Nokia C6 £299.99

11th Aug 2010 | 16:21

Nokia C6

Is there still a case for Symbian smartphones in the face of the Android onslaught?

TechRadar rating:

3 stars

A competent effort but one that feels a little too '2008' in a world filled with decent budget offerings

Like:

Nice build material; Good Home screen widgets; Clear, vibrant screen; Good macro camera shots; Easy-to-use messaging

Dislike:

Poor battery life; Occasionally laggy and ageing OS; Below average touchscreen; Wobbly build; Lack of social network integration

Nokia C6: Overview

With the Nokia C7 looking like it'll pack Symbian S^3 when released, and MeeGo on the horizon, the Nokia C6 looks like it could be something of a swan song for Symbian S60 on the Nokia's smartphones.

We looked at the Nokia C5 recently, and this certainly has a step up in features to match its higher-numbered name (we'll save the jokes about it being "one higher" for when the C11 comes out).

The C6 is a touchscreen smartphone with a 3.2-inch screen and slide-out physical QWERTY keyboard for good measure. Running on Symbian S60 5th Edition, it's packing 3G HSDPA and Wi-Fi for speedy internet access.

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It comes loaded with Nokia's now-standard Ovi features, including Ovi Maps for navigation – which is aided by the integrated A-GPS – and the Ovi store for getting new apps, widgets, ringtones and other sundries.

On the back is a 5MP camera featuring an LED flash, while the front features a small QVGA camera for video calls. The rear camera can also take VGA videos at 30 frames per second.

The Nokia C6 is taking aim at the mid-range smartphone market, coming it an RRP of £299.99, but seemingly available from as little as £229.00 on PAYG. On contract, the handset can be had for free from around £20 per month.

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This price range puts it in the firing line of the HTC Wildfire, the Sony Ericsson Xperia X10 Mini Pro, Nokia's own X6 and, probably its closest rival, the Sony Ericsson Vivaz Pro.

The C6 is available in white or black. In the box, you get the phone and its battery, a micro-USB cable, 2GB SD card, mains charger (Nokia's clever sliding-pin one, which is great for traveling), and earphones with microphone for hands-free talking.

Nokia C6: Design

With its slide-out QWERTY keyboard and resistive touchscreen, the Nokia C6 is like a lower-end N900.

The touchscreen/keyboard design is shared with Sony Ericsson Vivaz Pro too, which also features the Symbian operating system.

At 113.4 x 53 x 16.8mm, the C6 isn't too large for a smartphone, but its thickness means it ultimately comes across as feeling larger than something like the iPhone 4 or HTC Desire in your pocket, despite their bigger screens.

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Packing in the keyboard and big screen obviously contributes to this thickness, and to the weight as well. At 150g, it's slightly heavier than many smartphones, and quite a lot heavier than your average feature phone.

The flipside of this weight is that the C6's build materials feel sturdy. It's a good 30g heavier than the Sony Ericsson Vivaz Pro, but considering the problems we had with the build quality on that phone, this extra weight is well-used.

Having said that, though, we're actually not entirely convinced by the build quality of the C6. As we said, the materials feel sturdy, but our problem is in the joins.

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The screen wobbles slightly on its hinge side to side, even before you properly slide it. It also clicks slightly down into the rear half of the body. This isn't surprising considering how large the gap between the screen and the other half of the phone is – you can see plenty of daylight through it.

Similarly, the battery cover doesn't quite sit snugly. It's only a tiny wobble, but it's there, it's noticeable and it's noisy.

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Neither of these niggles appears major – they didn't break during our review period or anything – but they're the two parts you grip when you pick up the the phone up, so it can feel as though the whole thing is shifting slightly in your hand.

Compared to the Sony Ericsson Zylo, which was a far cheaper slider but didn't even twitch until you pushed it up purposefully, the quality of this part of the C6 was a bit disappointing.

The actual build material is matte plastic, and feels nice and grippy under your fingers. The only difference is the front, which has a shiny hard coating over and around the resistive 3.2-inch touchscreen.

The screen is 640 x 360 (or nHD, in Nokia parlance), and displays colours with an appealing natural look that particularly suits photos. It's also capable of rendering clear, readable text, even at small sizes.

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Beneath the screen are three buttons, a call button on the left, a central key that brings up the main menu without quitting your current application (making use of the background apps that Symbian S60 is capable of), and a terminate button on the right, doubling for the power switch.

All three of these are backlit, with the central one 'breathing' on and off when the phone is in sleep mode, which can be annoying if you keep the phone by your bed at night.

