Nokia 700 £280
25th Oct 2011 | 12:05
The thin Nokia 700 is certainly a tiny smartphone, but is it packing much hardware in that skinny frame?
Overview, design and feel
The Nokia 700, touted as the world's smallest smartphone, is dropping as part of a trio of Nokia handsets (the 600, 700 and 701) running the new Symbian Belle interface. And it is indeed small. It's slim. It's quite sleek too, and many other 'S' adjectives as well.
The thin frame holds a 3.2-inch AMOLED ClearBlack touchscreen, 5MP and VGA cameras, an external speaker hugging the bottom curve, and all this in only a 92g, 9.7mm-thick phone. It's pretty swish.
The smooth battery cover has a brushed steel finish that feels smooth to the touch, encasing the 5MP camera with LED flash and - happily - a tiny clip, meaning no scrabbling around to get the cover off.
There's an almost miniscule camera soft key on the right side, plus a lock button and slightly longer volume rocker.
All of these are fingernail thin and a little oddly spaced.
At the top sits the micro USB port, 3.5mm headphone jack and charge port.
And on the front are three soft keys: call, end call and menu.
The Belle iteration of the Symbian operating system looks to have taken some pretty heavy inspiration from Android, with its widget-laden six home screens.
Although there is the occasional mini-freeze, the user interface - running off a 1GHz processor - is generally slick and much more lag-free than its Nokia smartphone predecessors such as the E7; a great improvement from Symbian, which is usually the Achilles' heel of Nokia handsets.
Overall, the Nokia 700 looks like a slim, smarter version of the businessman's Nokia, but this may not be the target audience, given the launch of an exclusive Elle app to boost the Nokia 700's launch.
Perhaps then, this points the target at business people who want a decent smartphone that's slim and discreet, since the Nokia 700 certainly is that. It's small but sturdy, and the sleek design will appeal to all who want smartphone capabilities without being ostentatious.
The Symbian Belle interface on the Nokia 700 is a nice step up from previous versions, released not long after Symbian Anna came through as an update to ^3. It still has the handy pull-down notifications bar, with shortcuts to connections - including Wi-Fi - and Silent mode. We like.
All six of the home screens are customisable - including changing background - and the scrolling menu is easy arranged to your organisational liking. Either swap icons around manually or throw them into folders. Easy, and indeed a little droid-esque.
Belle is definitely the best Symbian version by far, actually helping showcase the Nokia hardware and multi-touch screen for once, instead of being its liability. Flicking sideways through home screens is fast, multitasking is no problem and there's no juddering when casual gaming, thanks to the decent 1GHz processor.
Navigating is pretty simple, and will definitely be familiar to anyone with a fairly current Nokia handset. The menu is well laid out without having to dive in and out of subfolders, unless you choose to organise it that way. And on this gorgeous ClearBlack screen, the colours pop beautifully. The contrast is sharp and, as you might expect, blacks are deep. It's truly a delicious screen, despite the small size.
It may be small, but the user interface is actually very good and easy to use, meaning the Nokia 700 will finally give the cheaper HTC smartphones such as the HTC Salsa and HTC Desire a bit of competition.
Contacts and calling
The vanilla functionality of the Nokia 700's contacts list is a little disappointing, given both the much-improved operating system and the slick hardware.
Reached via a shortcut on a homepage or via the menu, the Nokia 700's contacts layout is a simple list.
Favourites are given pride of place at the top, but otherwise the display runs in a simple first-name alphabetical order.
Adding or searching for a contact is simple, easily done via the menu bar at the bottom of the screen, and at the top is the shortcut for grouping your friends together.
There's no social integration here - no Facebook or Twitter updates. Even the beleaguered Nokia E7 had that.
This much nicer operating system should have been able to handle integrated social networking no problem, and the inclusion of it would have boosted the phone into the HTC category of smartphones. Alas, that was not to be.
