Nokia C3-01 Touch and Type
3rd Dec 2010 | 15:40
A low cost handset from Nokia that brings touch to S40 but ultimately disappoints
Nokia C3-01 review: Overview
The Nokia C3-01 Touch and Type is a candybar handset with a small screen and a simple numeric keypad. Like its near-namesake the BlackBerry-alike C3-00, the C3-01 Touch and Type is designed to be a low cost, easy to use messaging fan's handset.
It will set you back £150 SIM free, so it isn't exactly going to break the bank, but for that kind of expense you do want a bit more than a pocket-money toy.
In many ways, it's reminiscent of the Nokia 6700 Classic, which we thought was, well, a classic handset from Nokia. No touchscreen there, but it had the sane metallic candybar design and screamed premium.
As its name suggests, the Nokia C3-01 Touch and Type brings touchscreen sensitivity to this most basic of handset formats. If you want simple messaging, a little Facebook and Twitter action and a handset that neither weighs you down nor requires a degree in User-Interface-Onomics to get to grips with, then the Nokia C3-01 Touch and Type sounds on paper as though it could be your best pal.
But that ain't necessarily so, as we'll see later.
First, though, let's look at the physical design, which is really good. The use of metal in the chassis, most notably for the backplate, lends an air of solidity to the feel while also giving the innards a reasonable amount of protection against drops and knocks.
The rounded edges and curved corners help the phone feel comfy in the hand, and its overall size of 111 x 47.5 x 11mm and its weight of 100g mean it's easy to drop into all but the very smallest of pockets.
Nokia has thought carefully about side buttons and connectors, too. The bottom and left sides are completely clear. On top, there's a headset connector, micro-USB connector and the small round plug for charging the battery.
On the right side is a volume rocker, screen-lock button and camera button.
While you won't find a smartphone-like cornucopia of features here, the range is reasonably solid. There's 30MB of built-in memory and a microSD card slot under the backplate. Wi-Fi and Bluetooth and 3G are on-board, but there's no GPS though and the operating system is S40 6th Edition (ie enhanced for touch).
Nokia C3-01 review: Interface
So, we've noted that the Nokia C3-01 Touch and Type runs S40 6th Edition, which is basically Series 40 enhanced for touch support.
We weren't that excited when S60 got the touch support treatment with the Nokia 5800 XpressMusic, and it never got much better for us. Nor have we been bowled over by S60's successor, Symbian^3, seen so far in the Nokia N8 and C7.
However, adding touch to S40 seems somehow to have made a positive difference to what is quite a restricted operating system by modern standards. Touch makes using something fairly basic that bit easier, and we like that.
We did find that the screen sometimes registered a tap when we were really just making contact to start a sweep. The screen is resistive, which means that responsiveness in general isn't what it could be. But overall we much preferred tapping the screen to using a D-pad.
The 2.4-inch screen itself delivers a relatively paltry 240 x 230 pixels and, while it is fairly sharp, it isn't going to give top-end displays a run for their money.
There are three softkeys beneath the screen. Tap the centre one to go to the main apps menu. Tap the right-hand one – Names – to get to your contacts. The left hand one – Go to – takes you to a personalised set of nine shortcuts.
You can fiddle with this so it shows the shortcuts you want, and this isn't too much of a pain to do. Hit Personalise View, tap a shortcut, then choose what you want to replace it with from the list on offer. Finally, hit OK.
You can also fiddle with the Home screen settings from this Personalise screen by choosing Home Screen Settings. You can decide what you want to display on four different horizontal panels.
The top one defaults to the clock, the second is empty, the third is set for favourite contacts and the fourth is a shortcut bar. You can swap the first three for anything else in the list of options.
The shortcut bar can be swapped for another long panel, or you can set up four different shortcuts within it.
It is quite a flexible system and not too difficult to configure, but this being S40 you do only get the one home screen to play with.
When it comes to fiddling around in the menu to find apps, Nokia doesn't really understand the modern convention that people tend to like one list rather than nested folders. So, the main menu screen is only the beginning.
When you tap Apps you get a list another list.
Scroll vertically through this list to see all the on-board apps. Hit Extras and there's another new section containing games and apps you've downloaded, and giving access to the contents of your microSD card.
It isn't as complex as with S60 or Symbian^3, but it's still rather convoluted.