On the right-hand side of the C6 are some handy physical buttons that are totally unmarked, though regular smartphone users will recognise them easily enough. At the top you have a volume rocker, with a slider that locks and unlocks the phone underneath.

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Near the bottom is a lone, unmarked key that can be pressed either halfway (causing a light clicking sound) or all the way down – yes, it's a camera shutter. Pressing it all the way will launch the camera app immediately.

The lack of labelling on these buttons would contribute to a very cool stealth fighter-type look for the phone, were it not for the Nokia branding elsewhere. Seeing as the mystique was already ruined, some labelling on these wouldn't have gone amiss, Nokia.

On the left side of the phone is the flap covering the microSD card slot. A 2GB card is included, but it can take up to 16GB (although we didn't test it with a 32GB option).

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On the bottom of the phone is the tiny Nokia charging port, while the top features a flap-covered micro-USB connector and the 3.5mm audio jack.

Turn it to the left and slide up the screen – in quite a sudden movement, rather than a smooth motion – and you'll reveal the QWERTY keyboard. It's backlit, and features space for quite a few punctuation marks and symbols to be immediately available. Even more are on offer using the Function key and orange secondary digits/symbols on some of the keys.

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There's also a navigation D-pad to the left of the keyboard, and a select button in the centre of that.

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For full details on how the keyboard performs, see the Messaging section of the review, but we will say that its build quality is excellent. The keys are matte, like most of the C6's body, and have a short travel that's solid and has a small click to it to give you feedback.

With the screen slid out, the little wobble of the hinge actually disappears, so the C6 feels more solid when it's open, oddly enough.

On the C6's rear is the 5MP camera and LED flash.

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The battery cover is removed by pulling down on a little catch and then prising the cover off. It's requires two-handed coordination (and some nails) and is quite fiddly on your first few efforts.

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Underneath it is the battery, which has to be removed before you can add or remove your SIM card.

Nokia C6: Interface

These days, if you're putting out a mid-range smartphone, you're in the widgets business. The Nokia C6 is no exception, with a multitude of quick content on offer straight away.

The Home screen is divided up into six rectangles, effectively. Each space can be taken up by a widget, which are all uniform in size.

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It's a great idea in practice, because it means you can can see them all in a column of six when in portrait mode, or in two columns of three in landscape mode, without any formatting change in the widgets themselves.

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Different widgets vary in functionality and connectivity. Just going with content on the phone, there are two 'shortcuts' widgets, which consist of four icons each, which just take you to apps on the phone. These four shortcuts can then be customised to go to whatever app you like.

There's also widgets for Favourite Contacts, Calendar, Music Player and more.

Conversely, the email widget enables you to set up your email account and then see the subject line and sender of the two most recent emails you've received. We'll go into the connected widgets in more detail in the Internet section of the review.

For the record, our Home screen of choice was two shortcut widgets (slightly altered from their defaults to include Opera Mobile instead of the default browser and a Twitter app), the included ESPNSoccernet widget, the email widget and the music player.

The default setting was to include Facebook and Favourite Contacts instead of ESPN and the Music Player.

There's a small quirk of the Home screen that you'll probably encounter accidentally for the first time: if you swipe to the side on the Home screen, you find that everything but the static date/time/profile widget disappears.

"But Nokia don't advertise a second Home screen," you probably aren't shouting at your screen. But if you were, you'd be right.

Nokia said nothing about more than one Home screen, because there is only one. All the swipe does is hide the widgets, or bring them back. It's also possible to do this with a long press on the Home screen.

We're not entirely sure what the point of this is. So you can look longingly at your wallpaper of your best gal? After all, if you just don't like widgets, you can actually just remove them.

In any case, while the Home screen is primarily designed to be navigated using touch, you can also scroll around it using the D-pad on the slide-out keyboard. On the phone in general, the keyboard is often preferable for certain fiddly things (moving between text boxes, for example).

Sliding the keyboard out switches the C6 into landscape mode automatically. In fact, when you first unbox the phone, this is the only way to get it into landscape mode. There's an accelerometer built-in, but screen rotation is turned off by default, for some bizarre reason. Pop into the Sensor Settings menu to turn it on.

We've no idea why this wouldn't be on by default, but there you have it. There's no animation when going to landscape mode – whichever app or menu you're in just reappears in widescreen.

Sliding out the keyboard is also a way to instantly unlock the phone from sleep, as is pulling the lock slider-switch on the phone's side.

Otherwise, pressing the central key on the front will bring up a 'Swipe to unlock' screen, which can be really fiddly until you get used to it.

The reason is that the touchscreen just isn't that sensitive – or accurate. Of course, a stylus or fingernail is always going to get you better results on a resistive screen, but your first few days with the phone will likely be fraught with unheeded jabs.

