The C7 has been on the market in Europe and other countries since the fourth quarter of 2010 and was just recently released in the United States with T-Mobile as the Astound. Astound is an appropriate name given that for the past few years the Nokia devices that have been subsidized by US carriers have been primarily the low cost flip phones. T-Mobile had the E73 Mode, which I loved, and the Nuron but neither really could compete with the myriad of Android based phones and Black Berry devices offered by T-Mobile.
Recently I had the pleasure of testing a C7 and it was love at first sight when I opened the box. In my opinion this is a very sexy phone. So sexy that it has replaced the venerable 8800 as my choice for the sexiest Nokia phone of all time. I really loved the form and feel of the device and being made primarily of aluminum and other metals the build of the hardware is very solid . The screen size is perfect for viewing messages, images, and surfing the web and the colors and tones are very rich and vibrant.
As you can see by selecting an image below the C7 is comparable in size to the E71 and is a little smaller than it’s older brother, the N8. It’s light, compact and felt no heavier than a set of car keys when carried in my pocket.
Sexy is nice, but if there are no brains behind the looks then it’s just a pretty shell right? Well the C7 has looks and brains as it is powered by Symbian^3, the same operating system found in the C6, N8, E7, E6 & X7. I won’t rehash what we’ve already read and heard about S^3 since there have been many articles written since it’s release. Though I will say I was surprised to find that the C7’s screens and applications were more responsive and smoother than on my N8.
The C7 is marketed globally as a phone for social networking, and as the Astound is focused at the subsidized market for the US I thought I would focus on a few features that the US consumer may consider in a device. Besides social networking features I focused on email, photos, music, multitasking, applications, and syncing.
I am a fan of Nokia Social and it comes resident on the C7. It’s a great tool to view and update status for Twitter and Facebook in one application. I use this on my N8 daily and was happy to see it on the C7. However, the experience was not the same. Unlike the N8 the C7 has no homescreen widget and each time you access the application you need to log in. Therefore I thought I would see if Gravity was any better so I downloaded it from Ovi Store. It has more to offer than Nokia Social and is even a little sexier, but for what I need it just isn’t worth the $10 US.
Twitter and Facebook updates are important, but a true social networking device must be able to share photos and videos. The C7 does this very well by using the tried and true share feature built into the photo browser. After adding a caption and optional tagging right from the photo itself, my images and videos were loaded into my Facebook and Twitter profiles. For sharing to other sights you can also install Pixelpipe which is available in the Ovi Store.
Foursquare is available and there is a homescreen widget that works well. However, since it’s on all the time the battery life was noticeably decreased.
Nokia Messaging sure has come a long way and it’s abilities are truly evident in the C7. With Nokia Messaging you can have many different email accounts on your C7 and can load multiple email widgets to your homescreen. On the C7 I tested I had three accounts loaded with my work email in Mail for Exchange, a personal GMail account and a personal Ovi Mail account. The flexibility of NM also allows for a separate syncing profile for each account and the ability to select what is synced and when. That allows me to sync my work calendar, notes and tasks yet bypass my work contacts as those are synced using my Ovi Mail account.
There are other email tools available in Ovi Store that take advantage of “the cloud” but I really don’t see a need to download a beta product when Nokia Messaging is included and works perfectly. T-Mobile’s Astound users will find that Nokia Messaging fits their needs and won’t be disappointed given it’s ability to view images and attachments.
Personally this is one of the most important features in a device and why I keep my N8 with me at all times. We all know how the N8 takes pictures, but this review is about the C7.
The C7 has an 8mp, fixed focus camera with dual LED flash and it is comparable to most of the mid and upper-level smartphones available today. You can shoot good images and HD video with the C7 and take advantage of many features available for customizing your shots. You can use settings for scenes, face detection, color, contrast and on-screen zoom. For advanced photographers you can even customize white balance, exposure, and ISO settings. But i expect most will just point and shoot and the C& does this very well.
What the C7 has that the others don’t is the ability to edit your images and videos on the phone itself. With the C7 you can shoot a picture, frame it and add some captions, then upload it to your friends on Facebook and Twitter right on the phone.
Below are some comparisons of shots taken with the C7.