There's the opportunity to enter a contact's Facebook URL, but instead of even linking to their page, the only thing you can do is copy it to a clipboard, presumably so you can paste it into the browser.
A little lame, Nokia, in this day and age.
Still, making a call or messaging a contact is easy - just tap their name or tap and hold to bring up either menu.
Other than that, there are the usual features of being able to send the number via Bluetooth or message, add an image taken with the phone's camera or add to the home screen for easy access to your most-dialled numbers.
Shame - on this screen, we're sure the extra touch of integrated networks would have looked extra crisp on this screen and added an extra layer of functionality that would have brought it in line with the most up-to-date smartphones.
Calling on the handset is also average, but for this feature, that's actually great. The Nokia 700 bucks the usual Nokia trend of lacking smart features but being a great phone - for once it's a Nokia handset that's actually pretty great at both.
Tapping through to the dialler from the home screen brings up the alphanumeric smart-dialling keypad, where you can either enter the known number or tap out the name of your contact, which will appear in a list above the numbers.
The call log is excellently detailed, with dates, times and names.
It's also possible to tap into the contacts here, and even speed dials, although the latter is hidden within a sub-menu, which sort of defeats the purpose of speed dialling in our eyes.
Once you're actually in a call, the speaker is clear and perfectly loud, although it's a little hard to find the ultra-slim volume rocker with your fingertips when speaking if you need to adjust the volume.
Also, if your conversational partner is having signal issues, the handset's speaker isn't going to help you much. Still, the Nokia 700 excels at being a basic phone, as well as managing to incorporate a decent few bells and whistles.
The Nokia 700 comes with a plethora of messaging options for you to choose from: SMS, MMS, a Twitter and Facebook 'social' app, email and IM apps such as Orkut and eBuddy.
There's no universal inbox to combine all these things, but the versatility of the home screens means it's easy to group them all within the vicinity of each other to make it easy to flip from one application to the next. SMS messaging is a typical black-and-white list view.
When you dip into a name, this displays entire conversations with your contact.
Depending on your point of view, this layout is either classic or a little boring, but we found it perfectly functional and adequate.
Much like the contacts, we would have liked to have seen a little social networking integration to make this feature truly shine, but we guess you can't have everything you want in this particular Nokia phone.
The only negative we found when messaging was the small QWERTY keyboard when using the phone in portrait mode.
On one hand, it's fantastic that the Nokia 700 has this instead of an alphanumerical offering, but on the other, the screen is so long and thin that using it one-handed often leads to plenty of mistakes and a slightly frustrating typing speed.
However, using the phone in landscape is great, and the haptic-enabled touchscreen is perfectly responsive enough for us to get up a quick speed with no problem.
We like the email inbox widget that sits on our home screen.
It updates automatically, and is a shortcut to a fully functional email app that is easy to navigate and organise.
It's also dead easy to set up: input your account details and away you go.
You can set up several email accounts that you can skip between with no problem. And if you like, the app will even automatically set up a widget for each of your accounts on your home screens.
In terms of IM, there's Orkut for Gmail users, which is pre-loaded onto the handset. Once you're logged in with your Gmail account, it should be plain sailing. However, every time we tried, we were faced with this:
No donuts for us.
With all the components that should make internet browsing pretty dreamy (3G, Wi-Fi connectivity, a crisp-coloured, responsive touchscreen, a decently powerful processor and Flash ability) we had high hopes for the internet browsing portion of our Nokia 700 review.
And were they met? Was the bar cleared?
Indeed it was, though we must admit, there were a couple of wobbles. First, the great stuff: using the Nokia 700's browser was smooth and responsive. Scrolling was quick and a few taps zoomed us in and out, plus there's the nice touch of text reflow.
However, zooming in on images left them pixilated and the phone struggling to render them properly. Text remained sharp though, and easy to read.
When connected to Wi-Fi, page loading was hit and miss - sometimes incredibly nippy, sometimes taking a confusingly long time to get going. And the experience wasn't any better on the 3G connection either.