Compounding this are two particular issues with the OS. The first is that some menus require you to double-tap what you want to choose. The first time selects it with a green highlight, and the second one to actually, definitely choose it. It's needless, and annoying.

This is combined with an operating system that is, quite simply, laggy. It's slow to respond, and when you combine that with not knowing whether the menu you're in requires a double-tap, you can end up staring at the phone like a lemon, not knowing whether your press was registered but response was delayed, or you need to press again anyway.

The worst part of the C6's lagginess is when waking up from sleep mode. It's not unusual for the screen to take 4-5 seconds to come on, and that includes when someone calls or texts you.

Seriously, if the phone is on the table in front of you and rings, if you want to see who it is before answering, you have to just sit and let it ring until the screen finally deigns to arise. It's ridiculous.

When it finally comes on, you hit the central button from the Home screen to bring up the main menu. From here, you can access most of the phone's primary functions, including Contacts, Messaging, the default web browser, Photos, Ovi Maps, Ovi Store, Applications and so on.

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This is a grid view by default, but you can also view it as a list.

Enter Applications and you get deeper into what the C6 can do. You can find the File Manager in among these options, which will enable you to browse anything you have stored either in the phone memory or on your memory card.

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It's all old hat for Nokia users – or even Symbian users in general. We'd wager pretty much anyone over a certain age (about 18) will find this interface familiar from some point in their mobile ownership history.

Different applications will sometimes have their own style – it's not as universal as apps on something like the iPhone tend to be. The Ovi Store is simple enough to navigate, though it doesn't offer much flexibility. It's not something you'd be keen to just browse through.

The Nokia C6's interface works well for the touchscreen in terms of layout and intuition – just poking around for a bit will usually teach you where you need to go – but the lack of accuracy means that you will find yourself using the keyboard often.

We don't see that as a massive downer though – after all, that's what the keyboard is there for. It's really the lag and occasional lack of responsiveness that concerns us as far as usability goes.

Nokia C6: Contacts and calling

Contacts on the Nokia C6 can be accessed in a number of ways. There's a Contacts shortcut on the Home page, while the dialler screen has a button that takes you to the contacts list (this changes to an 'add to contacts' button when you've typed in a number).

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You can also start typing someone's name on the keyboard while on the dialler screen to bring up the closest match. You actually don't even need to be in the dialler to do this – you can start typing on the Home screen for the same effect.

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Naturally, the contacts list also appears when you select the Contacts option on the main menu. Finally, there's the Favourite Contacts widget on the Home screen.

The main contacts list is one of the menus that features the double-tap mechanic, but it does make a small amount of sense here. At the bottom of the screen are some static options to call, message and add new contact.

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This means you can select a contact and then choose to call or message quickly. Clicking the contact again takes you to their contact page, where you have the full range of contact options, including email and video calling.

We're not sure that the double-tap system is really any quicker than if the phone just opened these pages and let you choose but it makes a small amount of sense.

Editing or adding a new contact presents a fairly simple list of fields to you by defaults, including a space for a mobile number, landline, email address, Ovi Chat username, the option to add an image and more.

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Hit the Options button and Add Detail, and these can be expanded by quite some margin. Fax and Pager options are even on here, along with details like postal address and birthday, along with a generic notes option.

The contacts list on the Nokia C6 is a surprisingly standard bit of software for Symbian, truth be told. We say that because the C5 had Facebook integration in the main list, though its overall implementation was somewhat half-baked.

There's nothing like that here, despite it being a higher-end device. Maybe it's that Nokia thinks the C6 is for more serious users than the C5, but it just feels like missing a trick to us.

There is actually a Facebook option in the Add Detail menu when editing a contact, but we couldn't get it to actually do anything. It seems to just a be a text box that serves to be a reminder of… the person's name? We're not really sure of its purpose.

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Calling people is generally pretty unremarkable too.

Call quality was better than average, but didn't have us reaching for the thesaurus to find suitable superlatives. We could hear people loud and clear, including mobile to mobile calls, but the speaker is drowned out very easily by external noise (including cars).

The C6 holds on to basic calling signal quite well, and better than some other smartphones we've used, but not as well as some simple feature phones. There were very few places we completely lost signal, but it did happen.

Nokia C6: Messaging

Anything with a physical keyboard is always likely to come under close scrutiny for messaging, and the C6 is no exception.

With email, SMS, MMS, Ovi Chat and Facebook built-in, you won't be wanting for ways to message your friends or colleagues. Add to that the ability of the Ovi Store to bolster the range of options with extra apps, and it's safe to say the messaging feature list is impressive enough.