Since the Xpress Music 5800 one of my favorite features on Nokia devices has been the music player. I’m happy to report that nothing changes my feelings with the C7. I was able to transfer all of my music from my N8 to the C7 without any problems using the Ovi Suite back-up feature. I can play music from CDs, Apple iTunes, Nokia Ovi Music UK (not available in the US yet), and Amazon and retain the song or album artwork. The sound is clear, crisp and loud when using wired headphones, my Nokia BH-505 bluetooth headset, or plugged into the mp3 port in my car’s sound system. Playing over the devices speakers is good and as clear as can be expected using the rear speakers.
Finding the music is simple and utilizes kinetic scrolling well. You can select by artists & songs, albums, genres and playlists and can view them all in either portrait or landscape modes. Landscape allows you to flip through choices using album artwork.
One of the greatest advantages Symbian^3 brings is true multitasking and that feature is perfect for the non-power user as most will open applications without giving a thought to memory usage. The C7 allowed me to have applications like Ovi Maps, the music player, Conversations, Nokia Social or Gravity, email, photos and ScreenSnap (a must have for blogging) all open at the same time without any real degradation in speed and application response. The only recommendation I can make in relation to multitasking is that you turn the phone off once a day to reset the memory. I did find that the C7 (and my N8) would become less responsive or would start to freeze after a couple of days of multitasking without shutting the device off or closing applications.
Ovi Store has been around for quite some time now and there are thousands upon thousands of apps available for the C7, both free and paid. App availability is based upon country and device and I am happy to see that even though Windows Phone 7 is part of Nokia’s future, new S^3 apps are being added to the store on a regular basis.
You can search and install right from your device, or from a computer. Paying is easily handled with a credit card or through your monthly phone bill depending upon your carrier. However, I see Ovi Store alone as unable to help the Astound’s chances in the long run in the United States. The content available in the US has gotten better, but it’s too late to compete with The Android Market and iTunes. This is not a device specific issue and has to do with Nokia’s marketing and presence in the US. Future Nokia devices like the rumored W7 and W8 will probably be better served in the US market by Microsoft’s Marketplace for WP7.
Syncing Music, Calendars, Tasks & Contacts
In my mind no one can compare to Nokia and Ovi Suite when it comes to syncing between a PC and your Nokia Device. Ovi Suite has saved me sssoooooo many times because of it’s ability to back up everything on a device and from all memory sources. Android does okay on music, but I am still bewildered that there is nothing to really sync Outlook between your device and PC. There is an expensive app called CompanionLink that almost meets the needs but it failed terribly in identifying personal and business calendars and would constantly wipe out appointments, tasks and contacts when I used it.
Apple has an advantage over Nokia when it comes to Mac users as their product iTunes works well on a PC and Mac. Ovi Suite is not yet available for the Mac (though development is under way) and this may also hurt the Astound with the US consumer. Nokia does have Mac support, as shown here, yet most T-Mobile stores probably aren’t aware of what Nokia offers for Mac users. Nokia will need to get Ovi Suite compatible with the Mac platform sooner than later, and should get it done before the first Nokia WP7 devices are released. There are a lot of Mac users out there and they must be included in any growth plans Nokia has for the US.
GPS & Ovi Maps
There is a lot more to the C7 than the items I listed above, but again this review was written with the T-mobile US buyer in mind. This review would not be complete though if I failed to mention Ovi Maps and the GPS signal.
Connecting to the GPS signal is smoking fast. I even tried to time the difference between the N8 and C7 and just could not see any significant difference between the two. The signal strength is strong, constant and accurate and all-in-all the reliability exceeded my expectations using Ovi Maps and Sports-Tracker.
Ovi Maps has evolved into a pretty solid tool. The few times I used it for directions I saw little lag in the voice guidance and mapping to my current location, even at 70 mph. I could search for businesses based upon my current location and get walking or driving directions from that current location. And I could check in to a multitude of social network apps like Foursquare, Facebook, Twitter, Friendster, LiveJournal and many more. I wonder how many check in applications Nokia is going to load onto devices? If I didn’t have a GPS and guidance system in my car Ovi Maps would be my preferred guidance tool.
In short, the C7 is a true multitasking giant in a small, sexy shell. It is a fantastic device that I would recommend to anyone. Especially someone who isn’t a power user and is seeking a reliable, feature-rich and well-built phone. It’s sturdy enough to take a beating from your teenagers, yet has all of the social networking features and access they crave.