Upon first receiving the Nokia C3, we were decidedly ambivalent. Here was another middling Nokia smartphone that got the basics done but under-delivered on usability and panache, we thought. This phone has one powerful trick up its sleeve, though: its incredibly low price. Quite simply this is the best value phone we've seen all year.
Nowhere is the value felt more acutely than in the design of the Nokia C3. Not that the general look and feel breaks new ground, but in particular the presence of an aluminium backplate really sets it out from the budget phone crowd. It's often considered that metal, as opposed to plastic, is the sign of quality in consumer electronics equipment and so it is with this phone. Having the tough, smooth, and cold feel of that plate under your fingers just puts you in mind of a much more premium device. As for the rest of the design, the black and blue colouring and neat layout should appeal to business users and consumers alike.
This impression of quality isn't just skin deep, as the phone in general feels well put together with little in the way of flex from anything other than the multitude of buttons that adorn the front.
You may have already guessed this isn't a small phone, at 115.5 x 58.1 x 13.6mm, but if small is what you want then you won't be getting a physical qwerty keyboard. Admittedly Sony Ericsson managed it with its sliding X10 mini pro, but that was a very rare instance.
A glossy plastic section covers the screen and carries on round the keyboard, giving the phone a nice uniform look. Being plastic, it will pick up scratches more easily than glass but no more so than the millions of other plastic-screened phones available.
What's more, the quality of the display is far beyond anything you've the right to expect at this price. Inevitably it has a low resolution of just 320 x 240 pixels so doesn't offer the most mesmerising multimedia experience. However, combined with its 2.4in size it delivers a perfectly acceptable level of usability when it comes to the usual texting, emailing, social networking and even web browsing duties. What really caught our eye with this screen, though, were its cracking viewing angles.
Many phones at this price point (and much higher) have such poor viewing angles that moving the phone or your head even a slight amount from side to side results in a very distracting shimmering effect, as the contrast shifts from overly white to overly dark with only the dead centre delivering a decent picture. With this phone, there are no such issues. Sure, it can't compete with the retina display of the iPhone 4 or the AMOLED displays sported by the Samsung Galaxy S or HTC Desire, but for the price it is exceptional.