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The text message inbox has certain shades of the contacts list to it, in that there are few fancy features beyond the basic list view. Even the far, far cheaper Sony Ericsson Zylo has a threaded messaging view, so we're pretty disappointed not to find one here.

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The options when viewing a text are pretty much exactly as you'd think – you can reply, forward and delete the message with shortcuts, or delve into the Options menu to do more.

Writing texts is a similarly austere experience, interface-wise. Write your message on the lined screen, and the options to send it, add a contact (or additional contacts) and attach media to are all available as shortcuts.

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In both the writing and reading screens, the size of the font can be adjusted if you're having trouble seeing what you're doing at the regular size.

Email is supremely easy to set up, with Gmail, for example, requiring only your username and password to get straight into your account – no playing around with ports. Exchange is supported for enterprise use, along with Windows Live Hotmail, Ovi Mail and Yahoo Mail.

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The email widget is useful, but not comprehensive, showing whether you've got a new email and who the last two were from, along with their subject lines.

The inbox is arranged by date be default, with email in a little folder for each day, so you can effectively 'close' a day to neaten things up.

Writing emails is very similar to writing texts, with a lined view appearing. It's tweaked slightly – it includes Cc and Subject fields – but is functionally much the same as the SMS writing interface.

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Hyperlinks should be active and will take you through to the default browser when clicked.

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Messaging in the Facebook app has its own interface, featuring a teeny tiny font size. It works well enough, but really is ridiculously small, even for our fit, young eyes.

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Of course, here's where the physical keyboard comes into play. As we said in the design section, it's well-made and grippy, so hitting the keys isn't difficult. Hitting one at a time in the correct order was more of a challenge.

There's no gap at all between the keys, as there is on some other phones, including the Sony Ericsson Vivaz Pro. This isn't necessarily anything bad, except we found the keys ever-so-slightly small.

The results of these two factors is that we often hit two keys at once. A lot of the time, it only registered the one we wanted, because presumably that was the first to register, but it really upsets your typing rhythm.

Adding to this is the lack of auto-correction when using the keyboard. Get it wrong and it's just wrong, which isn't so bad since there's a D-pad to navigate back to your mistake and a Backspace key, but it would still save time to have the more egregious mistakes picked up.

We also wish the Space bar was one key wider to its left – three-and-a-bit instead of its current two-and-a-bit. It just doesn't sit under your left thumb where it is, resulting your having to either change to using your right thumb more often (upsetting your rhythm again), or you end up hitting @ a lot of the time.

With all of these gripes, you probably think we're not fans of the keyboard. Actually, it's not bad at all. As we said, the travel is nice and it gives a good amount of feedback, the material is perfect and the backlit lettering is clear and concise.

But it could be better. Look at our pictures and you'll see a fair bit of wasted space at both ends of the keyboard. It might have meddled too much with the internal design, but we wish this could have been put to use improving the spacing of the keys.

Nokia C6: Internet

The Nokia C6's 3.6Mbps HSDPA 3G mobile broadband connectivity, Wi-Fi capabilities and selection of connected widgets and apps mean the internet is at the heart of this phone, rather than an afterthought.

The primary outlet for this will always be the browser. Nokia's standard web browser is accessible from the main menu, or the Home screen if you set up a shortcut.

On the 3.2-inch screen's 640 x 360 resolution, Nokia's software fares quite well. Upon opening, it gives you the option to visit your bookmarks or recently visited pages.

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Hidden in a shortcut down the bottom is what looks like a search symbol, which brings up the URL entry box and a web search box. We don't know why they're tucked out of the way like this, but once you know where they are it's fine.

You can use the keyboard to type in a web address, a T9 pad on the screen or there's even handwriting recognition (which works fine if you use your nails, until you get to the dots – it kept seeing ours as apostrophes).

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Once the page is loaded, it goes fullscreen, with a little arrow in the bottom corner if you want to bring up the controls.

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From here you can access a panel of options that looks like it was from the original Macintosh operating system – right down to being greyscale.

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You can also bring up the URL and search boxes again, as well as a zoom slider. Being a resistive touchscreen – so no pinch to zoom, multi-touch ability – the slider is actually pretty solid.

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Rather than the long press and then movement of some resistive phones, which can mean you're just guessing how much to move your finger, and are obscuring what you want to see, this gives you a finite scale to work with on the edge of the screen.

If you have to go resistive, this is definitely the way to do zooming.

Pages render quickly for the most part, though images can take a little while to appear, even over Wi-Fi. Generally, performance was good for its Symbian heritage, but pales compared to Android's WebKit-based browser.

