The Nokia C6 looks and feels like a poor man's N97, or more accurately N97 mini, except it's not actually that cheap. The C6 suffers from the worst excesses of the N97's software, without the saving grace of its solid hardware, resulting in a phone that's disappointing at any price.
The C6 is available for free on a £25-a-month, two-year contract. You can also pick it up SIM-free for £250.
Slip and slide
The C6 is a slider phone that looks, from a distance, like the N97, which was last year's top-of-the-range Nokia phone and turned out to be a bottom-of-the-pile disappointment. Up close, however, the C6 looks and feels much cheaper. The slider mechanism is reassuringly solid and springy, but the case itself is dull and plasticky.
The three buttons beneath the resistive touchscreen work well, although we found that the call-end button, which also turns the phone off, is far too quick to shut down the handset when you press it for a moment. The buttons also seem stranded in the empty space at the bottom of the phone, which strikes us as poor design.
The C6 is rather chubby too. You can blame that on the full Qwerty keyboard that slides out from under the screen. We found the keyboard to be of average quality. More travel and space between the keys would be welcome. We had no trouble typing accurately with it, however.
We've never been fans of Nokia's attempts to shoehorn its Symbian operating system into a touchscreen phone, a ploy the company first tried with the 5800 XpressMusic. We're now running out of patience with a user interface that even Nokia has admitted is deeply flawed.
Small irritations, like the need to double tap items to open them or the constant prompting about which network connection to use, soon develop into a genuine overall dislike. Without a good-looking case or innovative features to weigh on the positive side of the equation, the C6 isn't left with much to recommend it.
The C6 doesn't look too bad on paper. It's got Wi-Fi and 3.2Mbps HSDPA connectivity for fast Web surfing over wireless or 3G. But Web pages don't look great on the 81mm (3.2-inch) resistive touchscreen. It isn't as bright or sharp as the competition, and we found the Web browser slow and clunky to use. There's also no multi-touch zoom, and there's no other quick method of zooming into the text on a page either. Double tapping the screen does zoom in, but it doesn't reformat the text to fit the screen, which would have been a welcome touch.
Lost my app-etite
The C6 has A-GPS to keep you on the straight and narrow, and the Symbian operating system gives you the power to install apps from the Ovi Store, including Nokia's excellent free sat-nav app, Ovi Maps.
But the Ovi Store is much harder to use than the app stores found on the iPhone or Android handsets, such as the Samsung Galaxy S. Just getting it fired up can be a challenge -- we were asked to update the store on our brand-new phone. Once you're in there, installing apps can seem like an endless round of cryptic messages and errors. Your perseverance is rewarded with sluggish performance once the C6 tries to run the app.
Similarly, the home screen looks promising at first, with customisable widgets that can show live updates from your email accounts, Facebook and many more sources. But we found the process of setting them up to be slow and fiddly compared with other phones in this price range.
If the Nokia C6 was selling for a song, we could forgive its cheap-looking case and sluggish performance. But, for a contract price that's up there with that of the HTC Desire, one of the best phones of the year, we expect much more. The touchscreen version of the C6's Symbian OS already felt dated when it came out. Now that a year has passed, it feels painfully behind the curve.
If you're a Nokia addict, and you're desperate for a touchscreen phone, hold onto your cash for the N8 later this year, or take a look at the N97 mini, which is now available for the same contract price as the C6. If you're keen on a keyboard, you should also check out the Motorola Milestone and Dext.
Edited by Charles Kloet