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Nokia's first affordable touch screen phone, the Nokia 5800 Xpress Music, sold like hotcakes in Europe and was available unlocked with AT&T 3G in the US. No love for T-Mobile folks and no contract subsidies in the US meant not very wide distribution for this touch screen phone. The Nokia 5230 followed more recently in Europe as a "Comes with Music" phone, a subscription all you can eat music service that isn't available in the US. The Nokia Nuron shares much of the 5800's DNA and almost all the DNA of the Euro 5230 with an almost identical design and the same resistive 360 x 640 touch screen. The price is nice at $69.99 with contract given the phone's low to mid-range smartphone feature set that includes a GPS with Ovi Maps free navigation, Bluetooth with A2DP stereo, a 3.5mm stereo jack and a 2 megapixel camera. Alas there's no WiFi and that camera resolution is at the low end for a Nokia phone.
The Nuron (Nokia Nuron 5230) is a Symbian OS 9.4 smartphone running Nokia's S60 5th Edition software. If you're already a Nokia S60 user, you'll likely feel right at home, even if you've never used the touch screen 5th Edition version. The icons, menus and metaphors are largely the same. That's great for familiarity, but the user interface still isn't ideally touch optimized as it is with the iPhone 3GS and Android (two mobile operating systems that were designed from the ground up for touch rather than being ports of d-pad centric product lines). Since Nokia has released six 5th Edition phones, starting with the high end Nokia N97, we'd hoped they'd have evolved the UI more. But the new ^Symbian phones are coming later this year, and we assume Nokia didn't want to spend much more development time with S60.
What exactly bothers us? It's not just the resistive touch screen, which has its good points: you can use it with gloves and fingernails and it's more precise. Yes, you do have to press a bit harder than on the iPhone or Motorola Cliq XT, but it's not a wretched task. What we don't like is that you actually have to use skinny scroll bars in some places, and those are certainly not finger-friendly and are terribly dated. In some cases you have kinetic scrolling and in others you don't. Since this isn't a capacitive display, there's no pinch zooming. In some places you must single-tap on an item and in other places a double-tap is required. Good gosh, these kinds of things should have been sorted out long ago. The on-screen keyboard isn't the easiest to use, but once you remember it's not capacitive and that you must pay attention and precisely tap the key you want, it's passable.
But there are things to like as well: once you get used to how the UI works, it's easy enough to fly around the screen and get things done. It's a fun phone to use, though it gets sluggish at times running on an ARM11 434MHz processor with a lean amount of available RAM. The smartphone is compact and very light at 3.98 ounces, and it makes the Cliq XT look like a battleship.
Like the Nokia 5800 and 5230, the phone's hardware is laid out a bit differently from most phones. Nokia ships the phone with a sticker over the display that lets you know that the SIM card slot and microSD card slots are under rubber doors on the side of the phone instead of under the battery door.
The Nuron has a screen lock slider on the right, a feature common in recent Nokia phones. It's easy to operate and saves you from the two step touch the power button then slide on the screen to unlock method that we find tedious. There are dedicated hardware call send and end buttons and a center key that opens up the programs window. These are mechanical buttons and work easily. A touch sensitive button lives at the top right corner above the display and this launches a shortcut bar to the multimedia apps. There's a standard 3.5mm stereo jack up top (music is one of the phone's strong points) and a dedicated camera button. The volume buttons are on the right and they control everything except ringer volume (you must use the Profiles settings to change the ringer volume which seems a little silly).
As we've come to expect from Nokia phones, the Nuron has excellent voice quality and strong reception. If making calls and holding a signal are important to you, the Nuron is definitely a good choice. It has better reception than the Cliq XT and Nexus One Android phones. Again, like most Nokia phones, the Nuron plays well with Bluetooth headsets, car kits and stereo headsets-- it's not finicky in the least. The contacts application is the usual Nokia affair with plenty of fields. The PIM applications sync with Outlook on the desktop, but there's no iSync plugin (at least not yet). Using the Ovi Store application, you can download Mail for Exchange which supports syncing with MS Exchange 2003 and 2007 as well as Google contacts and calendar.