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Hit the Back button at the bottom-left of the screen, and you get taken to a page overview of the sites you've been to. It looks just like the 'tabs' interface you get on something like the iPhone, but the C6 can't do more than one page, so it's quite confusing the first time it comes up.

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We actually really like it as a concept, because it makes going back two or three pages just a matter of flicking your finger along until you see the one you want (they're all rendered, so you can choose one at a glance), but it still takes you back a bit the first time you see it.

Having tried out the built-in browser, we had a look at the Ovi Store and spotted Opera Mobile among the recommended apps. We installed it, and compared it to Nokia's offering.

On loading TechRadar, it was no faster initially than the preloaded browser, but then it loaded the whole of the site at once, rather than starting with the top corner like Nokia's software did.

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Zooming is handled with double-taps, which is generally fine – and fast – but lacks the precision you get with the slider.

Opera opens with a kind of bookmark screen, just like the built-in effort, but the Speed Dial screen is far fancier. You add you favourite sites and it offers thumbnails to spruce things up a bit.

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Opera also features tabs, besting the standard browser in one fell swoop, if you're an online multitasker.

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We actually ended up using both browsers on and off, and we ultimately wouldn't say one particularly beat the other in any meaningful way. Opera is certainly slicker, with a few more features, but Nokia's browser is built into the OS more, and you rarely feel the desperate need to switch.

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We should mention, though, that trying to have the TechRadar home page open on both browsers at the same time (Nokia's was running in the background, with Opera open) caused a loss of memory, and we couldn't go any further until we'd quit some background apps.

Flash Lite is available in Nokia's browser, but it doesn't actually get you much. BBC's site videos are out of the question, for example.

Internet access is also available through the Home screens connected widgets. We've already looked at the email widget, but there are plenty of others, including Facebook, CNN Video, Bloomberg, VoIP, MySpace (if that's still your thing) and others.

The Facebook widget would be the most useful, if it were in any way interesting. It shows two screens on rotation, the first of which shows your name (which you really ought to be aware of anyway), how many unread messages are in your inbox, how many friend requests you have and how many pokes you've been poked.

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The second screen scrolls through some recent messages from your friends. It includes parts of conversations between two of your friends, but it only says who's written the message, not who it's to. Without context, they tend to be a bit baffling.

More use (for people who like football) is the ESPNSoccernet widget. At the time of writing, it scrolls through the forthcoming first weekend of Premiership matches, telling you who's playing whom, and when they kick off. It can do FA Cup matches instead, but no other leagues or cups are reported.

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Click the widget and it takes you through to a larger app, which shows more information at once, but is so laggy that the less it's mentioned the better. It'll do if you really, really need to see the league table in a pinch.

Nokia C6: Camera

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The Nokia C6 features a 5MP camera with an LED flash, and an impressive number of settings.

Considering how little focus is made of the camera on this phone, it's certainly not wanting for options. There are numerous scene modes, including Close-up (macro), Portrait, Landscape, Sport, Night, Night Portrait and User defined (manual).

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There's a Colour tone setting, that enables you to go Sepia or Black and White, as well as an option for Vivid colours.

White balance, exposure, ISO levels, contrast and sharpness can all be adjusted, too. There's a Sequence shooting mode and grid overlay for getting your Rule of Thirds composure correct.

Not all of these carry across to Video mode, but there's still the option to adjust the white balance and colour tone. The flash is also available as a steady light when shooting video.

Video records in VGA resolution at 30 frames per second, in MP4 format as standard or 3GP for sending via MMS.

There's a 4x digital zoom that's available in both still and video mode, and can be adjusted on the fly while taking video. The flash has a red-eye reduction mode, and can be turned off.

We were generally very impressed by the options and usability of the camera, but there's one significant flaw. When holding the phone up landscape, like a camera, and using the shutter button, the screen wobble comes right back into play.

You're generally holding tightest with your thumbs on the front of the phone at that point, which means pressing down on the shutter causes the rear to slide out a bit before you get the shutter button all the way down.

In bright light, it's not such a problem, but in any other condition it can introduce blur and double images. It's such a silly design mistake, but every time it happens it'll annoy the hell out of you.

There is a button on-screen for taking images, but because it's a resistive touchscreen, you have to press quite hard to choose it, which gives you the exact problem of the phone then shaking slightly as you take the image.

