Nokia’s MusicXpress 5800 is a good touchscreen debut by the Finnish company but it fails to do anything really well.
The long awaited response by Nokia to iPhone, the 5800 is an uglier but far more feature-laden touch-based device than Apple’s.
The phone offers users an mp3 player, FM radio, 3.2 megapixel camera, GPS-based maps system and many other functions although it does not yet have access to the versatile applications available on the iPhone’s App Store.
First and foremost the 5800 is design to be a music phone, as its full name suggests. The device is part of a range launched by Nokia to support its Comes With Music download service, established to rival Apple’s iTunes amongst others, and is part of an overall push by the company to take a serious bite out of the portable music player market.
To facilitate this the device has a 3.5mm headphone jack and physical volume buttons on the side, along with an FM radio and MP3-compatible music player to make it all worthwhile. Options within the phone’s menu can also bring users to the Nokia music store should they want to purchase songs on the go.
Despite this focus the music player is oddly awkward to access on the phone. There is another physical button on the side of the device but this is for the phone’s camera while the main menu on the home screen has to be customised if you want to have a shortcut link to the player on it. Failing that you can find the music function after a short wander through the menus.
The player itself is an improvement on previous Nokia iterations but is still clunky and frustrating at times. In its defence the sound quality is good, be it via headphones or on loudspeaker.
Overall the device replicates this half-hearted feeling. The Symbian S60 feels relatively well tweaked for touchscreen use but can be very hit and miss at times – specifically when trying to scroll through lists like contacts or messages. A stylus is provided to make this easier, which suggests that Nokia knew it had interface problems too.
The Carl Zeiss camera is surprisingly bad given its 3.2 megapixel label and in many cases takes pictures that are of sub-1 megapixel quality. The decent flash makes up for this only marginally.
Perhaps most important, however, is the touchscreen itself which is often slow to respond and fiddly to use. Nokia chose to use a Resistive touchscreen, which responds to touch of any nature, unlike the Capacitive screen used on the likes of the iPhone which responds to little other than direct contact with skin.
The upside of Nokia’s choice is that the device is usable even when you have gloves on or are using a stylus – the downside is that it is far easier to answer or reject phone calls in your pocket as the touch of your jeans works just as well as your hands.
Nokia has made a lot of improvements to make the 5800 work but it feels like there is much more to do. This is lining up to be one of many touch-based devices from the Finnish giant so it is best to see this as a trial run rather than a sign of things to come. At least let’s hope it is.
An edited version of this review was published in Business & Finance magazine on the 23rd April 2009.