Nokia C3-01 review: Contacts and calling
Facebook and Twitter are catered for by Nokia's Communities app. This can be dropped into the Home screen and from there you can get Twitter and Facebook updates once you log in.
The user interface for both apps is a little cramped thanks to the small screen. Where Twitter is concerned, Nokia has chosen to show you a couple of lines from each new tweet rather than the whole thing to get more of them on-screen.
The tweet creation screen isn't the prettiest, but it's usable and the all-important character countdown tells you how close you are to overstepping the 140 characters mark.
The Facebook screen is similarly cramped, and you can see very little of any individual posting. It isn't our idea of Facebook fun, to be honest.
If you put the Communities shortcut onto the Home screen, you can get notifications of incoming tweets and Facebook messages, which is useful. However, to see the full message and send responses you need to tap the message and then wait for Communities to log on to the internet and present you with the appropriate screen.
It seemed to take an age for Communities to load the necessary data, and sometimes it gave up entirely for no reason we could see.
You can't import Twitter and Facebook contacts into the S40 contacts app. This has to be populated the old-fashioned ways – from your SIM or manually. It works, but it certainly lacks the zing and uber-cloudy connectedness we like to see in handsets these days.
With contacts in the Nokia C3-01 Touch and Type, you can make calls, of course, and the good news here is that the handset performed well. Signal strength hovered around three to four bars and people we spoke to said we were loud and clear to them. They sounded clear to us, too.
Nokia C3-01 review: Messaging
When it comes to email, there's a little surprise for Microsoft Exchange users: it isn't supported.
You can set up ordinary third-party email such as Gmail or another service easily enough, but inbuilt email comes via Ovi, and you'll need to have an Ovi account first to take advantage.
For some reason, we had a lot of trouble even signing in to our Gmail account. The Nokia C3-01 Touch and Type constantly reported a communications error regardless of whether we used the network or the built in Wi-Fi, which doesn't allow for easy email on the move.
And the Ovi interface itself is sluggish to load. We actually failed to use mobile email to our own satisfaction on the Nokia C3-01 Touch and Type, which is a pretty sad state of affairs.
We had a lot more luck with basic SMS messaging. Creation is straightforward thanks to the predictive text system and the physical number pad is large and responsive. No complaints there.
You can get to secondary characters via an on-screen tappable key rather than repeatedly pressing the 1-0 keys, which we also liked.
There is a set of smileys at your fingertips should you want them.
Nokia C3-01 review: Internet
There are two web browsers on the Nokia C3-01 Touch and Type. Nokia provides its own and the Opera Mini browser is also here as a software add-on.
The Nokia web browser leaves a bit to be desired. In particular, one of the real problems of the Nokia C3-01 Touch and Type kicks in when using the Nokia web browser – its slow processor. Panning around is horribly jerky, rather than smooth.
When a page opens, you don't see a great deal of detail on the small screen.
So you need to zoom. And that's a very tedious process. You can't zoom to a degree you select. Instead you have to zoom in increments fixed on the handset and wait while the processor thinks a bit and does your bidding.
If the first zoom level isn't enough, you can go in again. But there is another wait.
You can get a little thumbnail view that helps you decide where to zoom, but which is at least a help, but it's far from perfection.
When it comes to reading text, the screen doesn't offer a lot of space, and at times you won't get a lot more than a headline before you need to start scrolling.
Switch out to Opera Mini and things improve. Your first view is an overview page into which it is easy to zoom by tapping the screen.
And zoomed in pages deliver enough text that you can read easily without too much panning around.
Opera Mini even seems to manage to get rid of some of the jerkiness and waiting that the Nokia C3-01 Touch and Type's own browser exhibits. The experience still isn't entirely smooth, but it is better.
Whichever browser you choose, web browsing is limited and disappointing thanks to both the small screen and jerky panning. We wouldn't recommend it unless you're desperate, to be frank.
Nokia C3-01 review: Camera
With a camera that shoots stills at five megapixels, things might appear to be on the up for the Nokia C3-01 Touch and Type. An LED flash helps out with low-light indoor shots, and Nokia touts noise reduction as one of the camera's selling points. You can tap the screen to call up controls such as switching between stills and video shooting, which is nice.