We're a bit disappointed that the phone has only 3.6 Mbps 3G HSDPA when most T-Mobile smartphones are now shipping with the faster 7.2 Mbps flavor. The Nuron is a quad band GSM world phone with 3G on T-Mobile's US 1700/2100MHz bands. It features Nokia's usual webkit-based web browser that really impressed us 3 years ago but now looks a little weak compared to the Android and iPhone browsers. It's not bad though and does a good job of rendering desktop sites (and it's much better than RIM's BlackBerry web browser). Email comes in the form of Nokia Messaging, which is functional but not sexy. The phone works with POP3, IMAP, Gmail and MS Exchange email (Exchange support is a free download).
Here's our video Nokia Nuron video review where we cover physical design, compare it with the Cliq XT and iPhone, demo Ovi Maps, test the web browser and more.
T-Mobile markets the Nuron as a navigation phone since it has a GPS, TeleNav and the now free Nokia Ovi Maps. Ovi Maps has come a long way for US navigation and it does a good job of providing turn-by-turn directions for driving and walking. The POI database is weak though and we couldn't get the phone to reliably find popular chain supermarkets and stores like Walmart and Safeway. It did guess at stores located 6,000 miles away in Europe though! For POIs, we suggest Google Maps and TeleNav. Note that TeleNav is a $10/month subscription service but it does have an excellent POI database and excellent spoken driving directions.
The GPS hardware performs well and the phone got a quick fix and it held onto it with aplomb. The display is moderately visible in sunlight, but if you use a dash mount and locate the phone where it catches lots of sun, the screen will appear washed out.
The Nuron has a 1320 mAh
Lithium Ion battery that performs better than higher end smartphones on T-Mobile. The Symbian OS and Nokia's old school ARM 11 CPU are easy on the battery and there's no WiFi to drain power like mad. With moderate use, the Nuron should have no problem lasting at least two days on a charge. If you use navigation the draw of the GPS and 3G will shorten battery life and we suggest a car charger.
The Nokia Nuron is a pleasant entry level touch screen smartphone. The touch screen and UI aren't up to Android's level but the phone is easy to learn and use, and it's more pocketable than most smartphones. There's social networking for Facebook and MySpace on board, a good web browser and decent email support and you can download more apps from the Ovi Store. The Ovi Store doesn't have the wide selection of apps you'll find on iTunes or the Android Market but the staples are covered well enough. We're a little disappointed that there's no WiFi on board to compensate for T-Mobile's relatively smaller 3G coverage area but the phone performs decently enough on EDGE for email, web browsing and navigation.
The screen's resolution is good at 360 x 640 and it's sharp and clear. It's hard to beat the Nuron's one-two punch of great voice quality and reception too. But the 2 megapixel camera is a let down, especially from a company like Nokia who makes such impressive imaging phones.
Price: $69.99 with a 2 year contract, $269 retail with no contract.
Specs:Display: Resistive touch screen, 360 x 640 pixels. Screen size diagonally: 3.2". Supports both portrait and landscape modes via accelerometer. Has proximity sensor.
Battery: Nokia BL-5J Lithium Ion rechargeable. Battery is user replaceable. 1320 mAh.
Performance: 434MHz ARM11 CPU. 128 megs RAM, 256 megs flash ROM.
Size: 4.37 x 2.03 x 0.57/0.61 inches. Weight: 3.98 ounces.
Phone: GSM quad band world phone 850/900/1800/1900MHz bands with EDGE. 3G HSDPA 3.6 Mbps on T-Mobile's US 1700/2100MHz bands.
Camera: 2.0 megapixel, no flash.
Audio: Built in speaker, mic and 3.5mm standard stereo headphone jack. Voice Recorder and Windows Pocket Media Player 10 included for your MP3 pleasure.
Networking: Bluetooth 2.0 with A2DP, headset, handsfree, AVRC, MTP, printing and syncing profiles.
Software: Symbian OS 9.4 with Nokia S60 5th Edition software. Apps include Ovi Store, Ovi Maps, Nokia Messaging, webkit web browser, Gallery, music player, TeleNav, MS Office viewer, Video Center, Audio PostCard, Visual Voicemail, RealPlayer, Camera, PIM applications, unit converter, IM client and sample games.
Expansion: 1 SDHC microSD card slot, 4 gig card included