For starters, I own this phone. I went out and bought it with my own money because I wanted it. I came to Germany with nought but my iPhone 4, which I was starting to believe would not be unlockable for at least another month or so. In the meantime I was using one of my least favorite phones of all time, and the prospect of using it for many more months was a horror to me. So I made up my mind that I would spend a portion of my stipend on a new phone which I might actually enjoy using and be a bit proud of for the next few months until my iPhone was unlockable. I happened to notice that the C5 was on-sale at the local Saturn store, and since it came with the free Ovi Navigation I was pretty much sold on that point. Truth be told, I could have gotten a cheaper touchscreen-equipped Nokia that also came with the same navigation package, but I am a sucker for good looking candybars (and am quite outspokenly opposed to S60v5). I would have chosen the C5 in what I believe to be the more attractive white color, but I got what I was able to and haven't looked back.
Now that my personal angle is out of the way, it is time to dig into what exactly we are dealing with here. The Nokia C5 is, as I understand, the first phone to be released in Nokia's rather new C-Series of devices. Supposedly these are Nokia's "core" line of devices... and judging by the meager specs for the Nokia C1, which at least has the party-trick of hosting two SIM cards simultaneously, I can't help but think that it certainly seems as though Nokia has made a rather smart marketing decision to create the new line of devices. I personally have always found the traditional 4-digit numbering scheme from Nokia to be extremely confusing, so I'd be happy to see every device coming out of Nokia marked with either a C, E (business), or N (multimedia).
Being a "C5" obviously puts the handset right in the middle of its family. As such it obviously has more features than the basebones C1 and has many features missing from the AMOLED-equipped Symbian^3 powered C7. It therefore has to tread carefully so as not to compete with any family members yet still justify the slightly premium price tag. Time to dig in and see how if it manages that. This review will be slightly different from previous reviews, because the handset is completely brand-new and not a review unit, therefore I will take the approach of a customer in their evaluation of their purchase.
The C5 arrived to me in what must have easily been the smallest Nokia box I have ever encountered. It was also the most sturdy- Nokia has been making its boxes smaller and smaller and no longer are accessories simply chucked in underneath trays, but instead thoughtfully organized to necessitate less space and therefore be more ecologically conscious. The C5 is no exception, with my first reaction as seeing the clerk with the box being one of confusion for why I was being given a carrier-repackaged phone as opposed to a direct-from-Nokia box. My fears were soon put at ease when I recognized the iconic typography proudly stating "Nokia C5" on the side and the identification stickers on the other side. I paid for my phone and took it home, ready to rip in and see what I found.
Upon opening the box I was a bit aghast to see the phone simply cradled in cardboard- how could they?!- but I realized that the phone was securely and snugly held in place and the phone was unlikely to endure any damage in this position. Notice briefly the "we:recycle" logo on the front of the box in this picture, Nokia's continuing efforts to make a positive impact on the environment. I pulled up the cardboard tray which held the C5 and took a peek under it to see what I had been given.
Underneath was the battery (not pictured), AC-Adapter of the newer energy-efficient type (not pictured), a decent pair of headphones with microphone/one-button-remote on the cable, and a super-small MicroUSB cord (which I really liked because I have far too many multi-feet Nokia cords these days). Underneath this cardboard tray is the usual user's guide and warranty information, in addition to what I understand is a free download of Rihanna's new album, should I decide I want it. (I haven't felt the urge.) At this point I put everything back in the box except for the phone and battery, shut the box, and grabbed a SIM card.
After I powered on the phone, every menu was appearing in German because I had, of course, used a German SIM card. So I blasted through the setup screens I could comprehend, then navigated myself towards the language settings menu (which is a very easy thing to do for anyone who has used S60 or even S40 before). Switched the phone to English, which required a restart, then started changing the standby screen to its older-style appearance as that's what I am used to and can use most efficiently. I then decided that I'd rather keep things as simple as possible, and switched the theme to "Dark", resulting in the results seen in the above picture. As you can see, the bottom-right of the screen appears brighter than the top-left, and this is merely an artifact of the screen quality. The C5 has what can best be described as a rather mediocre display... when viewed from angles, the "tone" of the colors change quite visibly, and the spatial difference of my two eyes was enough to make the screen appear slightly bizarre due to the two images not quite matching in my brain. But apart from that, the colors are all represented well and everything on-screen is very crisp, even if it appeared a bit "odd" due to the visual effect I just described.