INDOORS:In a brightly lit railway station this photo is pretty good. Yes, it's a bit noisy, but it's passable
DETAIL:Focus in the central area of this photo is fine, but at the edges the camera has lost the plot rather
LANDSCAPE:The wide angle on this vista is nice, but again there's some noise detracting from the overall quality of the photo
ZOOM:A full 4x digital zoom shot taken from the same place as the vista shows up very well that digital zoom should be avoided at all costs
EFFECTS:We thought we'd try out the effects on the Nokia C3-01 Touch and Type. This is the standard shot
These are the sepia, black and white and negative effects, each of which works rather nicely.
Nokia C3-01 review: Video
Video is unsurprisingly (for a phone at this price point) limited to 640 x 480 resolution, and even at that size it was a little on the jerky side. But we were impressed with the amount of light the lens let in.
Nokia C3-01 review: Media
There is both a music player and a radio on the Nokia C3-01 Touch and Type. The latter needs the rather luxurious white headset in order to work. It'll automatically tune its 25 presets to as many stations as it can find.
The radio isn't the prettiest, and there's a real annoyance. To get it to play through the loudspeaker you might think you just hit an on-screen button. But no. You have to hit Options, then Settings, and only then can you choose the loudspeaker. What a palaver!
Go to the trouble, though, and sound output is loud if not the highest quality. The next time you turn the radio on, it defaults back to playing through the headphones again.
The music player has no problem finding the loudspeaker. Quality is iffy but loud, and you've got an equaliser to play with that gives a little nuance to the sound quality.
When it comes to video playback, the Nokia C3-01 Touch and Type sticks to MP4 as a supported format. It played them well for us, and the full widescreen mode delivered a watchable image if, given the screen size, a small one.
Nokia C3-01 review: Battery and apps
The 1050 mAh battery is woefully low in capacity for the Nokia C3-01 Touch and Type. Yes, it kept the phone going for a day for us with some Wi-Fi, and some music playing in the mix, but had Nokia been able to build in a higher capacity battery the longer life might have gone some way towards mitigating against the other disappointments.
The range of on-board apps is typically S40. Apart from what we've already mentioned, there are the usual Nokia bits and pieces such as a calendar, alarm clock, calculator, voice recorder, to-do list, note app, timer and stopwatch.
In some cases the design is terrible – take the calculator for example. Functional? Yes. Pretty? No.
In other cases an effort has clearly been made – the alarm looks reasonable, for example.
You can add more apps via the Ovi store if you want to bulk out what's on offer, but if you're really interested in apps, you might be better off looking lustfully at other (and sometimes cheaper) handsets.
Nokia C3-01 review: Hands-on gallery
Nokia C3-01 review: Official gallery
Nokia C3-01 review: Verdict
When we first saw the Nokia C3-01 Touch and Type we have to admit we were a little bit excited. We wanted to see Nokia give its solid, low-cost candybar phone a boost by adding touch, and wondered what else might be here into the bargain.
In the end, though, S40 6th Edition is reminiscent of S60 5th Edition – a fair effort, but nothing special, and we reckon it's easily bettered.
The nice build quality is great – especially the metal parts of the chassis, which make the Nokia C3-01 Touch and Type feel comfy to hold and give it the armoury to take a few knocks.
The large number pad makes for fast tapping out of SMS messages both one-handed and two-thumbed.
The idea of putting a touch screen onto S40 is a clever one, because it reinvigorates that old, old Symbian platform, bringing it into the modern phone age.
The processor seems challenged at times. We found it was slow to drop down the shortcuts menu from the main screen and slow to pan in web pages, in particular.
Twitter and Facebook integration is rudimentary at best, and in neither app can you see enough data on screen at any one time. There's been no attempt to let you bring your online contacts into the handset contact list, either.
The tedium of having to quit apps before moving on, for example the Opera web browser, just doesn't wash in these days of multitasking handsets. Nor does the lack of multitasking and app switching.
The Nokia C3-01 Touch and Type is a handset which ultimately disappoints. We like the build, and admire what Nokia has tried to do in reinvigorating S40 by adding touch. But we think the Finnish manufacturer's crown may have slipped in the execution of its idea.
Much as we realise some people do just want a phone for making calls and a bit of SMS, we can't help feeling that you can get a lot more phone for less money and then pick and choose the bits of it you actually want to use.
Go for the Orange San Francisco, for example, on pay as you go, and you pay £99 for a phone that has a bigger screen for web browsing, GPS, capacitive touchscreen technology and the great flexibility of Android. Seems like a no-brainer to us.