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Review of Nokia C3-01 GSM/UMTS phone
Live photos of Nokia C3-01
S40 touchscreen phones for Nokia is a logical development of the competition on the market. Nokia products has been sandwiched between the Chinese and Korean manufacturers that about three years ago bet on the market of touchscreen phones. As a result today budget touchscreen phones cost less than a hundred dollars and this market is developing very fast. Nokia could not offer an adequate response and had to aggressively cut prices for S60 smartphones. This did not allow the company to put such devices in the medium price range, and made it necessary to choose a different platform for the top range and they went for MeeGo.
The company could launch "cheap and cheerful" budget S60 smartphones but their price would still be higher than the competitors' regular touchscreen phones. For Nokia this would mean lower revenues so the company decided to develop S40 touchscreen phones. They have started working on it about two years ago but have been held back. The problem is they did not just need to adjust the S40 interface to touchscreens but also rewrite the browser, maps and a number of other applications. Nokia started developing S40 6th edition but the developers simply did not have enough time. As a matter of fact, Compact UI was meant to become the first step towards touchscreen phones Ц it was a preparation for a touchscreen interface. For example, this version has bigger interface elements though it remained non-touchscreen. Since the development focused on separate interface elements and applications the Touch&Type (S40 6th Edition FP1) release has been also postponed.
The concept is based on the idea that a part of users today prefer the regular key pad to the touchscreen because they want blind typing. But they are also curious about touchscreen phones because they want to try something new. And these undecided people are the target audience of the Touch&Type series. It is a hybrid solution that preserved the key pad but also has a touchscreen (a small one and with low resolution so far). It is difficult to estimate the number of users who might choose such hybrid phones Ц but the facts show that there are not many of them. The first sales month of Nokia X3-02 was a complete disaster for this concept Ц the sales are too low for a phone with such functionality and in such a price range. Similar story with C3-01 Ц this means that the market and thus the users have not accepted the hybrid phones idea.
And these phones have strange ergonomics indeed. I, for example, did not like that to type a text you use the key pad but to clear a character (key "C") you have to use the screen icons. Working with the key pad and the screen is different experience. It feels unusual to any user that is why in terms of ergonomics this solution is not so great. As well as you set time in the calendar on the key pad but have to scroll through on the screen.
So the screen merely plays the role of the navigation button and substitutes it. This is logical but also not so convenient. For seniors this kind of layout is unacceptable (though there might be exceptions but a survey showed that seniors usually confuse the keys). For the youth this phone is merely a surrogate of touchscreen phones and, as a result, the sales are low. For the middle-ages this phone might be attractive if priced correctly. But taking into account the multitude of cheaper non-touchscreen Nokias with comparable functionality this model looks bad. So the corollary is, the long time spent on the Touch&Type series has undermined the efforts. Add also the inappropriate pricing. We can understand that it is a niche product that will never become widely popular under any circumstances (popular for its market segment with significant sales as compared to the present Nokia analogs).
In my opinion, these phones are stand alones Ц some will like them and some will not, it is just a matter of taste. Only you cannot tell whether you like them or not until you actually try such a phone. It narrows down the target audience of these products. The sales might go up if high-res screens are added (the second generation of Touch&Type coming in the summer 2011) as well as a virtual key pad for typing. The next logical step would be to drop the physical key pad but, as far as I know, no such models are being developed for the S40 series. It means that the Touch&Type series will remain a niche and temporary product. It would be interesting to know the number of these products Nokia is going to produce in 2011. So far it is no more but an experiment that has reached the mass market. But there is not really a future for these models.
C3-01 model looks interesting Ц it is based on Nokia 6700 Classic Ц the design of the phones is similar. Unlike Nokia X3-02 where the keys layout is not standard this phone is regular. But the key feature is the stainless steel back panel and the screen and (partly) sides edging.
The C index tells that the model is budget so you could presume it would be under X3-02 but actually it is vice versa. It is a more expensive phone designed to be a universal solution mainly for those who favor Nokia. The company will offer the phone in different colors: warm grey, silver, khaki gold.
