If you fancied the Nokia 5800 XpressMusic touchscreen phone but couldn't quite afford the steep asking price, the company has you in its sights with the 5530 XpressMusic. Available for about £140 on a pay-as-you-go deal from Carphone Warehouse, or for free on a £15-per-month contract, it can also be picked up for around £190 SIM-free. As such, it's one of the cheapest touchscreen phones around at the moment.
Cutting costs and corners
Nokia started its touchscreen ball rolling with the 5800, following that with the N97. Both of those handsets were at aimed at the premium end of the market, but its latest touchscreen phone is a much more affordable affair. To get the price down, though, Nokia has had to make some significant compromises.
The handset is very reminiscent of the 5800 in the terms of its overall design, but it's got a significantly smaller screen. Whereas the 5800 sported an 81mm (3.2-inch) screen, the 5530 has a 74mm (2.9-inch) display. That might not sound like much of a difference, but it's very noticeable when you actually use the device. Although the 5530's screen retains the same 640x360-pixel resolution, it's probably the smallest display you could get away with on a touchscreen device.
The screen isn't the only compromise that's been made to keep the price down. Nokia has also chucked 3G support overboard, so you're reliant on GPRS or Edge connectivity when you want to use the impressive Web browser, which has limited support for Flash, while on the move. This is less of an issue at home or the office, as the handset still supports Wi-Fi. Another price-cutting casualty is GPS. There's still mapping support, but it has to rely on triangulation, which isn't anywhere near as accurate or fast at determining your position.
Elsewhere, things remain pretty much unchanged. The handset runs the same S60 5th Edition operating system as the previous two Nokia touchscreen devices. It's easy enough to use, and the 5530's loaded with a decent array of applications, plus you can download more via the Ovi on-phone application store.
But the operating system doesn't feel like it's been built to handle touch input in the way that the iPhone OS and Android do. Matters aren't helped by the fact that the screen is resistive, rather than the capacitive type used on the iPhone and HTC Hero. The 5530 simply isn't as accurate at registering finger presses as those devices. Every now and again, you find yourself having to tap two or three times on an icon to get it to register properly. Also, there's no multi-touch support, so you can't pinch to zoom as you can on the iPhone and Hero.
Music to our ears
Nokia bills this as a music phone, but you get the same music player as you'll find on all S60 handsets. It's got quite a basic interface compared to the music player on the iPhone, but it gets the job done and is relatively easy to navigate using the touchscreen. The sound quality from the phone is actually pretty meaty, and the supplied in-ear headphones have decent bass response. But Nokia has annoyingly shifted the standard 3.5mm headphone jack to the bottom of the device, which means you have to place the phone headfirst into your pocket to avoid the cable snagging.
The handset's 3.2-megapixel camera lacks the Carl Zeiss optics found on higher-end Nokia handsets, but it does have an LED flash to help out in low-light conditions. The shots it takes are nothing to write home about, though, and, even with the LED flash turned on, it's still a no-hoper when it comes to shooting in dingy pubs or clubs.
We've got no complaints about the 5530's call quality, but its battery life isn't so hot. Nokia says it's good for around 5 hours of talk time, 4 hours of video playback and 27 hours of music playback, but it never reached anywhere near these figures in our experience. In fact, we had to charge it up at the end of every day.
The Nokia 5530 XpressMusic is far from a perfect handset, and some will balk at the lack of 3G and GPS. But, given the phone's low price, these compromises are pretty acceptable in our book and, overall, we think the handset offers a good user experience for the money. Just don't buy it expecting to get a device as polished as the iPhone.
Edited by Charles Kloet