There is the ability to open multiple pages at once, which is great, and opening a new page pulls up an attractive history holding page that pops against the dark background.
However, overall it's a much faster experience once you've downloaded the Opera mobile browser. The download speeds are quicker, the pictures render more quickly and are even less pixilated when zoomed in.
All in all, perhaps the biggest disappointment is the thinness of the screen, which gets in the way of a really premium browsing session. Had it been just a little wider, it would have had a much better feel to the experience. Still, for the "smallest smartphone", the browsing experience on the Nokia 700 is a solid 3.5 (possibly even 4) out of 5.
The Nokia 700 comes equipped with a 5MP LED flash camera with 2x digital zoom and fixed focus lens, which sadly means no particularly artsy depth-of-field shots. Still, there are some impressive editing and scene modes - Auto, Portrait, Landscape, Night, Night Portrait and Custom, which enables you to edit the exposure, contrast, white balance, flash mode and so on.
It's easy to reach all these settings too, sitting as they do within easy reach in a sidebar. To take the image, you can either use the soft key, the on-screen touch key or set the self-timer. But we found in the end that the scene modes barely ever helped to add anything to the shot.
It's a good camera for uploading to Facebook and Twitter - which you can do easily from the gallery, plus add a comment - but not for capturing particularly memorable images.
AUTO: This image was taken at sunset in Auto. The contrast is deep, the water sharp and the colours true-to-life.
LANDSCAPE: Image taken two seconds later in Landscape mode: little has changed, except perhaps the light on the water is a little brighter.
DAYLIGHT:Taken in daytime in Auto - the scene is a little pixilated because it was zoomed in as far as it would go, but the colours are fairly true-to-life, just a little overly light in contrast.
NIGHT NO FLASH:Taken at night in Auto, with no flash. The surroundings of the building are almost completely swallowed by darkness, and the lit areas are blurred.
NIGHT WITH FLASH: Taken two seconds later in Night mode with flash - the LED flash hasn't lit up any extra of the scene and produces an almost identical image.
BOKEH:Night time with flash near a light source. The image is noisy, with the light streaking across the image and creating a little bokeh. Surroundings (path and building) are visible but blurred.
INDOORS: Taken indoors without flash. The colour tone is overly warm but generally true-to-life. The photo is sharp.
HARSH FLASH:Taken indoors with flash. The flash reflects off the surface of the mug, creating a harsh image and darkening the surrounding table and scene.
For anyone interested in the retro photography apps that proliferate the Apple and Android app stores, there is one main choice for Symbian users: Molome. It's a free app that will take an image and add a hipster filter, the same as, say, Instagram.
You have to have uploaded so many photos in the first instance to qualify for the best free filters, but for a free Symbian app you can't really fault it.
Video for the Nokia 700 shoots 720p at 30fps with 3x zoom. With the video there are only three additional modes - Auto, Low Light and Night. However, you can also fiddle around with the white balance, exposure and colour tone if you'd like to.
The first clip in our video was shot in 1280 x 720 in Auto. The colours are a little saturated, but the video itself is quite smooth, even zooming in and out while taking the shot. It's a little blurry zoomed in and takes a second to render once zoomed.
The second clip, shot in Low Light mode, shows how the video uses contrast to up the presence of white, over-exposing the bird and sky. The video shows the smooth capture however, for example the movement of the boat and the flying gull.
Shot in night mode, with the flash, there is little extra light thrown on the scene in our third clip. Again, the actual capture of movement is excellent, but there is little be seen except the headlights of cars as the buildings are left in near-darkness, despite having some light source from the shop windows.
The Nokia 700 puts in a decent showing with its media offering, and an internal 2GB to start you off. The 700 isn't touted on its media capabilities, but it certainly doesn't let the side down either.
The music player is simple to use, accessible from a handy widget from which you can skip and pause tracks, and multitasking enables it to hum away in the background without adding any lag to the use of the phone.
