After Apple unveiled the iPhone, many people wondered how long it would take Nokia to release a touchscreen phone. The answer was: "Much later than expected", with punters having to wait over a year to get their hands on one. But is Nokia's first touchscreen phone, the 5800 XpressMusic, a match for the iPhone? We tested it out to find out.
You can get the 5800 for free on a monthly contract or for around £350 SIM-free.
Note: This review has been updated. See the update section on page 2.
The 5800 looks and feels like most Nokia candybar handsets, with the exception of the touchscreen on the front. While its plastic casing is solid, there isn't much to catch the eye. Everything is laid out in a relatively mundane fashion and lacks pizzazz. A glass screen or ultra-slim casing wouldn't have gone amiss.
Unlike the iPhone's capacitive screen, the 5800's resistive display -- meaning you have to apply pressure in order for it to register what you're doing -- isn't as responsive as we'd hoped for and, at times, requires a stylus for added accuracy, which we really don't like. In addition to the less-than-perfect screen, a clunky-looking raised border detracts from what could have been a more elegant handset.
Another thing we disliked about the 5800's screen is the fact you need to unlock it using an unlock key on the side, which gets frustrating if you want to make a quick call. But it's not all bad -- the 5800 does have some redeeming design features, such as a 3.5mm headphone jack at the top and an easy-to-access microSD slot.
Comparing this to other phones from the Finnish manufacturer, we can't say this is Nokia at its best and are sure that its future touchscreen phones will be better. If we could change anything on the 5800, we would replace its resistive screen with a capacitive one, to offer a smoother, more finger-friendly experience.
It's obvious that we weren't enamoured with the 5800's design, but its features did get our hearts racing. It lives up to its XpressMusic title by offering a usable music player that displays album art and lets you search through tracks using a search bar, or by flicking your finger up and down the screen through a list of tracks.
You can download music straight to the 5800 via the Nokia Music Store, which we found easy enough to do and, best of all, you can listen to all your music using normal headphones, plugged straight in. The 5800 also comes with a useful, in-wire remote that you can use to control your music when the phone is in your pocket.
Wi-Fi and HSDPA make Web access satisfactory, and the 5800's browser performs well enough, displaying full-sized Web pages and giving you the option to zoom in and out of them and swipe the screen to move around. It's not as impressive as the iPhone's browser, but it works well enough for accessing Facebook, for example.
Other Web-based features include an iPlayer app that gives you access to the BBC's service. We found this app easy to use and a great addition to Nokia's arsenal. You can also watch YouTube via YouTube's mobile site, though we couldn't always get it to work, but that might have been due to external connectivity issues.
Built-in GPS means you can use the 5800 as a sat-nav in conjunction with Nokia Maps or Google Maps, which both worked well. Combined with the 5800's large screen, this offers one of the best navigating experiences to date on a Nokia phone. As expected, the GPS works best outdoors, with a clear line of sight to the sky.
The 5800's 3.2-megapixel camera isn't the best that's available on a Nokia handset, but it performs well enough in daylight and works well for MMS messages or small prints. In low light, the dual LED photo lights illuminate a subject within a few metres but, beyond that, start to falter. A xenon flash would have been much better.
Once you've taken a picture, you can view it in the gallery and flick though your photos in a similar way to how you would on an iPhone. A built-in accelerometer lets you see your pictures in landscape or portrait mode simply by turning the phone, but we found it lagged at times. You can also zoom in and out of pictures by moving an on-screen zoom key. Overall, the photo-viewing experience isn't bad, but it doesn't have the speed or fluidity of the iPhone's photo gallery.
Holding all of these features together is a remodelled interface, designed to work better with your fingers. On the homepage, you get a series of large icons that give you access to contacts, messages and other information. A shortcut key above the screen allows you to access your media, but we found it unnecessary.
The homepage can be set to display a variety of notifications, such as text messages and calendar updates. We think this is useful but you may find it cluttered. Something else you might not like is the text-input system, which displays a variety of on-screen keypads, including a standard keypad and a full Qwerty one.
Due to the screen using resistive technology, we found the keypads awkward to use at times, as they didn't always respond as we expected. In the end, we resorted to using the stylus to tap out messages, which was annoying. We would have welcomed with open arms a slide-out Qwerty keyboard on this handset.
Audio quality during calls was acceptable, as was audio quality from the MP3 player. As expected, the loudspeaker sounded tinny when turned up high. Being able to use your own headphones makes a massive difference to overall sound quality, so we advise you get a decent pair of cans if you want to enjoy your music.
Picture quality from the 5800's 3.2-megapixel camera is adequate for MMS messages, small prints and viewing on the screen, but, as we mentioned before, don't expect great things in low light. Comparing the 5800 to other Nokia phones, such as the N82, we're disappointed that a better camera wasn't put in.
Battery life is quoted at over 8 hours' talk time on GSM and 5 hours on 3G, with standby time quoted at around 17 days on GSM or 3G. We found that, depending on how much we used HSDPA, GPS and other features, battery life varied significantly. With heavy use, you'll get at least a day.
We'd like to say that Nokia's first touchscreen phone is a winner, but it's not as good as we expected. There's nothing outrageously wrong with it but, when compared with phones such as the Nokia E71, it's rather lacklustre. If you're going to use a touchscreen, it must work really well.
The 5800's screen just didn't do it for us -- it doesn't offer the kind of feedback or speed we expected and, as a result, the overall user experience was clunky. If Nokia had used a capacitive screen and improved the 5800's styling, it may have fared better in this review.
Edited by Charles Kloet
Update: The Nokia 5800 XpressMusic came early in the wave of touchscreen handsets, and, as our review stated, it wasn't as good as we'd hoped. Now it's going head to head with mid-range touchscreen phones such as the Samsung Jet and the LG Arena KM900, and we think the 5800 doesn't compare well. We still like the 5800's music prowess, but its lacklustre looks and unresponsive touchscreen drag it down. To keep our review up-to-date, we've re-scored the 5800 from 7.9 to 6.3 to reflect how we think it ranks within its category.