The Nokia C7 is a perfectly serviceable smart phone at a decent price. Its slim metal case, long battery life and heaps of features almost make up for its clunky user interface -- but not quite.
It's available for free on a £20-per-month contract, or £300 on a pay as you go deal. You can also pick it up for around £320 SIM-free.
Our favourite thing about the C7 is its shiny steel case. It's slim, solid and comfortable to hold. The mirrored front is a fingerprint magnet, but, if you don't mind incessant polishing, then you'll benefit from a gorgeous phone that feels like it can take some serious knocks and tumbles.
We enjoyed making calls on the C7, and its excellent battery life meant that we could chat until our ears fell off. In our tests, the C7 scoffed at the prospect of daily charging (unlike many other smart phones), even with live widgets constantly pulling down data over the Internet connection, and push email doing its thang. If we were going on a long trip to a place without plugs, like Glastonbury, we'd pack the C7.
Silly little Symbian
The C7 sports Symbian 3, the latest incarnation of Nokia's favourite operating system. We took Symbian 3 to task when it first came out on the Nokia N8, and our feelings haven't changed. We won't rehash all the details of our N8 review. Instead, let us break it down for you quickly. The OS is tiresome to set up, there's a constant barrage of incomprehensible messages and error boxes, and the user interface isn't intuitive or consistent.
That's not to say it's worse than burning eternally in the fires of hell. It's more like singeing your toes on a hottish Aga. You could use the C7 quite happily, especially if you're used to Nokia phones and you're not accustomed to other smart-phone systems. It's just not as much fun to use as some rivals, such as the iPhone and Android phones.
For example, the widgets on the three home screens are customisable, so you can set up shortcuts to your favourite features. Some of them also display live data, such as your latest emails. But the widgets are strictly locked into squares, and often they're not the right size for their content. For instance, the Wi-Fi widget wastes a whole widget's worth of space with a tiny amount of text alerting you to available networks, among other things. Meanwhile, the social-networking widget tries to pack tweets, Facebook updates, a status-update text box and a scrolling list of messages into the same tiny space. The upshot is that neither widget is as useful as it could be.
It's worth noting that some of our users' reviews have complained about software problems out of the box, but we didn't experience them in our tests.
The C7's touchscreen is the capacitive type, which is a big improvement over the resistive variety that we've seen on previous Nokia touchscreen phones, like the 5800 XpressMusic. Resistive screens require the application of pressure or a stylus, and they don't feel as fast or responsive as the capacitive type. In our tests, the C7's screen proved extremely zippy and responsive.
Unfortunately, the on-screen keyboard is truly terrible. In portrait mode, there's only the choice of a 12-key, alphanumeric keyboard. That means the keys are plenty big enough for the fattest fingers, but we'd appreciate the choice of a Qwerty keyboard too. We think there's plenty of room for more keys on the C7's 3.5-inch screen, even in portrait mode. We've seen a keyboard done well on the cheap LG Optimus One, which has a 3.2-inch screen, so we know it can be done.
We're also not fans of the C7's predictive text. It's a helpful feature, especially when you're using a virtual 12-key keyboard, but it insisted on working with the punctuation button, inserting emoticons rather than allowing us to type commas or question marks. So, if we wanted to keep predictive text on, we had to go through three button presses to navigate to the comma in the symbol menu. If all your sentences end in full stops or smiley faces, that's fine. But we have complex, subtle emotions, and this made us crazy.
If you like a 12-key interface, make sure you also check out the Nokia X3 Touch and Type, which adds a touchscreen to a traditional keypad.
The C7 includes access to Nokia's Ovi Store, which contains apps that you can download and install on the phone. The Ovi Store doesn't come close to offering the variety of the iPhone's App Store, but there are plenty of good choices available, and Nokia is working hard to encourage developers to get more in there. You don't even have to spend a penny if you stick to free apps, although some of the paid apps are pricier than average. For example, the popular Twitter app, Gravity, has heaps of fans, but costs an eye-watering £8.
The Ovi name also applies to a music store and a free sat-nav app that comes in very handy when you don't want to spend money on data roaming while using Google Maps. Ovi calendar and contacts are less impressive, since, although you can sync them from the phone to the Web, you can't sync them with other services, like Gmail, through Ovi.
You can add Gmail, and plenty of other email accounts, to the C7, but it can only support one Microsoft Exchange account. That's a pity, since this account comes in handy for checking your Outlook email from work, if you have it, and for syncing your Google calendars and contacts. If you use both Outlook and Google stuff, you'll be out of luck.
The C7 has an 8-megapixel camera, and it did a decent job in our tests. Photos tended to be less sharp than we'd like, but we'd be very happy to have the C7 in our pockets if we needed to capture a quick snap. There are also two LED photo lights on-board to help with dark situations, although these tend to be very harsh, so get ready to blind your friends if you're snapping them down the pub.
Photos, along with video and music, are very easy to move on and off the phone. We had no trouble dragging and dropping files after connecting the phone to our computer with a USB cable, or syncing with music software like MediaMonkey. You can also pop out the microSD memory card to transfer files or use it to boost the phone's capacity.
We'd have liked to see more options to share photos over Twitter and Facebook, since the phone comes with a social-networking app pre-installed.
The C7 is a good all-rounder, especially if you're used to Nokia phones and you want to stick with the brand. Its handsome steel case and long battery life mean it could be a good choice if you're looking for a no-nonsense smart phone that can withstand being chucked in a pocket with your keys, and you don't operate your own power plant.
If you really want to get stuck into the wonderful world of smart phones, there are plenty of Android handsets coming out at insanely low prices. They'll give you widgets that work, an app store that's stuffed with choices, a fantastic on-screen keyboard, and support for all the email accounts you can muster. Because of that, the C7 struggles to keep up, despite its strengths.
Edited by Charles Kloet