On the top side there is a 2mm charger jack, 3.5mm headset jack and a microUSB slot (supports charging). On the right side there is a volume rocker, camera button and the screen and key pad lock button. The latter one is very strange. A single press locks the screen but to unlock it you have to press it and then press an icon on the screen. Bizarre indeed Ц I would have done it differently. For example, press and hold to unlock or two presses. This would be more convenient - the Nokia solution is an abomination.
The back panel features the loudspeaker grill. There is also a single LED flash and may function as a torch (quick access from the key pad). A lot of dust gets under the back panel. After just a week in your pocket you will find a lot of dusty spots underneath it.
The phone has a light indicator installed between the call and end call buttons. If you have missed calles or SMS it blinks in white.
The phone's dimensions - 111х47.5х11mm (4.4x1.9x0.43in), weight Ц 100gr (3.5oz). The phone feels great in hand, the weight is agreeable. I like the phone's perception, there is no creaking Ц the assembly quality is fine.
The screen size is 2.4in Ц not much for a touchscreen phone, but, on the other hand, plenty for such a hybrid solution. The resolution is low Ц 240x320, but taking into account that the interface was specially designed to feature large controls for fingers it is enough. The screen id resistive - you may even use it in gloves in cold weather.
The screen is budget it displays up to 262 000 colors (TFT). Under direct sunlight it remains quite readable thanks to the large icons of the interface. The viewing angles are not so good but it is not really important. The screen fits 5-6 lines in most menu lists, but the browser may display more lines (up to 14).
The keys are big and divided by plastic inserts. The key pad is convenient, the key strokes are good and soft. The key pad backlit is light blue, it is not very bright and is evenly spread. The call and the end call buttons are also convenient. The general ergonomics of the key pad is above average.
The phone uses BL-5CT Li-Ion battery with the capacity of 1050mAh. The manufacturer gives the following numbers on its lifetime: 5.5 hours of voice calls and up to 405 hours of standby. Music playback time Ц up to 20 hours (Nokia gave the wrong values of 38 hours on the developers forum).
The battery's average lifetime equaled about 2.5 days within Moscow cell networks. This includes up to 1.5 hours of voice calls, about twenty taken pictures, a couple minutes of video shot and up to three hours of radio or music listening. Battery charging until full takes about 2.5 hours.
Maximum lifetime in different modes:
USB. the USB settings you may choose one of the three working modes:
Data transfer rate is about 5Mb/s. The battery charges when the phone is connected to a PC.
This phone features USB Host, if you connect an external adapter you may connect external USB storage devices to e.g. back-up the files. Nokia calls this function USB on the Go, it is promoted only with Nokia N8 but many inexpensive S40 have it too.
Bluetooth. Bluetooth version Ц 2.1 with EDR. The phone supports the following profiles:
Average data transfer rate via Bluetooth is about 100Kb/s. We have tested stereo sound transfer to Sony Ericsson DS970 headset: track controls, forwarding/rewinding and skip track function work fine, but the current track title is not displayed on the screen.
WiFi. There is a new network master app, you may save the networks in the phone's memory. Unfortunately, the phone does not automatically launch WLAN master if you connect in the browser. It supports 802.11 b/g/n (WPA2 AES/TKIP).
30MB (out of 48MB) of the phone memory is available to the user to store any data. The memory is distributed dynamically among all the applications. This memory also stores the browser cache. You will find more info on the drawbacks of such organization in the article on the functionality of S40 6th edition FP1.
Supported memory cards Ц microSD, the slot is on the right side, it supports hot swap, the phone is shipped without a card. The maximum card size id limited to 16GB. The system memory size is 64MB. The memory size of applications is limited to 2MB, as well as the heap size to 2MB.
The phone features a 5MP CMOS module without autofocus (fixed focus from 20cm to infinity, EDoF). There is a LED flash. For a phone of this price range the camera is flawless. On sunny days the picture are not bad, you may view them on your PC without much disappointment. It is not a paragon but it is not scrap metal as well. It is a golden mean for its price.
The camera interface is horizontal (S40 Simple), the button on the side quickly allows you to turn the camera on. Pictures are saved quite promptly. The maximum resolution is 2592х1944. Have a look at the sample pictures to make an opinion.
