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Nokia Remix - Nokia 5800 exposed

Nokia picked an interesting venue for the launch event for their latest and greatest music phone - a night club in London going by the name of "Koko". Curiously, its stage has seen a lot of stars come and go, even Madonna herself had a performance there once. So, apparently, this choice wasn't random at all, on the contrary, Nokia knew exactly what they were going to say and show over there, since essentially they came in to shatter the current balance on the music phone market, and their primary target was Apple's very own turf. Many won't pay much attention to what happened last night, and they will miss out on really big events - in fact, Nokia didn't set out to deliver a weak iPhone-esque device, by any means. They decided to attack Apple's most vital spot and gave the market an incredibly affordable music-minded phone that will give all other top-of-the-line music players, including the Apple Touch, a hell of a run for their money. Plus it will snatch some of the iPhone's sales along the way.

It's worth mentioning that almost up until the announcement day Nokia was pondering over what price they wanted to set for the 5800 - you can run through all telecom-related forums to see that nobody believed that such a feature-rich phone could go for as little as 350 Euro or so. Some even speculated that it would retail for 500-600 Euro at start. But as it turned out, we have all been wrong.

The plummeting US market has prompted many agencies slash their forecasts for the consumer electronics market. Particularly, they emphasized lower-than-expected sales of high-end MP3-players. In a situation like this Apple's primary goals was to maintain their market share in Europe, and basically that's the moment when Nokia delivered a knock-out punch with their 5800 Xpress Music retailing for mere 279 Euro (before subsidies and rebates). This much money will buy you a new Apple Touch player, however you will to double this sum to get yourself an iPhone 3G. This smells like a real war and Nokia's move under these circumstances is quite formidable Not only do they target Apple's most precious offerings, they also nudge Sony Ericsson's Walkman range along with some of their own music-minded solutions and other manufacturers of top-notch video-playing devices.

Here is a couple of bare numbers - as of today, Nokia has sold 300 million music-playing phones, and their XpressMusic line-up features 11 offerings, including the world's most popular music-savvy solution, the Nokia 5310, whose sales have already reached 10 million units worldwide. The arrival of the Nokia 5800 XpressMusic spells disaster from Nokia's very own offerings, at least as long as their prices remain at the current level. So in fact, with their latest and greatest 5800 XpressMusic, Nokia are looking to redraw the map of price brackets in 2009 - there will be some casualties in Nokia's portfolio, and they will have to give up certain price segments, but in return they will make the market explode during the next year. It's really difficult to imagine some other announcement of the same magnitude. All in all, the events that took place last night will set the course for 2009 for all manufacturers. The Nokia 5800 turned out to be a true revolution, make no mistake about that.

Also, it's the third phone to ship with Nokia Comes with Music service (prior to the 5800's announcement the only two phones that supported it were the 5310 and N95 8Gb). These phones are set to go live in the UK and some other markets on October 16th. So, what this gimmick can offer us? Basically, it allows you to upload any music track from Nokia Music Store onto your mobile device, and the best part is that you get to keep all this music after your subscription runs out (although you'll have to stick to the phone or PC you originally downloaded these tracks to).

How much it will run you? The Nokia 5310 will go for 130 pounds, which is around 260 USD - not an unbearable sum for pretty much any wallet, that's for sure, given how much music you can get along with a music-savvy device. This is another poke at Apple's cash cow, iTunes.

And that's not all - the Nokia 5800's price tag already includes a twelve-month subscription plan for Nokia Comes wit Music, meaning that you won't be billed on top of these 279 Euro, but they will allow you to download as many tracks as you want.

Wrapping it all up, before we go into details about the 5800's physical build and specs, we can say only this - nobody saw it coming, but this phone is a revolution that brings a lot of good things for ordinary consumers, who get a touchscreen device that's jam-packed with features anf goes for less than three hundred Euros, which is an unprecedented price.

Another thing of note about the 5800 is that unlike their previous marketing efforts, when Nokia opted not to play games with their audience, this time around they have borrowed a lot of tricks from Apple's arsenal - unfortunate "leaks" coming from the company's top executives, various shady characters on forums and endless rounds of applause and exclamations at the launch party. All in all it felt like I was attending Apple's Mac conference.

