The Nokia 700 hopes to make small mobiles cool again by offering smart phone functionality in a seriously compact body. It runs the latest version of Nokia's Symbian operating system, Belle, which delivers various interface improvements.
The Nokia 700 is available now for around £260 SIM-free, or free on a contract of between £20 and £30 per month.
Although there's been much talk of Nokia slapping Windows Phone on its new handsets, the 700 runs the latest version of Symbian, Belle.
Belle gives you up to six home screens that you can personalise to your heart's content with apps and widgets, which show live information. For example, if you slap a Facebook widget on your home screen, it will update with all your friends' statuses, so you need never be out of the loop about what they think of the latest X Factor finalists.
There aren't a massive amount of widgets available -- it's mainly a selection of clocks, calendars and media icons, but it's handy to be given the option for a bit of customisation. We installed the BBC iPlayer widget, which seemed pretty useful, although all it really did was open up the iPlayer page in a Web browser. There's a decent selection of built-in wallpapers though, which makes things look pretty.
Sadly, once you navigate away from the home screens, things get fairly dull. The app menu is just a long list of all the available apps, requiring you to scroll continually through. Finding a picture or song means navigating into the file system, which is an archaic list of various folders that are all too easy to get lost in. It's a real shame more thought hasn't been put into these areas to make things a little easier for new Symbian users.
Belle also supports near-field communications (NFC) which means that the 700 can connect with devices by being tapped on them, much like an Oyster card. In our demo, we saw the phone pair with an NFC-compatible Bluetooth speaker set with only one quick touch.
Payments using NFC are slowly on their way to Britain's stores, so, eventually, you'll be able to tap your phone on a reader at the till to instantly make a payment without handing over any cash. Such technology isn't widespread yet, though, so NFC's usefulness is pretty limited for the time being.
Symbian Belle is pretty good-looking and reminded us quite strongly of Android 2.3 Gingerbread. If you're familiar with Android, it won't take too long to get used to Symbian. The five home screens are backed up by a quick-access app window that shows all available apps on the phone.
There's also a handy notifications centre that you can pull down from the top of the screen, showing new messages and other app notifications. It's similar to the one found in Android and almost identical to the one in Apple's new iOS 5.
If you're more familiar with the iPhone, you won't have such an easy time of things -- searching through app screens to find settings, for example, was a hassle which wasn't made any easier by the phone's small screen.
With Symbian Belle, you get full access to the Nokia Ovi apps store. You can get your essentials like Facebook, Twitter, Ovi Maps and the ubiquitous Angry Birds, but it's nowhere near as well stocked as the Apple App Store or the Android Market, so, if you have an insatiable appetite for apps, then you'd be right to be a little apprehensive. Okay, we'll stop with the app puns -- they're appalling.
It's pretty easy to navigate though which is refreshing. The interface is simple, with only a few tabs at the top for categories, search or account details. Pages of apps in each category are sorted by 'Free', 'Best sellers' and 'New' making it simple to see exactly what's on offer -- it's just a shame that there's not much there.
The on-screen Qwerty keyboard is the same as that shown off in Symbian Anna. With the phone held in portrait mode, the keys are so small you'd need fingers like needles to comfortably type more than a quick 'ZOMG' to your friend.
It's better in landscape mode but even so, the screen is so small that it's very difficult to type accurately at speed. If you slow things down and really concentrate you can write without making too many errors but if you've got big thumbs -- or you're drunk -- then it's likely you'll end up with a nonsense string of letters. It's nigh on impossible to quickly send a reply to a text when you're walking.
It's a responsive screen though, which helps, and it has quite a strong -- although slightly strange feeling -- vibration when you press an on-screen key (known as haptic feedback). Every time a letter is pressed, it feels as though a small animal has shivered inside your phone. We tried to see what animal this was, but the phone is sealed up so we never found out. The slight vibration helps you type by letting you know precisely when a key has been pressed.