Creating and putting together a playlist is easy.
The handset opens up a quick-pick list of songs for you to quickly scroll through and select the ones you want to add to your playlist.
Holding the playlist landscape brings up the familiar iFlow-esque artwork scroller that adorns most handset offerings these days. Still, it flicks through quickly and looks pretty on the Gorilla Glass display, so we're not complaining.
The Nokia 700 supports the usual files - MP3, WAV, еAAC+ and WMA - and there's also a shortcut to the Ovi music store from the music player, which is handy.
The supplied earphones set isn't winning any points for comfort (hello plastic moulded ear buds with cheap foam covers) and the sound quality isn't horrible, but it's not exactly well-balanced either.
The vocals sound somewhat echoy almost, but there are a few presets on the equaliser to play with that actually do make a bit of difference.
Unfortunately dreams of a more comfortable experience with our own headset were cruelly dashed when it turned out to be unsupported by the handset, but if all else fails you could always employ the killer external speaker. All the better for annoying your fellow public transport sufferers with.
Watching videos on the Nokia 700 is pretty sweet, with the 229ppi and sharp ClearBlack display. Sure it's small, but it's definitely beautiful.
The colours aren't over-saturated, and the sound is clear. Sure, with the headset you might not want to watch much on it for long, but if you happen to chance upon a compatible pair, you'll be set, especially given the lightness of the phone and the comfortable sit in the palm of your hand.
It supports a pretty wide array of codecs too - WMV9, MP4, VP6, VC-1, Flash and 3GPP - and we had no trouble uploading a few episodes of Community. To fully make use of the media functions though, 2GB of internal memory isn't going to cut it, and you'll have to fork out for a microSD card.
There's the ubiquitous FM radio; activated the usual way through the headset.
It's a simple FM radio that auto-tunes the stations, and has one nice extra touch: you can use the beast of a speaker instead of only listening to it through the headphones.
One pro-tip though, if you don't want your listening/viewing/radio experiences to be interrupted, turn off email notifications, otherwise you'll be hearing a little tinkly bell more often than you'd like.
Battery life and connectivity
The battery size for the Nokia 700 is 1080mAh, well below the Apple iPhone 4's 1420mAh or the 1650mAh of the Samsung Galaxy S2. It has a fairly powerful processor, plus the juice-draining media streaming apps, plus Wi-Fi... so how did the battery fair against bigger, beastlier smartphones?
Well, with a fairly constant Wi-Fi connection or 3G use, some light gaming, a couple of 20 minute calls, texting and app use that involves an internet connection (such as maps), we squeezed about eight hours of good use out of the Nokia 700.
For someone who's surfing the web less and attacking the apps during commuting time, that's likely to even out at about a charge a day, which is fair enough usage and matches up to the HTC Desire S.
As we've previously mentioned, the Nokia 700 is well connected with Wi-Fi (802.11 b/g/n) and 3G (up to 14.4Mbps), A-GPS and NFC technology on board. There's a micro USB port and, if you're particularly keen, you can Google to download software to turn the Nokia 700 into a Wi-Fi hotspot.
Connecting to a PC is easy - there's the utilitarian drag-and-drop route or the fuller-featured Nokia Ovi Suite.
Attaching the Nokia 700 via micro USB will bring up the option to transfer media in the drop-down notifications menu either by drag-and-drop or by Ovi Suite. Opening the Ovi Suite on your computer then makes it easy to browse files to transfer onto your phone.
In all honesty, we prefer the easy drag-and-drop route where searching for apps, games and so on is easily done on the handset itself, and we don't feel searching through them on the web adds much to the ease of the experience.
Maps and apps
Ovi maps has always been an excellent selling point for enabled Nokia handsets, and the version included on the Nokia 700 is no exception. The GPS locks on quickly, there's the option of satellite, 3D or map views and both car and walking sat nav guides.
It easily gives Google maps a run for its money, with a compass that calibrates quickly and extra excellent features.
