Nokia's new 5220 XpressMusic arrives as innovation in the mobile phone arena remains a little stagnant; most new phones from the likes of Nokia and Sony Ericsson are physically and technically just rehashed old designs with slightly increased specifications.
At about £89 on pay-as-you-go, this slim candybar phone appears to be just another typical Nokia handset, but with a couple of notable differences. It's available now with Virgin Mobile.
A funky asymmetric shape and vibrant colours reinforce the young market this tri-band handset's aimed at. This isn't for the typical corporate types on the commute; it's one for you teens. It's a rugged piece of kit, with plenty of resistance to life in a bag, and a bright 51mm (2-inch) 265,000 colour screen.
One of the most admirable design decisions was the inclusion of a standard 3.5mm headphone socket, and more admirable still was the decision to stick it on the top of the handset (the N95's was stuck on the left-hand side for some reason). The majority of music phones on the market don't have standard headphone sockets seen on all MP3 players, so this is a huge win for the 5220.
Also good is the keypad, which features decent-sized keys for easy speed texting. Each side of the handset features dedicated MP3 player controls for skipping tracks and adjusting volume. In fact the only thing we don't really like about the very conventional Nokia design is the corrugated plastic enclosure around the back. It looks and feels cheap.
Akin to the very conventional design is a conventional feature set. MP3, WMA and unprotected AAC music files are supported, as well as DRMed WMA purchases, MPEG-4 SP videos and JPEG photos.
There's only 30MB of on-board memory for storing these files, but microSD cards up to 8GB are supported. Nokia says only 2GB cards will work, but we used an 8GB SanDisk Mobile Ultra microSD card filled with over 6GB of music and video without issue.
In addition to the 3.5mm headphone socket, you can listen to music wirelessly via stereo Bluetooth 2.0. There's also a 2-megapixel camera, minus any kind of flash for night shooting of course, but it can capture rubbish-quality video. Safe to say this isn't a phone for budding photographers.
But Nokia impressed us by installing the Opera Mini Web browser. Standard phone browsers are inherently horrific, but Opera Mini isn't (we use it ourselves) and offers a full, fast Web experience for no charge. With it, hopping on Facebook isn't out of the question even when using the 5220's tiny screen.
Other features include built-in speakers that you should not use on the bus, built-in access to several Yahoo services including Mail and Flickr, access to downloadable games and loads of ringtones -- plus, it can be used as a modem.
If you've used any Nokia phone within the last couple of years, you'll be instantly at home using the 5220. And if you haven't, you'll adjust very quickly. It's simple to use, with clear menus courtesy of Symbian's Series 40 software.
Nokia claims to have a dedicated chip on the inside of the 5220 handling audio quality, and we're happy to say the sound quality's quite good. Through our standard reference setup we heard a generally positive sound quality, with very low distortion and no noticeable artifacts typically generated by a poor DSP. It's not the warmest sound we've ever heard, but there's plenty of bass and good definition in the mid-range and treble.
We could nit-pick small inadequacies, but we doubt a single person using the 5220 for music purposes would ever notice them, particularly if they don't spend more than £40 or £50 on earphones. For a music phone though, we're very pleased with the sound quality we heard.