Hands-on with Nokia 5800 XpressMusic

Since music is playing such a notable social role these days, Nokia was aiming to deliver a nearly perfect solution for the younger audience. We pondered over this phenomenon a while ago in our review on the Sony Ericsson W980, so here is a snippet from it:

In fact, these days music is simply all another way for a contemporary man to express himself. Paraphrasing a well-known proverb - "you are what you listen". As far as socializing goes, the impact of music can't be overlooked; for the younger audience music has already become one of the ways to position themselves in this world through various mainstream groups, music genres and so on. There are very few people who treat all kinds of music in the same way - generally, almost everyone has own principles and taboo, in other words music, genres, and rhythms he will never listen to under any circumstances. All in all, music, along with, say, clothing, has become another social marker and an integral element of today's mainstream culture.

Interestingly, a lot of young people listen to music just for the sake of it - they feel some urge to show everyone around that they are it. And while audio quality is seemingly one of the most vital criteria, the history of Walkman's sales has indicated otherwise. The fact of the matter is that among Walkman users true music aficionados, who know what top-notch music is and, more importantly, how it sounds, are thin on the ground. For most, Walkman-branded phones play the role of their status indicator - actually the Apple iPod does pretty much the same job in the US. That is, if you have a couple of white headphones in your ears, rest assured, people will recognize you as a progressive young man; curiously, there is another parallel to be drawn between these two portfolios - much like Walkman-branded phones, the iPod also outputs pretty average audio quality and doesn't do well against the competition, although when it comes to hype and popularity, it's second to none.

Basically, that's exactly the reason why Sony Ericsson don't really need to enhance the sonic experience delivered by their Walkman phones - truly, why would they want to do that, when 90 percent of consumers only need to advertise what music they listen and what kind of device they use for these purposes. Undoubtedly, people will always try to make you believe they really care about audio quality and their experience; but don't get tricked by these sweet lies we've stumbled upon in many researches. While our focus group members would often convince us they were after top-notch audio quality alone, they ended up going for phones they rated below the competition in terms of sound quality. So what was the reason? These phones simply offered a better way to socialize rather than superior sonic experience. Just imagine how you take your handset out of pocket, joggle it a little and then start nodding to the rhythm of the track you have just jumped to. And what do people around you see? They can easily catch the rhythm of the tune you are listening to, which is all another way to communicate, so these simple gestures alone give away a lot of information and social markers.

I know how hard it is to get used to the though that all of us are trying to play some particular role in the society and music is an essential part of our social behavior. And it's even more challenging to accept the idea that music quality isn't all that vital to many, since it's outshined by the process itself. It's all about what earphones you have on, what's so special about your phone, what tricks it and feats it has, basically everything that can help you identify yourself or start a conversation.

Since the 5800 is a music-minded phone, Nokia have decided to equip it with a decent speakerphone mode - two stereo-speakers are housed on either side of the phone and everyone could check out how loud they actually were in the demo-zone. As Nokia claims, the 5800 is the market's loudest phone and all empirical tests confirm that in this department it's second to none. You'll be surprised by the size of its loudspeaker holes, knowing what kind of volume they output - the 5800 rocked so loud that its ring tones were more than audible even inside a busy night club.

On top of that it comes armed with a standard 3.5 mm audio jack and keypad lock slider. Although we'll need to run through a couple of tests to give you our final verdict, it's pretty obvious already that in terms of audio quality the Nokia 5800 is among the best music-playing offerings around. I didn't have a chance to compare it with the Nokia N91 yet, but rest assured, we'll do that some time later.

The build quality is another point of interest here. Generally, the 5800's candybar-shaped casing doesn't squeak or wobble when you grasp it and delivers a nice solid feel thanks to its N85-grade plastic. Its touch-sensitive display sits underneath a thick layer of plastic, so it will survive a day or two in one pocket with your keys hands down.

The screen's brightness wasn't much of an issue either, plus the 5800 XpressMusic houses an ambient light sensor that adjusts the display to better fit your current light conditions. Also there is a bundled motion sensor that rotates all menus automatically whenever you tilt the phone. The 5800 comes packaged with a 3.2-inch 640x360 pixel widescreen that outputs a pretty good picture.