It's truly easy to use and, on top of the bread and butter map features, provides extra apps-within-the-maps such as Time Out, TripAdvisor and Qype to ensure you'll find what you're looking for in the local area if you need a few suggestions on where to go.
In terms of other apps, the Nokia 700 covers the basics decently well.
The Social app (and widget) provides updates from your Twitter and Facebook feeds in one integrated home page, while also acting as a portal to the Symbian Twitter and Facebook apps.
They offer good experiences for app versions of your favourite networking sites. In Twitter you can see the feed, @ replies, Messages and followers, plus enter the camera in order to upload a picture to Twitter there and then.
That's pretty good functionality; it's just a shame you can't do things such as dip into message history to understand the context of someone's conversation.
As for Facebook, there is much the same functionality. You can check out profiles, messages, notifications and news feeds.
You can also upload camera content there and then.
Photo albums are slow to load, even on a Wi-Fi connection, but once they do, the viewer renders them well.
As for the rest of apps pre-loaded on the Nokia 700, you're provided with the BBC iPlayer app, shazam, the Virgin Player app, YouTube, Orkut, Nat Geo, Angry Birds and Fruit Ninja. There's also Quickoffice for the more business-minded user.
iPlayer is excellent, except for the fact that there's no 3G streaming functionality, which is rubbish. The Virgin Media app is willing to work via 3G, but you've got to sign up for a "pass" first, which is only valid for 24 hours.
Still, for getting started, it's not a bad lot. All the apps you download can be used as shortcuts from the home screens, or filed into appropriate folders in the menu, making it easy to reach what you want when you want.
The Nokia 700 is also NFC-enabled, which, had we a second handset to test that out on, would have been excellent. NFC technology enables you to simply tap two devices together to swap contact information, share files and even wirelessly pair with accessories such as speakers.
But, unfortunately, moving on from the basic and most ubiquitous apps is difficult, because the Ovi store is notoriously rubbish. Decent games are few and far between, and the lack of even those apps popularised on the Android and Apple app stores are noticeably absent for Symbian.
It's a shame really, because the Nokia 700 could have really stretched its legs a little with something more challenging than Angry Birds.
Hands on gallery
So. It turns out, the Nokia 700 is indeed small and it is indeed slim. Not only that, but it's well built, solid in the hand and finally, finally has an iteration of Symbian that can keep up with the decent hardware specs.
We liked Symbian Belle a lot. Sure, there wasn't the added slickness of HTC Sense Overlay, but it never lagged and is pretty intuitive to navigate.
We liked the gorgeous Gorilla Glass ClearBlack screen - colours popped off this thing, bright and with excellent contrast. It made watching videos a joy, despite its 3.2-inch size, since the clarity was really excellent.
The fact that Symbian has finally stepped up to make an operating system that didn't make us want to throw the phone out of the window makes us happy, and we liked that the phone is Wi-Fi and 3G enabled.
The design is incredibly sleek, and we thought the discreetness of the phone was a definite plus in the age of 'bigger is always better'.
We didn't like the lack of really great apps to stretch the legs of the Nokia 700. We felt it sat a little unchallenged by Fruit Ninja and Foursquare. Had the Ovi store ever really taken off as a developer hot spot, there might have been more to do with this nice handset.
The screen was also a tad too thin; tall but thin. It didn't make for the best browsing experience when images were involved, since they didn't really fit into the confines.
You're also unable to use your own headset while watching videos, which is disappointing given the uncomfortable rubbish pair that are supplied with the Nokia 700.
All in all, it's a lovely phone for someone who wants to dip in and out of smart phone capabilities without losing either the phone element or most of their pocket space.
It's a discreet smartphone, one for a businessperson perhaps, who doesn't want to pull out an obnoxiously large piece of kit every time they want to make a call.
It may even appeal to those who are newer to smartphones and aren't looking for the latest dual-core processor but want something decently powerful for their videos and browsing nonetheless. 3.5 stars