When we first saw Nokia’s 5800 XpressMusic, then codenamed the ‘Tube’, it looked like Nokia had finally locked horns with Apple and made an iPhone-beater. As the Finns’ first touchscreen Series 60 device, it appeared well equipped to make a challenge too.
But we were a little hasty in our judgements. In reality, the 5800 Xpressmusic is a mid-range music phone, designed to spearhead Nokia’s Comes With Music offering. In this sense, it’s more of rival for Sony’s Walkman handsets than the premium smartphones.
If it’s a music phone you want, you’ll find plenty to like in the 5800’s spec. It comes bundled with an 8GB microSD card (16GB cards are also welcome) and, though the model we tested didn’t come with music, there’ll be a version that does in early 2009.
Sadly, the dark plastic frame around the screen looks a little plasticky, but isn’t too offensive and the phone is very compact, slipping easily into the pocket.
A bit touchy
The touchscreen is, in the main, responsive, with a slight haptic response confirming where you’ve touched. The accelerometer that reformats the screen when you tip it on its side is also very speedy.
The 5800’s screen is of the ‘resistive’ type, normally less glitzy than the ‘capacitive’ screens of the iPhone and T-Mobile G1, but its high-resolution means flash videos and photos looks great.
The downside is that this kind of screen allows the use of a stylus and, sure enough, a flimsy, awkward one is built into the phone. At least the handwriting recognition is good, allowing you to train the phone quite quickly.
Internet browsing is reasonably prompt, if much less intuitive than the iPhone’s ‘pinch-and-squeeze’ multi-touch capabilities.
Should you get lost the maps are also handy, though swiping around with your finger is again not as slick as the iPhone or T-Mobile G1.
The rest of the navigation is a mixed bag. The media key is very handy – one touch on this launches the media options to play songs, video and so on. It’s fast, responsive and very easy to use. You can choose online sharing services like Flickr here, too.
On the other hand the contacts bar, which lets you press on photos of friends to dial or text them, only has room for four contacts, which won’t impress anyone over the age of 12.
What will go down well with the kids, though, are the onboard speakers: beefy and full-sounding, they’re the best we’ve heard on a phone. And the 3MP camera, complete with flash and video-recording, means leaving the compact at home won’t be a complete disaster.
In all, the 5800 XpressMusic is a decent first stab from Nokia at a touchscreen Series 60 phone, but the touchscreen interface isn’t quite good enough to see it gets top marks.