A few years ago we used to point and snigger at pitiful mortals with their ineffectual non-Nokia handsets as we gleefully showed off our 9300s and N95s. But since then we've sat, bewildered as Nokia sticks rigidly to using an outdated Symbian user interface and the smartphone industry changes almost beyond recognition. Now there’s a Symbian V3-shaped shaft of light in the darkness so can the new version of the Symbian operating system return our once proud Finnish friends to the glory days of yore?
The candybar C7 shares the same user interface as the recent N8, so if you’ve read our Nokia N8 review, you’ll already have an idea of what we think of Nokia’s latest UI. Basically, the long and short of it is that things haven’t changed too drastically. On the plus side, this means that the Nokia faithful don’t have to completely relearn everything if they decide to upgrade to a C7. On the downside, it could be argued that the improvements to the software don’t go far enough.
Nokia C7 review: Interface
Symbian V3 provides a triptych of home screens, each of which can be customised with widgets – mini applications, RSS feeds and shortcut icons to useful apps. Compared with Android or iOS, however, customisation feels somewhat restricted. You can only add certain types of widget to certain pre-designated areas, for example, and it’s easy for your home screens to start looking like a bit of a jumble.
A version of multi-tasking and application switching is available and it’s relatively easy to get to the previous app you were using. However, a combination of little things, such as dodgy menu systems, old-school fonts and slow response times to certain touch commands makes the system look and feel drastically behind the times.
The new browser promises pinch zooming and Flash playback and it delivers on both fronts. We found the browser quite sluggish compared to those on other current handsets and OSs, though. Web pages don’t format themselves particularly well, either. And, with a Flash video running on-screen, touch controls seem to lose even more responsiveness. Don’t get us wrong; browsing on the C7 isn’t broken or anything. It’s just not as elegant as it could be.
Nokia C7 review: The handset
As for the device itself, the C7 is a lot shinier and curvier than the N8. There are a few different coloured versions available but the silver one we tested kind of looks like the bastard love child of an Apple iPhone 3Gs and a Blackberry Torch 9800 (without the slidey-outey keyboard). It’s lovingly crafted from stainless steel with a glass capacitive touch-screen and an AMOLED display with a reasonable resolution of 640 x 360.
Inside, a full gamut of smart sensors is in place, including an accelerometer, compass, proximity detector and ambient light sensor. A built-in GPS receiver handles geo-positioning and the excellent Ovi Maps comes pre-installed.
The C7 is well provided for storage-wise too, with 8GB of internal memory and a MicroSD slot for up to 32GB of further space, though you’ll need to remove the battery pack to gain access to the memory card bay. Connectivity is another strong suit. USB, Bluetooth, b/g/nWifi, GPRS, EDGE and HSDPA all mean that your C7 can send and receive a steady supply of data as well as making good, old fashioned telephone calls.
Nokia C7 review: Camera and games
There are two cameras on the device; a front-facing VGA cam for video calls and vanity shots and a forward-facing 8-megapixel camera with the ability to shoot video in 720p high definition. Quality is fair for a phone – not quite on a par with the iPhone’s photo and video skills but there are more camera options available, including manual ISO settings. A built-in flash/video light is also included.
Though perhaps not as immediately intuitive as Apple’s equivalent in terms of media playback, the C7 acquits itself admirably in the music and movie departments. There a built-in radio and you can browse through your own tunes in an iPhone-like coverflow style. Video playback is pretty good too and a wide range of file formats is supported, including MPEG-4 and H.264.
Apps and games are areas we’ll reserve judgement on for now. Nokia’s Ovi store is very much open for business and, while the choice on offer pales in comparison to some app stores we could mention, it’s likely to grow. Gaming, in particular, is an area where we can envisage some opportunities further down the line. The C7 has a dedicated 3D graphics processor and, while there isn’t much to tax is at the moment, we look forward to developers taking advantage of the hardware in the future.
Nokia C7 review: Calls and messaging
Should you actually want to use the C7 for something as pedestrian as making a phone call, then you’ll find that it’s more than suited to the task. You can add your favourite contacts to a widget on your home screen for easy access, while clever noise-cancelling wizardry helps to make your voice sound clearer to those you’re yacking away to. SMS messaging gets an iPhone-style conversational view and email gets push plus support for attachments, including pdf, zip, doc, xls, ppt and Office 2007 formats.
Battery life is good too. It’s hard to measure mobile batteries based on quoted talk time/standby time but, after three days of hammering it during our tests, our C7 still had a bit of juice left over.
Overall, we wouldn’t say the C7 is a bad handset by any means. Our expectations were a little lower than those we had for the N8, so we’re perhaps not quite as critical. Hardware-wise, the Nokia C7 is a very well-equipped handset. Depending on your expectations you might find that the new user interface lets the side down a bit, though. As such, it doesn’t compare too well with the competition but it’s still one of the better Nokia smartphones we’ve seen in a while.
Nokia C7 release date: Out now
Nokia C7 price: From £359 sim free or £20 a month, find out more from Nokia