Nokia c6Click here for full-res version

LANDSCAPE MODE:Using the automatic Landscape mode settings, the sky has come out fairly overexposed here. The colours are quite accurate, but viewing this at full size reveal a criminal lack of detail in any part of the picture, really

Nokia c6Click here for full-res version

VIVID COLOURS:Another shot with the same settings, except for the fact that the Vivid colour setting has been added. It gives the trees a nice, lush look on an overcast day, perhaps more appealing than the natural version. The sky looks a little less overexposed, but it could just be the altered colours playing tricks

Nokia c6Click here for full-res image

CONTRAST:Taken against a blue sky, the camera can't find any middle ground in the metering, so anything near the foreground loses all detail and colour

Nokia c6Click here for full-res version

PORTRAIT:The camera is totally incapable of handling the sunlight bouncing on this lion's head in Portrait mode. We tried to get this shot several times, and this was the best of them. It's a shame, because the background is nice and blurred, as it should be, and if you look at the lion's art at full size, there's actually a ton of detail there. It'd be really impressive, if the camera could handle the rest of the shot

Nokia c6Click here for full-res version

ZOOM:With the 4x digital zoomed maxed out, this pigeon lacks any texture or definition

Nokia c6Click here for full-res image

CLOSE-UP:This is more like it. Vibrant natural colours, crisp shadows and highlights that don't lose any detail, texture and dimension… we couldn't be happier with this macro shot. Pity the camera didn't perform like this all the time

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Though the C6 ostensibly records video in VGA resolution, it outputs 16:9 footage, which doesn't match up. VGA is 640 x 480, which is 4:3, so obviously something's got to give here.

After checking on a computer, it's actually the vertical resolution that loses out. Videos on the C6 record at 640 x 352 at 30 frames per second. This puts them pretty close to native resolution for the 640 x 360 nHD screen.

The actual quality was pretty disappointing. The most noticeable issue is that the exposure and white balance seemed to keep changing on the fly, even when we were standing in one spot.

In the video above, you'll notice things get suddenly lighter and darker, and the colours are sometimes warmer than others.

Motion is captured smoothly, as you can see in the ripples on the pond, which is what we'd expect at 30fps.

Sadly, detail is lacking, as is definition in anything out of direct sunlight. Really, it's good for a quick shot of your mate falling from a tree, but there's not much to recommend the video capabilities of the C6 for.

Nokia C6: Media

While media isn't touted as the focus of the Nokia C6, that nHD 16:9 screen has a certain amount of promise when it comes to movies and photos.

In addition, there's the music player and FM radio, along with YouTube.

The Music app can be found in either the main menu, or it can be accessed via the Home screen widget, which will feature the album art of the current song, if it's available.

Entering the app from the menu presents the choice of your Music library, the Ovi Music store, or the Radio app.

In the Music library, you can choose to view by Artists, Albums, Playlists and so on.

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Choose a song to play, and you get a simple screen with play/pause and skip options. Go into the Options menu and you get more options, including the equaliser settings.

The C6 is able to play audio in MP3, WMA and AAC formats.

It's a well-functioning app, but offers nothing beyond the Ovi Music shop to make it stand out from the competition – and even that service is offered by others in another form. In any case, it has a decent selection of music, but could hardly be called comprehensive.

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As far as music quality goes, this is also competent, but uninspiring. There's plenty of detail in music over the supplied headphones, but but bass in particular feels shallow and two-dimensional.

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Though you can add your own headphones, thanks to the 3.5mm headphone jack, this only improves it a certain amount. Tweaking the equaliser in conjunction with a better set of earphones can yield a better sound overall, but it's always going to be pretty limited.

To absolutely no-one's surprise, the radio requires earphones. When you first load it, the app asks to scan for stations. It's best to do this and store your presets for wherever you are. Later, you can rescan for new stations if you're on the move.

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Audio quality was pretty good over the radio. Obviously, it's always going to depend on how good reception is where you are, but we found even the more crackly stations somewhat audible, although you'll still never be able to hear some people on phone-in shows.

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The video player is also accessible from the main menu, but doesn't have the same simple organisation system. For a start, it tells you how many new videos you have instead of how many you have total. It's a slightly odd way of doing things.

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While watching a video, you can choose to stretch or zoom videos to make them fit the widescreen layout, in addition to a slider you can use for more precise control.

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The quality of video is quite good, with nice colours and generally smooth motion.

YouTube access is actually via the browser, and the interface is fiddly, small and doesn't lend itself to a quick browse for new videos. However, videos play back quickly over Wi-Fi, and the quality is good unless there's a huge amount of movement, in which case artifacts take over.

The photo gallery apps is similar to the other media functions on the C6 in terms of being pretty simply laid out. Pictures can be sorted into albums, if you're planning to use the C6 to show off lots of images to people, and we wouldn't blame you – they look nice on the nHD screen.

