The Nokia C5-03 is clinging onto the past with all its might. Nokia has just teamed-up with Microsoft to pump out its own Windows Phone handsets, but the Nokia S5-03 is stuck with the Symbian operating system. It's not the Symbian^3 OS released in October 2010 alongside the Nokia N8 either - this is Symbian S60 version 5, used in the Nokia N97 way back in the prehistoric age of 2009.
Symbian S60 isn't just old, it's the cremated remains of a smartphone system held together with sticky tape and hair spray, and it pales in comparison to iOS and Android. In a budget phone like the Nokia C5-03, however, it doesn't feel entirely out of place. The phone is available for free on contracts of £15 a month or more, or SIM-free for around £180.
Nokia hasn't tried too hard to convince us this is anything but a budget smartphone through its build. The Nokia C5-03 has an all-plastic body and, apart from a textured end-cap, it's super-shiny. Out of the box this heavy dose of plastic is clearly evident, but it's only going to get worse with use as this finish shows up every blemish, scratch and scrape whenever the phone catches the light. In fairness, the actual design is quite smart but we just fear it won't remain looking that way for any length of time. 2010's Nokia C3 proved that Nokia can produce a phone with a top design and a rock-bottom price, but it hasn't pulled off the same trick here.
On the top of the handset, there are the now-standard 3.5mm headphone and micro USB ports, and the right hand-side is home to the volume rocker and lock button. The only odd addition to the Nokia C5-03's body sits on the handset's bottom - the tiny cylindrical Nokia charge socket, now nearing extinction as micro USB continues to dominate mobile charging. The micro USB socket of the C5-03 can also be used to charge the phone, but using the dedicated charging socket is quicker. We found charging with a dedicated micro USB charger snappy enough, but one isn't bundled here - just a proprietary charger and USB data transfer cable.
Questionable aesthetics and blast-from-the-past features aside, the Nokia C5-03 isn't entirely out-of-date. It has a 600MHz ARM 11 processor, on-par with the majority of budget smartphones and not much slower than the Nokia N8's 680MHz CPU. That said, day-to-day navigation is rarely lag-free, but we'd attribute that's more the inherent interface design of the Symbian S60 system than a lack of power in the Nokia C5-03. All told, the lag is similar to what you'd see in an Android 2.1 phone with a similar 500-600MHz processor.