keypad.
The web browsing capabilities of the C5-03 leave something to be desired. While the standard browser supports Java and YouTube video, text doesn't re-flow, which means that zooming in can be a clunky and frustrating experience. Videos also take a long time to load. Using Opera Mini improves matters but this is still one area in which Symbian is lagging far, far behind Android, iOS and the rest of the band.
Charges from the 2mm socket and the micro USB interface
The installed social network apps compare poorly to what's available for the smartphone competition and though you can rummage around in the Ovi Store the selection of apps is nothing like as broad or interesting as it is in the Apps Store or Android Market.
The camera is a fixed-focus device with no LED, so you won't be using it close-up or at night, but in daylight – and at ranges beyond a metre – the results are more than acceptable and a a good deal better than anything you get from an Orange San Francisco's 3.2Mp snapper. Moreover, the C5's OS/CPU combination works wonders for the 1,000mAh battery. Even with regular use of the Wi-Fi and GPS radios it is perfectly possible to get the best part of three days between charges. Try doing that with an Android handset.
As budget smarties go, it has a decent share of plus points
As with most Nokia handsets, the often overlooked basics are very well covered. Call quality and signal reception were faultless and audio playback commendably rich and clear once some decent earphones were brought into play. While only a few might consider chucking it away as soon as they get one, another enticement is that Nokia claims 80 per cent of the phone is recyclable. Apparently, all of its packaging is made from recycled material, so you can make a call and hug a tree at the same time.
The Nokia C5-03 is all about value for money. At £130 pre-paid it's significantly cheaper than its, admittedly, significantly better C6 and C7 brothers, which will set you back around £200 and £300 respectively. However, for the price you get a reasonable camera, good wireless connectivity, all the smartphone functionality many people are ever likely to need, excellent call quality and good battery life. On the down side, despite improvements, Symbian^1 is now yesterday's technology and the screen is underwhelming. ®
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