Nokia 500 review - Symbian Anna's colours
Today marks the end of the fourth week since I received the Nokia 500 from the nice people at Nokia Connects. After a coffee incident I was smartphone-less and I asked Paul to lend a hand. So he did, and a few days later I received the 500. At first I did not know what to expect from it. I knew a few things about. It was the first 1GHz Symbian phone launched by Nokia, but I also knew it was an entry level smartphone, so I was confused.
During the 4 week trial, I was impressed with the phone, and especially with the looks of the phone and even more with it's battery life. Even though it's a smaller battery, I got a lot of life out of it. But let's get on with the review.
What's in the box
The box contains the phone itself, a Nokia pin-hole charge, a micro-USB data cable, a set of Nokia hands free, the 1110mAh BL-4U battery and three interchangeable back covers(red, blue and black).
The design of the Nokia 500 is reminiscent of the Nokia X6 design. It's also about the same size as the X6.
The front panel is dominated by the capacitive 3.2 inch TFT display, with the usual three buttons below: the Call button, the Menu/Home button and the End call button. On top there is the ear piece with the Nokia logo below it and the proximity sensor to the right side. The mouth piece is located just above the End call button.
The capacitive touchscreen is very sensitive, and the lightest of touches does the job well. This is probably one of the reasons that the portrait QWERTY keyboard works so well on such a small display.
The left side is clean because the SD card and SIM card housings are located below the battery.
The right side brings the volume rocker and the lock/unlock button. Yes, no more unlock knob, even though I for one have missed it(a lot).
On the top of the phone we can find the Nokia pin hole charging port, the Micro-USB port and the 3.5mm jack port. The 500 does charge trough the USB port too.
The bottom of the phone is also clean.
The back of the phone hosts the 5MP camera, the speaker grill and the neatly vertical aligned N9 style silver looking Nokia engraving.
Another design aspect are the interchangeable back covers that come with the phone. I got a black one, a red one and a blue one. I have to say that it's been a hard everyday choice to pick a cover to wear that day.
The first thing that struck me when I first opened up the 500 box, was the looks of the phone. Moments before I picked it up I remember thinking "well, it looks gorgeous, but does it feel cheap?". The answer came quick enough. No! The back covers have a soft rubbery feel and they're not there just for the looks of the phone, but they also help with the grip. Whatever you do, the phone seems to be glued to your hand. No way of dropping this little fella.
The glossy plastic looks great and the buttons as well. The phone is solidly built, there are no squeaks or stuff to give away the all plastic build. The overall impression this phone leaves you with is... premium. You may think I am deranged, mad or lunatic, but yes, at this price point the Nokia 500 feels premium.
The phone has a 1GHz CPU, but unfortunately Nokia left out the GPU chip so serious gaming is a no go on the 500. You get a decent amount of 256MB of RAM, which is more than enough for Symbian to dwell in.
With the 500 you also get a 2GB of internal storage and and a 512MB of ROM, which should be more than enough for the upcoming Belle update. There is of course the option to extend your 500's storage memory with an additional micro-SD card, up to 32GB. The micro-SD card however, is not hot swappable, the slot being located under the battery.
As far as connectivity goes, the usual suspects are all there, WiFi b/g (no n), 3G, Bluetooth 2.1 with A2DP and A-GPS.
The battery is smaller than the batteries that ship with the S^3 big brothers. It's a 1110 mAh battery, but I have to say that it delivers two days of moderate usage on one charge.
The browser feels faster than on the other Symbian 3 devices I've tested, but at times, after a long time with no reboot, it started to be laggy and even unresponsive. A reboot would usually take care of that. I have to say though, that since the last update a few days ago the browser issue seems to have magically disappeared. So if you're using version 010.032 you're good.
The browsing experience is lacking flash support, but maybe that's a good thing. To be honest each time I receive a Nokia Symbian device for testing, I disable flash from the browser. The browser becomes faster and more usable this way.
With the Anna browser you get kinda-tabbed browsing(windows, not really tabs), and a fully compliant browser with HTML5 standards. Compared to Opera which encounters problems with complex websites, the Anna browser renders them perfectly. If Nokia would integrate the cloud into the Symbian Anna browser, the data consumption would be considerably lower.
The camera is a 5MP camera, which shoots pretty decent photos, but it can't be compared with the N8's or C7's camera. It seems to be slower at taking photos compared to the big brothers mentioned above.
The camera supports VGA recording at 15FPS, which is not something you would expect from a Symbian 3 phone, but I guess you have to cut on some features in order to keep the price low. However, the VGA recording is something I can live with since it is pretty decent, much better than the same VGA@15FPS that you get with the E5.
The media gallery application now called Photos is a mixed experience. Some photos can be viewed in full resolution, while others are downsized, which is really annoying if you want to see some fine details of the picture.
Another thing that I find annoying is that the Photos application has some sort of inconsistent behavior. For example, it reads the pictures from the 2GB internal storage only from the Images and Videos folder, but when you plug in a micro-SD card, it reads all directories.
The sound quality of the speaker is acceptable, while the headphones provided in the package sound really good. The music playback is a comfy experience on the 500, and the good quality pack a decent punch.
The in-call volume is loud enough, but the loudspeaker volume is a bit low. I had no problems hearing people when I used the phone normally, but ran into some issues when I set it to loudspeaker and talked to someone while I was driving. The ambient noise interfered with the conversation, though the person on the other end of the line said I was loud and clear.
The software pack is the usual Symbian 3 software, but Nokia left out the QuickOffice app this time. I don't know why, but I miss it. Check my Symbian^3 review and my Symbian Anna review to see what software is included.
The homescreen has three panes that can be filled with widgets and shortcuts. The homescreen loads very fast and the widgets become usable instantly.
Despite the fact that there is no GPU unit on board, the theme effects perform very well with no lag at all.
The menu is the same as on the rest of Symbian devices, the contacts application, messaging with conversations threaded view, and everything else besides QuickOffice. The task manager is also a very handy application.
On the downside, I had some issues with occasional freezes followed by reboots, but only after an hour or so of heavy use, and by heavy use I mean no standby for hours. It's most probably a software issue that will get fixed in future updates.
The new Nokia Store application performs extremely well, but unfortunately I could not find many apps that I really needed on the store. Probably because this is a new device and the software devs have to add compatibility with it.
The Nokia Store interface is a very nice touch, and it brings smooth navigation and easy search. It has the Categories view, which is very useful, and most importantly the My Stuff view straight on the bottom bar. You also get update notifications on the bottom bar, and you can update all your apps with one click.
Some software like SPB Shell started but was unusable, having flickering issues all over the place. Maybe the devs of the published apps should check compatibility with this device.
At the price point of the 500 (which is around 150 Euros after taxes) the phone is dirt cheap, and the features are hard to beat. Honestly. Imagine how the price will look like in a couple of months. For this kind of money you get the full Symbian experience, and more to follow. Nokia announced that they will update the 500 to Belle, so the 500 will look even more attractive then.
Here's my unboxing video in case you missed it: