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Nokia 700 - Symbian Belle, Apps and Games

Andrew Williams

By Andrew Williams

Reviewed:

Summary

Our Score:

7

User Score:

The Nokia 700 marks an important updating of Symbian^3, arriving alongside the Belle update. This OS update is meant to drag Symbian into the present, with an overhaul that Nokia hopes will stop people like us from labelling it hopelessly out of date. Does it work?

For the most part, yes. The interface has been thoroughly redesigned in the image of Google's Android, and while it may not have its own striking identity like Windows Phone 7, it's a lot more attractive than the drab Symbian^3 look that was at the root of our disappointment with the Nokia N8, among many others. The widgets system feels less boxy, the naff old menu bar has been replaced and the notifications system has been re-worked.

Nokia 700 Interface

You now drag a finger down from the top of a home screen to pull down a notifications bar, which is also home to buttons that turn data, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and Silent mode on and off. It's so Android it hurts. But, hey, it's a big improvement.

You're given four home screens that you can pack with widgets and shortcuts, and each has specific wallpaper linked to it. They cycle as you flick through them, but if this is a bit too much like frivolous fun for your liking, you can set them to the same image. You can also slim down to just three home screens, or bulk-up to six.

To customise these home screens, you simply hold a finger down on the touchscreen until a pop-up appears, letting you add shortcuts and widgets or change wallpapers. The selection of pre-installed widgets is fairly comprehensive, featuring 21 ranging from clocks to social networking streams and Wi-Fi switches. What's still present here is that old Symbian lack of style.

Widgets

The widget selection menu

Although functionally very useful, there's nothing quite pretty enough to make customisation fun, within the widget toybox. Part of the reason why HTC Sense is so popular is that it offers a handful of funky-looking clocks. Uber-geeks may not want to admit it, but looks are an important part of smartphone customisation - and the drab-looking clocks and calendar here don't quite cut it. A nice selection of wallpapers is included, though.

The way a system responds to touches is also at the root of how we react to a smartphone, and Belle has made headway here. Day-to-day navigation felt curiously abrupt on the Nokia N8 - the way it leapt between homescreens and menus were a bit too awkward when compared with iOS or Android. Improved transitions and animations make the Nokia 700 feel more in-line with its rivals on this front now, although Symbian^3 is still not as slick as iOS, Android Gingerbread or Windows Phone 7.

Nokia 700

The Nokia 700 does have processor power on its side. With a 1GHz processor, it has more grunt at its disposal than either the Nokia N8 or C7. This is impressive as the 700 is cheaper than either. Multi-tasking is very easy to manage too. Just press down on the physical select soft key to bring up the multitasking menu, which shows snapshots of any running apps. Within the main apps menu running apps are signposted with a little dot icon as well. There's no mistaking what is and isn't running here.

Although the Nokia 700 hasn't yet (at the time of writing) been given official support for the slew of impressive 3D games made for the Nokia N8, such as Gameloft's Avatar and Asphalt 5, they all seem to work just fine on the phone. These supply you with a better gaming experience than you'd get on a rival 600MHz Android device, but the back catalogue is limited. The range of "Nokia HD" games, as they're called, hasn't grown a great deal in 2011 and was always primarily powered by Gameloft. This is one of mobile gaming's most important publishers, but Symbian^3 gaming and app activity don't have the wider developer support of iOS or Android.

Asphalt 5

Asphalt 5: an oldie but a goodie

Delve directly into the built-in app store, the Nokia Store (previously known as Ovi Store), and you'll find the mobile gaming staple Angry Birds and a few classic like Tetris and Bejeweled, but little else of value. Many games are old and are based on Java titles rather than their smartphone counterparts, and hence feel and look old and clunky. Seek out the Nokia HD titles yourself though and you'll have a blast.

It's the same story with apps. Symbian app development has been going on for yonks - since before the Apple App Store opened - but as the current pace of development isn't as strong as iOS or Android, plenty of what you'll find is out of date or of low quality. Lots of the best bits aren't available on Nokia Store, either. Spotify, for example, has to be downloaded directly from Spotify's website. Accept that to get the most out of Symbian apps you need to go the extra mile and there are several gems to uncover. Nokia Store

The Nokia 700's native app store

However, if apps are a priority, you'd be better off with a budget Android phone. Too many smartphone staples are missing. Where's the official Facebook app? Where's the Kindle bookstore? Where's the decent Intenet radio app (Nokia Internet Radio can't even find BBC 6 Music)?

That said, the Nokia 700 packs-in much of what many smartphone users need anyway.

Carrier pricing updates & information supplied by WhistleOut

DrDark

October 13, 2011, 10:21 pm

I can only assume something was very faulty with the package you received because:
a) I'm pretty sure that usb cable SHOULD be charging the phone (and to suggest Nokia is somehow slow to conform when they were one of the first manufacturers to do so is a bit...)
b) Those pictures... NO, just no... I'm not saying it was the photographer, but either the lens was smudged (or still covered by a sticky film?) or the camera unit was faulty. Nokia phones haven't taken pictures that bad since 2003, and I'm sure several people at TR know that.

Also, I found the review a bit confusing, switching between praising the excellent performance/value and then dismissing everything and suggesting Android phones instead.

In fact the end of the review then praises Symbian again, questioning Nokia's decision to go WinPho, before ending with a verdict lamenting "the constraints of symbian".

If I was someone wanting to know these constraints, I don't feel they were pointed out to me (apart from /quantity/ of app). During the review Maps, Video Player and Music Player were praised, as was 3d game performance comparable to an Android device in the same bracket. It's multitasking is one of the better ones. And yes a Kindle app is missing, I'll give you that. But Facebook has at least 6 or 7 alternatives on there (who needs an official one? iPad's took over a year and doesn't work properly!)
And why is having to go to the Spotify site to download the app a bad thing?

Finding "hidden gems" to uncover is as much of a chore on iOS and Android anyway. iOS is so overrun with crap that you have to visit a site (like TR or many others) to find out what's decent to download. The Android market is similar, and since it allows non-market apps (something Symbian had been doing for years), it's a similar experience of discovering interesting apps to trial on forums etc.
Not to mention Nokia's own BetaLabs.

Anyway, I needed to have a bit of a whine maybe, but the first main points were what I meant to point out: regarding usb cable and camera.
I'll ask around about the cable but can't imagine they'd package a non-charging one in...

Andrew_TR

October 13, 2011, 11:25 pm

Hi DrDark, thanks for the comment.

I was somewhat bemused by the camera too. The close-up performance was predictable thanks to the fixed-focus sensor, but the odd sheen on standard photos is rather odd. Having fallen prey to the unexpected plastic covering of camera lenses before, I did give it a good check so ensure it wasn't covered/horribly smudged. I'll take a few more shots and see if it can produce something better.

As for charging - USB charging works just fine but didn't seem to with the bundled cable. Will double-check that too of course. As much as anything else though, the only bundled charger is a proprietary one - and as a device that should (and hopefully will) bring a few new, non tech-head people to the platform, this is at the core of my argument. It works, but it's a secondary thing. A great many 700 users will continue to use the Nokia charger.

Symbian's main current issues for me are, to an extent, the same ones that affect Bada. They dip their toes in the functionality offered by others, but it all feels so limited. There aren't many more widgets to get, you can't tailor your smartphone experience anywhere near as much as Android - and the apps thing is the main problem for me. The quality and quantity of apps just isn't good enough. And it's not something I particularly blame on Symbian or Nokia. Developers make apps, and I just don't think there's the pay-off there on Symbian at present. To an extent it's one of those chicken and egg situations - Symbian needs a greater app/games buying audience to encourage development, but greater existing development itself would help in bringing this about.

The 3D games are nice, but there aren't many - and not a great deal of variety. Casual gaming fares even worse. Angry Birds is there, but there are so few that make use of Symbian 3's assets - it's all legacy S60 stuff. Not worthless by any means, but nothing that really makes use of the phone. There's no feeling of vitality to the Symbian apps scene, unless you get down to the real "scene" level.

I do like the phone though, and was close to giving it an 8. If it wasn't for the super-narrow body making typing a pain...

Andrew_TR

October 13, 2011, 11:26 pm

btw nice Journeyman Project avatar!

Marcus H

October 14, 2011, 4:14 am

How was the 700 for taking videos?

Andrew_TR

October 14, 2011, 2:05 pm

Hi Marcus. It's a bit hectic at TR towers today, but I'll try and get a sample clip stuck up asap so you can see for yourself!

Fishbourne

November 3, 2011, 3:10 pm

Saw in another review that the 700 only works with its own headset. Not had this problem with previous Nokia phones but this would be a deal breaker for me as I want to use my own in ear phones. Can you shed any light on this? Did you try a different headset/earphone?

Apart from that, this phone seems a pretty good option for the money. I've not been so antagonous to Symbian, as have others, so the latest improved version should be great. Also I don't see the problem with the screen size, this is a small phone that should fit nicely in a pocket, it is not a small tablet.

Cyd07

November 10, 2011, 2:34 pm

Don't understand. If I read your overall note, it seems it's not a good phone. If I read the review, it seems it's very good.

You always say it's far better for the price than any other Android device in the same category.

In fact, the only problem is the lack of apps...well, it's a mid-range smartphone, do you think you are dealing with power users that want many apps on their phone. You say yourself that the 700 do many things out of the box. If some users want more great apps, they can go on the betalabs (they have the level to search by themselves).
Mid-range Android can really use all apps you will find ? You speak about games...how many mid-range Android support HD games on Android market ?

I like this site, it's objective most of the time, but here you just see "that's Symbian, that's bad", there are not 500 000 apps, that's bad. But I do'nt see any device near the Nokia 700 for free on 20£ contract : you say it yourself screen far far far better (and it's one of the most important things, no ?), really good quality build - not far away from a high-end, stylish (subjective, but at least it's not as every other phones), good call quality, excellent gps solution.

What more do you need for free with your 20£ contract ?

PS : I concede the number of apps can be important, but just 7/10 is a really unfair statement given all the other great qualities, especially when you say that the average user will not need more than the apps installed out-of-the-box...
I concede screen is too small...but it's the same size as competitors.

K31van

November 13, 2011, 5:43 pm

I have just taken delivery of the Nokia 700 and comparing the features with this review I can say confidently that the review is rubbish. For a proper review go to http://www.allaboutsymbian.com/reviews/item/13431_Nokia_700.php

Avishek Prakash

June 5, 2013, 6:20 am

I want to know is there any "Beep Sound" while Call recording is going on or Not ?

Avishek Prakash

June 5, 2013, 6:20 am

I want to know is there any "Beep Sound" while Call recording is going on or Not in Nokia 700 ?

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