As a phone that can be had for free on a £15-a-month contract, the Nokia 700’s screen is a stand-out feature. You simply don’t normally get a screen of this quality at this price.
It uses an AMOLED panel, which is rather different from the usual TFT screens we see at this price. AMOLED screens don’t use a traditional backlight – which fires light through pixels a bit like light passing through a stained glass window. OLED panels are rather more dynamic. The pixels illuminate themselves, so there’s no need for a global backlight.
This lets black parts of the screen stay truly dark, giving unbeatable contrast when executed properly. Nokia calls its stab at the tech a ClearBlack display, and while that’s just as much a marketing label as Apple’s Retina Display, it’s right on the money. Contrast is superb, and blacks are black.
While the 640×360 pixel display doesn’t sound particularly high-res when the Orange San Francisco packs in 800×480 pixels, its 229dpi pixel density supplies a very sharp image. 230,400 pixels is a lot for 3.2in, in other words.
(centre)A high res AMOLED screen vs lower res TFT. Quite the difference… (/centre)
As with most AMOLED screens brightness is excellent, offering overkill levels of luminescence for most situations at max setting. Also common to AMOLEDs, the Nokia 700’s screen is significantly oversaturated. Colours are extremely vivid, and while it looks fab for the most part, we wish there were some colour controls nestled within the Settings menu to let you turn this down a notch.
Angled viewing poses no problem, with just a slight blue hue cast over the image at extreme angles. This may mean that that nosey chap setting next to you on the train may be able to read your text messages, though.
Typing on the 3.2in screen is a bit tricky if you’re used to using a larger touchscreen. The keyboard’s width is very limited in portrait mode, making it easy to mis-type characters – this is where the Nokia 700’s 5cm width becomes a disadvantage. Symbian^3 doesn’t offer as aggressive auto-correct functionality as Android, so prepare for some deleting and re-typing as you get used to that smaller screen. It’s particularly noticeable here, as its screen is more slender than most 3.2in smartphones.
(centre)The small size is handy, but not for portrait typing(/centre)
Nokia has ported Swype to Symbian (available from Nokia Store), which lets you drag a path over the keys in a vague approximation of to spelling out a word, then it guesses the word you want from your movements. Some find this easier when limited to a small screen. If you really can’t get on with portrait typing, the landscape virtual keyboard is much more spacious.
When holding the Nokia 700 on its side like this, when typing or playing a game, it’s too easy to accidentally cover the light sensor. This is what determines how bright the screen needs to be when set to automatic brightness. It’s not a disastrous bug, but can make it seem as though your phone has gone a bit bi-polar – dimming and brightening-up every handful of seconds.
Matching the top quality of its AMOLED display, the touchscreen uses a Gorilla Glass front. This feels great as you glide a fingertip across it – with a more luxurious feel than the hard plastic used in cheaper phones. It’s also commendably scratch-resistant. The Nokia 700 shouldn’t emerge scuffed and scratched from a day’s punishment in your pocket.
The touchscreen itself is capacitive, like that of the iPhone 4 or HTC Desire S. Although occasionally held-up by the Symbian OS software, it’s very responsive. As already noted, it’s capable of multi-touch gestures too.
While Symbian^3 continues to lag behind its smartphone rivals in several key respects, hardware-wise the Nokia 700 is an extremely impressive little device.