One of the first things you notice about the interface is the rather neat clock display that sits there whenever the phone is out of your pocket but not in use. Because the display uses AMOLED technology, which doesn’t require a backlight, the phone can get away with keeping just a few individual pixels illuminated to display a clock face and date without taking a significant hit on battery life. It’s a simple thing but being able to just glance across at your phone to check the time is a very useful feature.
The screen itself is excellent. At 3.5in from corner to corner, it isn’t the largest one going and its resolution of 360 x 640 pixels isn’t the highest either. However the combination makes for a sharp and easy to read display. Combined with the high contrast, highly saturated colours and great viewing angles of AMOLED, overall it makes for one of the best quality panels going.
That said, it is a bit narrow, so once Nokia actually adds a portrait qwerty keyboard, it may be a bit cramped to use. That lower size and resolution also mean it’s not the best choice if you’re particularly into watching video and browsing the web.
As for the overall interface, regular readers probably won’t be surprised to hear we’re not overly impressed. While Nokia has addressed many of the fundamental problems with previous versions of Symbian – like the lack of inertial scrolling and some items requiring a double tap while others need a single tap – there are still plenty of ways in which it trails the likes of WebOS, Android, Bada, iOS and Windows Phone for sheer ease of use.
Menu transitions, opening apps, sliding round the web browser; it all feels a bit disjointed and cumbersome. Other annoyances include the vast number of menus required (most notably in the web browser), while silly little things like the applications and settings menus defaulting to some random order (rather than alphabetical) just add to the frustration. Regarding the latter, it can be customised – as indeed you can with most of the OS – but you don’t really expect to have to do quite so much just to make a phone usable.
While there are a fair number of stilted pauses when generally navigating around (usually to do with stuff taking a moment to load and Symbian not having quite such friendly loading screens as some alternatives), overall performance isn’t actually an issue and you can get stuff done fairly promptly. Other phones may have much faster hardware on paper but, thanks to Symbian being a fairly economical operating system, it can get away with using much slower hardware.