Review by Sunetra Chakravati,
12/12/2011 3:57:48 PM
Nokia Messaging with support for 10 email accounts and desktop-like features, free sat-nav with Ovi Maps, two-megapixel camera is better than you?d expect, low price for decent feature set
Sluggish on-screen keyboard with no auto-correct system, paucity of decent apps on Ovi Store, fiddly side-loading SIM slot
The Nokia 5230 is... okay. It has a reasonably good touch-screen... set in a plastic chassis with some silly hardware features. It packs Nokia's excellent email interface, Nokia Messaging, but the on-screen keyboard is only mediocre. And the usual complaint - the apps at Nokia's Ovi Store are so exquisitely uninspiring, something called 'Fart Attack (Lite)' is one of Nokia's recommended apps.
£150 can get you a decent enough touch-phone, and the Nokia 5230 is just that. Our model was a simple plastic device in white with silver trim on the front, and a full 3.2-inch touch-screen, which is the same size as the higher-end HTC Hero, and equally comfortable for web browsing. It's nicely rounded and the touch-screen, despite being of the lower-end resistive variety, is pretty responsive with pleasantly soft haptic feedback that lets you know when your command has been registered. Below the screen are just three buttons - call and end, plus a menu button that launches a cute sequence where the current screen divides like sliding doors to reveal all programs. Like most Nokia phones both high- and low-end the 5230 has a 3.5mm audio jack so you can use your own set of headphones, though with just 70MB of internal memory, you'll have to shell out an extra £6 for a 4GB card, or £30 for a 16GB one. What we like less - a lot less - is the ridiculous side-loading SIM slot that not only requires you to remove the battery anyway, but also needs a small pointy object to actually push the SIM in far enough and remove it again. If you need to change your card often - for example when travelling, or between work and personal SIMs - this gets old fast. Meanwhile, the key unlock switch is a springy slider on the side that feels a bit out of place with the otherwise flat silhouette of the phone.
The homescreen is a lighter version of Nokia's other S60 phones with just one live notification bar for email, a toolbar of four favourite contacts, and a customisable app toolbar with default links to Sky Mobile, Facebook, Maps, and Ovi Store. Can't blame a manufacturer for trying, right? Unfortunately, the 5230 is 3G but not Wi-Fi-enabled, and though Sky Mobile does support 3G, any streaming app generally works better over the stronger Wi-Fi connection and in fact, we got 'operation timed out' three times when trying to load the app. Even users of Ovi Store have rated the app just one star (out of three). The browser isn't full HTML, so it will load the mobile versions of websites, while sites that don't have a mobile-optimised version take a little longer. At least the Facebook app is great with the full suite of features, and the accelerometer switches the display when you turn the phone on its side. Nokia Messaging is the highlight of the software though, with great desktop functionality and lots of shortcuts. You can add priority flags to messages, and view emails by subject, date, sender, flagged, priority, unread or attachment filters. Hold down on an email in the inbox, and you'll get the option to delete, reply, replay all, mark as read, flag or move that email. The program also supports up to ten email accounts that you can easily switch between and view emails you've starred on a desktop (though we weren't able to see any custom folders on our Gmail account). Too bad then, that all these excellent email features are quite let down by the typical Symbian keyboard that doesn't allow you to actually type in the email field - instead, you'll hop to another screen with just the keyboard and a text box. Numbers and symbols are also on a second keyboard screen, so you won't be able to use handy shortcuts like long-pressing on a letter to get its alternate symbol like you can on Android or BlackBerry handsets. The resistive screen is also too slow to keep up with speedy typists, on average missing a letter or two per word, while for some reason, there is no auto-correct system. Unless you type like a handicapped turtle, you'll find emails and messages pretty frustrating. But don't worry - if you still enjoy old-school texting on the standard keypad, which you see when typing in portrait orientation, you can at least turn on predictive text for that.
We still dislike Ovi Store, which stocks several thousand 'items' largely comprised of themes, wallpapers and superfluous apps like the aforementioned Fart Attack (Lite). Presumably there's a Pro version that expects your pounds in exchange for turbo-charged faux farts? The interface is dated as well, with its pixelated tiny icons. Oh well - at least with Ovi's backup service, you can back up your contacts, videos and pictures over the air at Ovi.com.
Speaking of, there's surprisingly decent two-megapixel camera with no flash that takes not only takes pretty good daylight photos, but also comes with several modes such as portrait or night. Lowlight photos came relatively well-lit - at least if we weren't in a dark environment such as a club - though they were a little soft. A coup is the inclusion of A-GPS and Maps 2.0, upgradeable to Ovi Maps 3.0 with its free sat-nav offerings, plus free access to Lonely Planet and Michelin City Guides. The map interface is pretty and simple too - you can choose between top-down 2D view, or a 3D one - while the home menu lets you easily choose from walk/drive directions, a map of your current location, and weather. You can also save a 'home' location to get one-touch walk or drive directions back from wherever you are.
'Basic' smartphones - assuming this isn't cannibalising an already overused word for phones which don't really merit it - seem to be gathering steam, and the Nokia 5230 is a good pioneer. It's stylish and looks a little more expensive than it is, while the resistive touch-screen is good enough in most functions, bar its on-screen keyboard. Nokia's ace in the hole is its Ovi Maps offering though, which adds free sat-nav and bonus Lonely Planet and Michelin City Guides to an otherwise average phone. If you're looking for a low-cost handset with some smartphone features, the Nokia 5230 could be for you.