So, how is a touch-based S60 different from a standard S60 build? In truth, there aren't that many things setting them apart. First of all, it allows you to use fingers for navigation in all menus, plus they have tweaked some of the controls for this purpose (for example the scroll bar is now on the thicker side and therefore easier to tap). Also, the Contacts menu features a horizontally-arranged index list that enables you to jump between certain letters in an instant. Secondly, the 5800 comes packaged with a stylus (actually they call it a "stylus plectrum") that will help you type on the vertically laid out on-screen keyboard (which is pretty small). You can also swipe your fingers across the keyboard and the 5800 will enlarge the button you are hovering over, which reduces mistakes when typing.- even I didn't experience any problems with texting on the 5800. Also, while in the landscape screen mode, you can opt to use so-called miniQWERTY-keyboard that can be seamlessly moved around the screen.

The Nokia 5800 supports all language packs that are currently available for the original S60. When texting, you can switch languages or change the keyboard layout in one-two touches, tops.

In most cases the 5800 is pretty easy to move around with only hand, including the camera app and messaging menu. Also, I put no stock in all the no-multitouch-in-5800 fuss - basically, in the iPhone this technology kicks in only when zooming in/out on pictures, and that's about it. But there many other ways to do that even without the much-hyped multitouch. Speaking of the gallery, you can page through your images with bare fingers and rotate the 5800's screen to get the best possible view.

Furthermore, the 5800 comes bundled with a decent 1320 mAh battery that can keep it up and running for at least two days with average use (an hour of calls, several gaming sessions etc).

You can opt to use the standard Active Standby setup for the handset's home screen or go for a new one, featuring four images of your loved ones with one-click access to a digital history of their recent text messages, emails, phone logs, photos and blog updates. All in all, not all users will appreciate this layout, but it's definitely worth a glance or two.

Topping the screen is another button that calls up a quick menu with five functions - OVI, browser, video center, music and gallery. The 5800 doesn't close already running applications, allowing you to jump between, say, the browser and contact list in an instance. To view all currently active applications you'll need to tap and hold the central button at the base of the phone.

The 5800 XpressMusic comes preinstalled with a generic S60 music player - no breakthroughs here, however it running on a touch-sensitive screen made the whole experience a bit better

Playing video clips with the 5800 was also very easy - you can watch clips in full-screen, crop them to 16:9 aspect ratio or keep the original proportions. Also, all thanks to the phone's bright and crisp screen, watching your favorite movies and shows will be a real pleasure. The 5800 also holds its own against the Apple Touch in this department - personally, I failed to find any significant differences between the two, which is a pretty good result for Nokia.

The phone also comes included with several games, such as a racing arcade, where you get to control your car by tilting the phone right or left.

Obviously, we could go on and on praising the 5800 XpressMusic's feature list, but it would be pretty much pointless. We have already covered all its major aspects above, so the only thing left to say is that I was pretty happy with its performance, as I didn't stumble upon any freeze-us or stuttering with this phone. But the most critical question about the 5800 XpressMusic has nothing to do with its hardware or software. Basically, it's about whether they have got enough units to meet the demand until after-Christmas? Because it seems that they will face a sizable deficit already in December. The 5800 XpressMusic is set to launch some time in November at the price point of 279 Euro before subsidies. On Monday we will release another interview with our old friend - Nokia's Vice-President, Mads Winblad, where he spills some beans on what Nokia's upcoming offerings will look like. On the other hand we are not going to rush our comprehensive review of the 5800, rather we will release it a bit later than planned, but with more detail and insight, which will make for a much better article.

By the way, old S60 applications can be installed on the 5800 XpressMusic as well, unless they require special mechanical controls (which the 5800 doesn't have).

Related links:

Nokia today and tomorrow – interview with Mads Winblad

Eldar Murtazin (eldar@mobile-review.com)
Translated by Oleg Kononosov (oleg.kononosov@mobile-review.com)

Published — 02 October 2008

Have something to add?! Write us... eldar@mobile-review.com



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