We're busy folk here at CNET UK, so having proper access to email is a must. Sadly the Nokia 700 didn't seem to want to co-operate as we'd have liked. Opening up the email app, we were met with an option to link only an Outlook email account, which we don't use. So far, so annoying.
We were then told by Nokia that we had to register with a service called My Nokia that would then allow us to sync email accounts from Gmail, Hotmail and the like, but no matter how much time we spent clicking about, we couldn't get it to function. It may well be that you have better luck, but it was a serious headache for us and one that would cause real problems if we were relying on the handset for email connections.
The 700 runs on a 1GHz processor, which makes Symbian Belle seem pretty nippy. The phone doesn't pack a meaty dual-core processor, like the Samsung Galaxy S2 or HTC Sensation, but it's not coming with the same price tag, so we're hoping it produces good performance for the cash.
We found swiping between home screens and loading various apps to be quick and responsive. We also noticed very little lag as we dived into the deepest recesses of Belle.
The Web browser supports Flash so you can watch video embedded in websites. It doesn't support tabbed browsing but it does let you switch between multiple open pages fairly quickly, which helps when you're madly scuttling around the inter-tubes. Web pages look bright and clear on the screen although its size means that you probably wouldn't be wanting to browse full websites for longer than 10 minutes at a time -- especially if you're having to type addresses using the miniature keyboard.
Overall, it was a pretty nippy experience. The apps we downloaded all ran well and loaded quickly. There isn't the plethora of demanding 3D games available on the Ovi store, but it did have one of our favourites -- Fruit Ninja -- which ran perfectly well.
The 700 is powerful enough to cope fine with day-to-day tasks and offers most of the fundamentals you'd want from a smart phone. It doesn't really need to be powerful enough to cope with demanding apps as they just aren't available for it yet.
The 700 aims to take us back to the days when the coolest kid in school was the one with the smallest phone. Rather than proudly packing a massive screen in a body the size of a small planet -- such as the humungous HTC Titan -- it's being touted by Nokia as the smallest smart phones on the market.
It's certainly a tiny little chap. Measuring only 50 by 110 by 10mm, it's slim enough to slide into even the skinniest of jeans.
The 700 weighs only 96g, which is very light, but, thankfully, it doesn't feel cheap and plasticky. In fact, it feels quite sturdy. We squeezed and prodded it like a mad thing and didn't detect much in the way of flex or nasty creaking, so we're pretty sure it could put up with the sort of punishment we usually give our phones.
The 3.2-inch screen has a 360x640-pixel resolution and does an adequate job of displaying small text on Web pages. It also makes little app icons seem pleasingly sharp. It's an AMOLED screen, so it's very bright and offers deep blacks. Consequently, pictures and video look very good. You're probably not going to want to sit and watch full length movies on a screen this size, but YouTube clips will be dealt with well.
The screen also deals with reflections quite well. We wandered over to a window and shoved it into the sunlight and were still able to browse the Web without having to shield it from the glare. The screen is arguably the main selling point of the Nokia 700 -- it's much better than many screens on phones of this price.
On the back of the phone, you'll find a 5-megapixel camera with an LED flash. The photos we took looked good on the phone's screen, but didn't fare so well once transferred to a computer. If all you're after is the odd party snap, the camera may do the trick, but the pictures were grainy and muted so won't suit you if you want to give your artistic muscle a flex.
It shoots 720p video though, which looked pretty good -- motion was handled well, even with fairly quick panning and colours were at the very least acceptable. Check out our test video of video producer Drew Stearne going all rock and roll.
There's a front-facing VGA camera if you want to indulge in some video-calling action. The VGA resolution means any image isn't going to be fantastic quality but it will do the job when it comes to saying a quick "hello" to your parents. And maybe a "send money" too.
For the most part, Nokia has done a decent job with the 700. It packs a good screen and fairly simple software into a very pocket-friendly and sturdy body. However, if numerous apps, quick typing and high-quality photography are on your agenda, you would be wise to dismiss the 700 out of hand.
If you're after a decent all-rounder though and don't want to spend the Earth, the 700 should be worth a look.