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Sure, it's no Retina Display from the iPhone 4, and it doesn't compare to the Samsung Galaxy S' AMOLED wonder-screen, but colours look great and there's enough detail to make picture look natural.

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You can also upload to online sharing services straight from a photo, with Nokia's own Ovi service supported as well as Flickr and Vox.

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Nokia C6: Apps

If there's one thing we can't criticise the Nokia C6 for, it's lacking apps. It comes loaded with a drawing tool, a voice recorder, and travel planner, location services, Shazam music identification, Bloomberg stocks, CNN Video, ESPN, Facebook, MySpace, a podcasting tool, notes and… well, the list goes on.

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Head into the Office folder to find Adobe PDF reader, Quickoffice for opening Microsoft Office files, as well as the Calculator and Converter apps.

Nokia c6

Nokia c6

Quickoffice will only let you view files in the mode it's loaded on the phone, you'll need to purchase a full licence to edit them.

The Traveler app is one of the fancier on the Nokia C6, enabling you to plan international journeys and see updates on the weather for where you're going and get reminders about your flights, using a 3D globe as a bit of eye candy (complete with accurate sunrise/sunset line).

Nokia c6

Bejeweled Twist is available for fun times, and is the full version of the game, rather than a trial. There will never be a time when free Bejeweled isn't major selling point.

Nokia c6

Facebook apps are always impressive on mid-range smartphones (for better or worse), so it's no surprise to find one here. Annoyingly, it asks your permission to connect every time you want to use it over mobile broadband. It actually does it twice, and while it'll become second nature eventually, it's still pretty unnecessary.

After it loads, you're presented with your news feed, and can quickly switch to Events via the tab at the top. Along the bottom are shortcuts to wider functions, including your profile, Friends, Photos and Inbox.

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From your Profile page, you can hit the little 'man with phone' symbol at the top right to post a new status update.

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On the Home tab, you can hit the camera symbol at the top right to immediately take and/or upload a photo. Why you can't also do the quick status post from here, we don't know.

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It's a pretty strong app overall, and makes good use of the screen space on offer – though it does have an awfully small font when writing messages.

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The Ovi Maps navigation app is included, as is standard for Nokia these days. We're big fans, and the C6 features a very strong incarnation of it.

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On the 3.2-inch screen, there's plenty of space for clear directions, and good resolution and strong colours means you won't be struggling to make things out.

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The built-in A-GPS chip found us very quickly, and we rarely lost a good satellite signal (which is indicated on-screen).

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Of course, there's a range of voices to choose from to direct you. Obviously, everyone goes for Surfer Dude first time, but you actually have to download that one. If you're in a hurry, best pick one of the others (with a saddened sigh).

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Instructions are clear, but the built-in speaker could struggle to be heard on the motorway if you've got a loud car.

The Ovi Store means you can download more apps, like Opera Mobile, as we mentioned earlier.

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The C6 was also missing a Twitter client when we downloaded it, so we grabbed the free Tweet60 app without much trouble. It could be quite slow to refresh, but was acceptable for a free app (not a patch on what you get on iPhone or Android, though).

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The most important thing is that Doodle Jump is available, so don't worry about that. Wait, what? Angry what? Birds? Well, damn. Never mind – that'll probably make its way over in a few years. Have patience.

Nokia C6: Battery life and connectivity

The 1200 mAh battery in the Nokia C6 is smaller than you would generally get in smartphones, and it really shows.

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Though Nokia suggest up to 11 hours of talk time and 400 hours of standby, we think it's probably being a bit ambitious, particularly in talk time.

Frankly, the C6's battery life is one of its biggest weaknesses. When we did our camera testing, we had about half a charge showing upon leaving the house. Granted, we had the screen on a lot for the next few minutes, we took over 20 pictures and a few videos, and we made on phone call for five minutes.

When we got back, the phone gave us a low battery alert. We'd only been out for an hour or so.

Similarly, on days we weren't doing heavy testing of the phone, it wouldn't make through 48 hours without a charge. On similarly light days, even an iPhone 3GS can go for longer than that.

These days, the tenet is that smartphones need charging every day. In most cases, you can get away with not doing this, but we'd say it's vital in using the Nokia C6.

Connectivity

With HSDPA and Wi-Fi ready to handle your wireless data needs, there's plenty of speedy connectivity on offer.

We had no problems configuring the C6 to get straight onto our WPA2-encrypted wireless router. There's a Home screen widget for monitoring your Wi-Fi connection, if that's important to you.

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Otherwise, delve into the Settings menu and the Connectivity options to get up your connection.

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The connection was strong, and didn't drop out going from room-to-room.