Since half of the reason for why I purchased the C5 was because of the free lifetime Ovi Navigator, I decided that I had spent enough time "setting up" the phone and would therefore go and give the GPS a whirl. So I ran outside, caught a bus, and headed into town while running the Maps application. Unfortunately I acquired no GPS fix during the 10 minute bus ride, and it was only when the phone beeped to alert me to a carrier-sent text message that I realized why: I couldn't use the assisted-GPS feature to acquire a quick satellite fix because my prepaid SIM card did not allow me to use data whatsoever. Nevermind that, I simply found a nice Platz in town, waited for a few minutes, and got my GPS fix the old-fashioned way. Of course, once I was here I had to think of somewhere to go, so I first tasked the phone with taking me to the castle, then got bored, and had it walk me to a bus stop on the far side of the old city. It worked, of course. (I should note that the 2GB included MicroSD had a map of Germany pre-loaded as well as a handful of English and German spoken-voices pre-installed as well for me to choose from. Nice touch Nokia!)
In the following days, I got a couple of compliments on my phone, but easily more comments of, "Why did you get that? What was wrong with your old one and why is that any better?" It may still be a candybar, same as my incredibly annoying Samsung which came with my prepaid SIM, but the much more expansive capacity of the handset makes it all that much better. It looks better, feels better, has better weight, has better hardware features (such as a camera), and of course one of the most underrated mobile operating systems of all time. For a phone that I had very little time to learn about prior to purchasing it, the Nokia C5 certainly made me happy.
For this review, I wish to throw design and hardware into the same category because I feel that, in terms of the C5, they are related. That's because the back, which is quite understated and dare I say it a bit bland (although I am a big fan of the aluminum battery cover), also happens to be one area of the C5 that features the newest technological feature. The area of the back which caves inward, towards the top, happens to be one of the best design features I've seen on a phone as it helps lift the camera lens just enough so that it will not touch a flat surface and risk being scratched. However this design change is not the only trick that this camera features, as it is also equipped with something called EDoF. While the technical details still escape me, Nokia has called this a "Full Focus" camera, and the important thing to note is that this is a fixed-focus lens at least in traditional senses of the word. The pros to this approach is that the camera module itself is much smaller and durable than an auto-focus unit, while sacrificing the wide-range of focus that the variable-focus units enable. The theory of EDoF is that the lens can be manufactured to result in different images being seen by the different RGB color groups. The image that appears sharpest is then used as the detail-defining grid upon which the color details from the other groups are combined to result in the proper coloration. In theory the resulting image would have every single different depth of field appear in-focus, besting the autofocus images taken from other handsets.
In the case of the C5, of which I have no test images to share (see conclusion), I would say that Nokia's EDoF (aka "Full Focus") is a practice carried out sufficiently well. Many things came out sharper from the C5 than they did from fixed-focus cameras, even point-and-shoots, that I have used in the past. Yet the phone still couldn't quite focus on the closest of things, which macro-capable autofocus camera would have made short work of. So all-in-all, I'd pin the C5 as being better than a fixed-focus camera, but not quite up to par with an auto-focus. But because of the massively increased speed with which the C5 could snap a picture, with no focus lag, I'd happily take the upgrade to an already shining well-rounded candybar.
All was well in C5 world, until my review was literally cut short. I powered on the C5 yesterday to finish this review, and to my shock and horror it restarted itself twice and then made some sort of statement about not having enough memory (a bunch of nonsense considering there wasn't even a single picture saved on the phone let alone any applications installed), and then it rebooted again with the default/hidden S60 theme, said that the standby screen was unloadable, and then popped up an error message saying that the device needed to be taken to a repair center. I figured this was nonsense and could probably be fixed with a firmware update. Unfortunately, I was already on the latest firmware. So I reset the phone using the trusty "CALL" + "3" + "*" startup trick, which made the phone startup properly but soon the theme disappeared again and it started to complain about a memory shortage. I decided to reload the firmware, and that fixed all my problems... for an hour or maybe two. Then it once again ran out of memory, and asked to be taken to a repair center.
Thankfully everything I needed to test the phone for had already been done (since this was supposed to be a light review), so I figured I'd simply take the phone back to where I had purchased it and if they told me they needed it for a week or two for repairs that would be alright by me. However, once there they played with it for about half an hour and then simply opened a drawer, dropped the phone into it, shut it, and then looked back at me and asked if I wanted the same color again. The surprise on my face by being offered a brand new handset on the spot must have translated into a look of horror at the prospect of being given another buggy phone, so they quickly added that I was allowed to pick another handset if I should so choose. And I did pick another handset... which I shall very soon talk about in detail, but it is of no importance here.
So I got to spend six days with a Nokia C5. Would I buy another Nokia C5 again? Sure thing. I did a bit of research this afternoon and saw that quite a few C5 owners have been experiencing problems as well, although none quite to the degree that mine was afflicted, and that does make me a bit sad. And that's because the C5 is one of the first handsets from Nokia that was built exactly the way I like: candybar, no-touchscreen, great features, good design elements. Sure, if it was an E-Series it would have higher-quality pieces overall but with a premium price tag. The C-series was designed to be a "core", and that's exactly what the C5, middle of the range, is. It's a perfect all-rounder.