A radically updated version of the original Nokia X3, the X3 Touch and Type boasts a raft of improvements, including 3G and Wi-Fi support, and a dual touchscreen and keypad interface. It's also blessed with a sleeker and more alluring design, but the outdated S40 operating system and an alphanumeric keypad, instead of a Qwerty one, mean that it's not a complete success.
The X3 Touch and Type is available from free on a £15-per-month contract, with pay-as-you-go prices starting from around £90. Alternatively, you can expect to pay about £150 for an unlocked, SIM-free unit.
Despite tense boardroom reshuffles and worrying reports showing a reduction in its global share of the smart-phone pie, Nokia is in a bullish mood, picking fights with everyone it can. At the upper end of the scale, the N8 is trying to take on the iPhone, while the company's also fighting for its share of the budget market with phones like the 1616 and 2220 Slide.
Nokia's burning desire to cater for every type of phone user is exemplified excellently in the X3 Touch and Type. It's a curious hybrid that straddles two sectors of the market and offers a potential stepping stone into the smart-phone arena for befuddled newcomers.
Like the BlackBerry Torch 9800, the X3 Touch and Type offers both a touchscreen and a physical keyboard -- hence the name. This combination instantly makes the phone stand out from among its rivals -- most candybar-format devices don't boast 2.4-inch displays, for starters. But, despite the rather awkward pairing of the touch and button interface, the X3 Touch and Type is a seriously handsome product.
Handsome is as handsome does
The X3 Touch and Type's design blends sharp lines with rounded corners and a distinctive curved bottom, which again calls to mind the aesthetic of RIM's phones. The battery cover is the only metal element used in the X3 Touch and Type's case, which gives the phone a light weight of just 77g. But, despite the heavy use of plastic, it never feels cheap or nasty. We sincerely hope the X3 Touch and Type represents a new design ethos for Nokia, because it's one of the best-looking phones the company has produced in donkey's years.
Although the X3 Touch and Type is aimed at mid-level users, Nokia hasn't been too miserly when it comes to internal technology. Compared to its forerunner, the X3, connectivity is excellent, with support for 3G networks and Bluetooth data transfer. Impressively, the phone also comes with Wi-Fi access, allowing you to patch into wireless hotspots and enjoy much-improved download speeds.
A 5-megapixel camera is also included, although the snaps sadly aren't as inspiring as those seen on other devices with the same megapixel count, like the HTC Desire and Samsung Omnia 7. Video recording is also possible, but, again, the quality is below par, with heavy pixellation occurring during bouts of swift movement.
Music to your ears
Music lovers will take heart from the fact that the X3 Touch and Type has a 3.5mm headphone jack, along with support for microSD cards up to a capacity of 32GB. Serious audiophiles will want to purchase some additional memory as soon as possible, because the 50MB of internal storage is going to fill up pretty swiftly. Unfortunately, Nokia has decided against adopting the industry-standard micro-USB connector for data transfer and battery charging, which reduces the chances of you being able to borrow a friend's cable when you forget to take yours to work.
The final part of the hardware puzzle is the interface, and -- just as we discovered with the BlackBerry Torch -- having the best of both the touchscreen and button worlds doesn't automatically equal a benefit to the user. The biggest letdown is that the touchscreen uses pressure-sensitive resistive technology, rather than the ultra-responsive capacitive displays seen on cutting-edge phones like the HTC HD7 and Desire Z.
Having said that, it's one of the best resistive screens we've seen in a long time. When you take into account the relatively straightforward nature of the icon-based operating system, it's resistive nature also becomes less of an issue. Much of the time, you're merely tapping commands, rather than drawing gestures or dragging with your finger.
The alphanumeric keypad is a little harder to acclimatise to. The buttons are large and emit a satisfying 'click' sound when pressed, and the presence of quick-access buttons for your messages and music is very welcome, but the arrangement is unusual. The zero key is located in the bottom right-hand corner of the keypad, rather than directly below the '8' button, which is where you'd ordinarily find it on other phones. It's not a catastrophic choice, but it takes longer than you might imagine to rewire your brain into remembering the new configuration.
Qwerty or not Qwerty, that is the question
Ultimately, though, you have to question the wisdom of not opting for the full Qwerty experience with the X3 Touch and Type. An alphanumeric keypad isn't going to tempt away hard-core BlackBerry fans from their email-friendly devices, and it's unlikely to impress those consumers who are in the market for such a phone but can't afford a RIM product. Although it lacks a touchscreen, the Qwerty-packing Nokia E5 is arguably a better choice if you're harbouring aspirations of firing off countless missives from the comfort of your mobile.
In terms of software, the X3 Touch and Type runs S40, which isn't a true smart-phone operating system, but does a decent job of emulating its bigger brother, S60. The home screen has widget-style features, such as images of your favourite contacts and shortcuts to Facebook, email and the all-important Ovi Store, where you can download apps and games.
Despite its relative lack of power, S40 is still a massively popular operating system, because it's so easy to use and navigate. Mobile users who don't want a complicated and demanding experience should find that it gives them a high degree of control over their device, but doesn't require a chunky manual to understand. It also lends the X3 Touch and Type a slightly better battery life than most smart phones, as the strain on the CPU is relatively modest.
Like so many of Nokia's phones these days, the X3 Touch and Type is a likeable device that just falls short of true greatness. The design is gorgeous but the combination of touchscreen and keypad is less successful. We think the phone could find a receptive audience among people who like the notion of finger-based input but aren't comfortable jettisoning physical buttons entirely.
While we wouldn't recommend the X3 Touch and Type as a substitute for a BlackBerry, it does seem to be aimed at a similar sector of the market. If your pockets aren't deep enough for the likes of a BlackBerry, then the X3 Touch and Type is worthy of consideration instead.
Edited by Charles Kloet