The 3G connectivity proved to be fairly robust. We found that the C6 wasn't quite as good as picking up low-level internet signals in traditional problem areas as some phones, but we didn't have trouble getting strong 3G broadband connections while out and about.

Web pages load fairly quickly, though it obviously depends on what's in them. If you're mostly sticking with mobile sites when on the move, then you'll find things move quickly enough on the C6's 3G connection.

More media-heavy sites will take longer, but we found the C6 acquitted itself admirably when it came to 3G browsing overall.

Bluetooth 2.0 with Enhanced Data Rate is on hand for file transfers. It's as fast as Bluetooth ever is – so good for a quick file here and there, but nothing to rely on.

The micro-USB port offers USB 2.0 connectivity for the phone. Plugging it into your computer brings up options on the phone for how you want it to appear.

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You can choose PC Suite (for use with the included Ovi Suite – Windows only), Mass Storage (for just accessing the files, including drag-and-drop adding of music and video), Image Transfer and Media Transfer.

Adding media via the Mass Storage option worked well for us, with the phone taking a few seconds to search when you open the Music Player app before adding everything it found.

The microSD card slot can take up to 16GB, though only a 2GB card is included. This will last you a while, but if you're serious about loading up with videos to play on the 640 x 360 screen, or even a middle-to-large music collection, you'll probably want to consider an upgrade.

Finally, there's a 3.5mm jack for connecting your own headphones or external speakers, though the included pair has a microphone for hands-free chatting.

Nokia C6: Hands-on gallery

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Nokia C6: Official gallery

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Nokia C6: Verdict

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While it's undoubtedly mid-range, there seems to be some confusion over exactly who the C6 is exactly aimed at.

Using the phone, it comes across a very businessy, especially with its Traveler application. However, Nokia suggests it's for keeping in touch with your friends – a social networking phone.

Actually, maybe that's not fair. Nokia seems to be aiming it more as a kind of messenger-phone plus. There's certainly a niche for that, but it tends to heavily dominated by the BlackBerry.

We liked

The Home screen's rectangle layout is eminently sensible, causing no strange errors when you switch between landscape and portrait. It gives less freedom within the widgets, but we think it's a good trade-off.

The phone's matte plastic body is great and feels as though you could punt it across a car park without worry, if it weren't for that occasionally dodgy build quality.

Ovi Maps is great on pretty much any phone, and in conjunction with a nice 3.2-inch screen and A-GPS, this is one its strongest showings.

The screen is nice, and while it's not in the class of the iPhone 4 or Samsung Galaxy S, it's impressive for a far cheaper phone.

The camera is capable of some nice close-up shots, but were more impressed with all the different options available.

Messaging on the phone is pretty strong, including email that's gloriously easy to set up.

We disliked

The touchscreen just isn't a very strong feature on the C6. It comes down to a combination of a very average resistive screen combined with an OS that lags occasionally.

You get used to using it, so you start just switching to your fingernail for precise actions and just press hard the rest of the time, but it's just a million miles away from great capacitive screens.

And we feel the need to reiterate – that OS really is laggy. Having to wait for the screen to deign to come on for several seconds before you can see who's calling is just not on.

If you don't think a few seconds is a long time, just leave your phone for five seconds next time it rings out loud when you're in a quiet environment. It's a lot longer than you think.

Not only that, but for all the years its been around, Symbian just isn't that polished. The random double-tap menus, apps hidden within folders within folders within menus, accelerometer's that are turned off by default – it simply lack the thoughtfulness that goes into Apple's iOS or HTC's Sense UI.

For a messaging, mid-range smartphone, we were also surprised not to see any social network integration in the contacts. The C6's little brother, the C5, had this, and yet this is supposed to be the clever one. It's an odd omission.

The camera wasn't great at taking most photos, seemingly due to struggling with metering, and video weren't much cop, either.

Verdict

You might notice we haven't mentioned the keyboard above. We're calling it neutral – well-made, but with keys just too close together. Maybe we'd be more forgiving if there wasn't so much wasted space around it.

While we're criticising Symbian for being laggy, we should mention that C6 does feel robust, software-wise. Though it lacks shine, it's got features coming out of every port (save for proper social network integration).

There are useful widgets, speedy internet access and a nice screen, but those are offset by general usability frustrations.

If you really want a touchscreen phone with a nice screen and a keyboard for free on a cheap-ish contract, we recommend this over the Sony Ericsson Vivaz Pro.

However, if the number of pixels on-screen and physical keyboard aren't vital for you, but you'd like a slick interface, you might want to cast your gaze towards the HTC Wildfire, which also has the bonus of feeling much smaller.

mobile phone Symbian touchscreen
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