The C3 is Nokia's latest messaging phone aimed at those who find the company's business-orientated E-series handsets too stuffy. Packed with social-networking features and sporting a full Qwerty keyboard, the handset aims to provide you with everything you need to stay up-to-date with your social circle.
With Vodafone currently offering the C3 for £80 on a pay as you go deal, it's one of the most affordable messaging phones around. You can also pick it up for around £130 SIM-free.
How very BlackBerry
Despite its low price, the C3 feels remarkably solid. It's available in three different colours: grey, gold and lurid pink. The front of the phone has a classy-looking glossy finish, while the battery cover on the rear is made from aluminium, which is a surprisingly upmarket touch for a phone in this price range.
The C3 is reminiscent of a BlackBerry in terms of its design, with a landscape screen sitting above a full Qwerty keyboard. The screen's 320x240-pixel resolution isn't exactly earth-shattering, but, as it's only a 61mm (2.4-inch) display, the pixels are packed quite closely together, so text and graphics still look pretty sharp.
The display works well with most of the phone's menus and apps, but it feels rather cramped when you're using the Web browser. Sadly, unlike the Orange Rio, the C3 doesn't have a touchscreen. Instead, you have to rely on the square four-way button under the display to move through menus and scroll around Web pages.
The screen may be something of a compromise, but the same can't be said of the keyboard. It has the same bubble-style keys as those found on Nokia's more expensive E-series handsets and it's an absolute pleasure to use. The keys have enough travel to give you a decent amount of feedback as you type and their layout is fantastic. Commonly used punctuation marks have their own dedicated keys and there's also a generously sized spacebar. As a result, you can speedily tap out emails and input Web addresses, for example.
The phone is built around Nokia's Series 40 operating system, rather than the Series 60 OS that's used on the company's higher-end mobiles. The Series 40 user interface looks quite dated now and the OS isn't always as intuitive as it could be. Nevertheless, the home screen has been updated so it has three panels. The top one shows your favourite contacts, the middle one displays updates from Facebook and Twitter, and the bottom one provides shortcuts to a range of applications, such as the email client, Web browser and camera.
Dive into the main menu and you'll find a dedicated messaging hub that brings together your emails, texts and instant messages in one place. Setting the phone up to work with our existing Gmail account was a breeze -- all we had to do was enter our email address and password. It's a similar story with the IM client, which supports a range of services, including Google Talk, Yahoo Messenger and Nokia's own Ovi system.
What, no 3G?
Some corners had to be cut to keep the price of the C3 down and, unfortunately, these cuts are most noticeable when it comes to connectivity. Unlike the INQ Chat 3G, the C3 doesn't support 3G. Instead, you're limited to GPRS data speeds when you're on the move, which means Web browsing can be sluggish. Nevertheless, the handset supports Wi-Fi, which comes in handy when you're at home or within range of a wireless hotspot, and there's Bluetooth support as well. As you'd expect at this price, the C3 lacks GPS.
Its internal memory is limited too. There's only 55MB of storage, but Vodafone supplies the handset with a 2GB microSD card that sits in a slot behind a plastic flap. This leaves you with plenty of room to store photos, videos and music tracks.
The phone's music player is rather good. The interface makes it easy to navigate large libraries of tunes and, although the supplied headphones are whack, the C3 has a standard 3.5mm jack, so you can easily swap them for your own cans. There's also an FM radio.
The C3's camera is disappointing. It's got a measly 2-megapixel resolution and lacks an LED flash and autofocus. Shots don't look too bad on the phone, but they don't bear much scrutiny when you transfer them to a computer.
We found we got around 2.5 days of use out of the phone before it needed to be recharged.
The Nokia C3 certainly has its strengths. Its keyboard is excellent, it has a good range of social-networking features and its battery life isn't bad. But it's let down by its dated operating system and lack of 3G support.
Edited by Charles Kloet