Samples of photos:
Video Shooting. The phone records video in the 3GP format with the resolution of 640x480 (15 frames per second). You may limit the duration of movies else it is limited by the size of the phone memory or the memory card. You can apply the same effects to your videos as to your photos, the number of the effects is the same. If you watch your movies on the phone the quality is acceptable even on the highest resolution. On the PC you will see artifacts but the video would still be watchable which a big advantage of this phone.
You are welcome to find out more info on the phone's functions and its platform in the dedicated article. Below you find snapshots of the pre-installed applications that do not require any comments.
There are a few applications in the Games section Ц Climate Mission Ц a farfetched game on the ecology theme; Memorize (memory training), Picture Puzzle (a picture 15 puzzle).
Among the Applications you find Communities (a rather limited Facebook and Twitter client), currency converter, clothes size converter, world time, Opera Mini.
The phone has OVI Chat that allows you to communicate with other OVI users which is nice. Unfortunately, there are not many of such users and there is no support for other services. On the other hand, this application may operate and receive messages when minimized Ц a sprout of multitasking. It would be great if this application received support for AIM, ICQ and Skype, but it is unlikely.
The mail client for the first time on S40 is substituted by Nokia Messaging. This client has many advantages, in particular, support for up to 10 accounts, quick settings for the popular services, no need to manually adjust server settings. Other nice points: picture optimization before downloading form a server Ц helps you save traffic (works for OVI Mail). For example, a 1.8MB picture turns into just 16KB. Perfect for the phone screen. The drawback Ц you cannot get the original if you need it. The mail client is rather slow but not too slow unless you have a lot of mail.
More on the mail client and its limitations in the platforms description.
The music experience is good, it is not very loud to substitute a boom box but for the rest the music playback is fine. Unfortunately, you may not forward/rewind on the screen Ц the player is still crude. These are just notes on the margins Ц more in the platform description.
There no problems with the voice clarity in both directions Ц the call loudspeaker has a good volume margin, you can hear your interlocutor very well. The connection quality is ok. The ringtone volume is excellent Ц it yells, the vibration strength is a bit above average.
There are two Touch&Type models on the market: X3-02 at about И125 in the EU, and C3-01 at И145. In my opinion, X3-02 seriously falls behind its big brother both in terms of the body (plastic vs. metal) and the key pad layout Ц the layout on X3-02 is too bizarre and the looks are not very appealing, though it is a matter of taste.
The analog of this phone is Nokia 6700 Classic only it costs much more Ц about И200. The latter has become a hit on the market and is being sold in large quantities. And this model will soon be substituted but taking into account its popularity it may live at least another year. Nokia X2-00 is its functional analog and it costs significantly less Ц about И110. Same specs but no touchscreen or metal parts. For the youth this phone is a preferable alternative. The shipment package is also better Ц there is a bundled memory card. On the other hand, there are always experiments lovers. Unfortunately, today the functionality of the Touch&Type series is limited by the lack of many applications. Nokia have not managed to make maps for this platform and you cannot use Google Maps Ц it simply crashes. This platform was developed hastily thus there is no voice control as wel as a number of functions present on the previous S40 phones.
However, there is Wi-Fi and it is an advantage. But do we really need it since we do not have a proper browser? You are welcome to join the discussion. This phone leaves mixed feelings. I do not like the combination of a touchscreen and a key pad. The virtual keyboard allows you to type faster (if you have a QWERTY key board). Taking into account that there is a multitude of phones with 2.8 to 3.2in screens in this price range you do have a lot of options. The performance is not outstanding: some functions are prompt (Contacts, SMS) and some are laggy. It all roots from the platform's general crudeness Ц certain applications have been developed too hastily. So far the Touch&Type platform is rather an experiment than a ready to use product. We will have to look at how fast the existing S40 functions will be adapted. I quite liked the new application that allow you to transfer contacts and other data from other phones. And I also liked the OVI account, automatic calendar and contacts sync on schedule is very convenient. But there are not many such good examples.
C3-01 phone is unusual so you have to try it out and see whether you like such a hybrid or not before purchasing it. It would be difficult to see all the facets in a store but you have to try. This phone is not really attractive both in terms of the price and its functions. A very ambiguous product from the points of view of both the functionality and ergonomics.
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Published 23 February 2011
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