The touchscreen 3G Nokia 5800 gives the mobile phone world a pleasant surprise. This Apple iPhone rival brings plenty of hardware goodies, but can it compete with Apple's crown jewel?

What you notice immediately about the Nokia 5800 is that it lacks external music controls - and it's supposed to be a music-centric handset.

On its right side, you'll find SIM and memory card slots, with stereo speaker grills underneath. On the left side of the Nokia 5800 are volume controls, a sliding screen lock, and a camera shutter. At the top of the phone, there's a power/profile switching button, plus a microUSB slot and a standard 3.5mm audio jack. A pleasant surprise is the included stylus, housed at the bottom right corner of the handset's back.

One of the Nokia 5800's most important assets is located at the back of the phone. The 3.2Mp autofocus camera sports Carl Zeiss lens with dual LED flash (take that, iPhone). Nokia just upgraded 5800's firmware last night, adding geotagging for photos (using the built-in GPS antenna), among other features.

The Nokia 5800 features a 3.2in 16:9 aspect ratio touchscreen (360 x 640 pixels), which has three control keys underneath it: call, menu and hang up. The front of the phone also has a secondary VGA camera for video calling. Above the touchscreen, there's a tiny touch-sensitive area that brings up five onscreen shortcuts for music, pictures, media sharing, movies, and web.

See also: Apple iPhone 3G review

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Music is the central point of the Nokia 5800, and the phone delivers.

The sound quality is excellent, and the Nokia 5800 has a dedicated music chip built in, offering a listening experience on a par with a dedicated music device such as the iPod and the iPhone. The music player offers plenty of functionality, including the ability to create playlists, view cover art, and an adjustable equaliser. The new firmware also allows users to modify song information in MP3 ID tags. As usual, iTunes DRM protected songs are not supported.

It's worth noting that the Nokia 5800 is almost 50 percent thicker than the iPhone but around half-inch narrower and quarter-inch shorter. In contrast with the iPhone's poor retail package, Nokia's 5800 package is quite rich, coming with PC and video cables, headset and remote control, extra stylus, a stand and wrist-strap with an alternative stylus. A 8GB microSD card and a carrying case come bundled as well.

NEXT PAGE: the software

The touchscreen 3G Nokia 5800 gives the mobile phone world a pleasant surprise. This Apple iPhone rival brings plenty of hardware goodies, but can it compete with Apple's crown jewel?

Nokia 5800: the software

The Nokia 5800 is based on the Symbian S60 platform, and its touch-optimized user interface is where the 5800 scores the least points. Unlike the iPhone's excellent interface, the one found on the 5800 is not very user-friendly. We also found that the touchscreen isn't very responsive. You really need to use the stylus.

Nokia didn't really optimise the Symbian S60 mobile operating system for touchscreen input, although you do get haptic feedback (via gentle vibrations). Scrolling down is still achieved using a regular bar, making it virtually impossible to be done with your finger. This is quite inconvenient, especially when you have to scroll down through a long list of songs or artists in the music player.

In addition, we found the Nokia 5800 slow when accessing menus and switching applications. Even after installing the new Nokia firmware update, the phone still feels slow in comparison to the iPhone or even the T-Mobile G1.

And while we're making comparisons, there are not enough applications out there for the Nokia 5800 right now (but Nokia is expected to launch an AppStore soon).

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It's worth noting, though, that the Nokia 5800 supports features long-craved by iPhone users, such as copy-and-paste and multitasking with applications allowed to run in the background.

Messaging on the Nokia 5800 can be difficult, as well. The touchscreen makes finger typing on the full-screen qwerty keyboard cumbersome. Nokia offers a mini-qwerty keyboard, an alphanumeric one, and also handwriting recognition, all done best with the stylus. Unfortunately, the email client doesn't take advantage of the large screen and doesn't display HTML email either - just text (text size can be adjusted in large, medium and small formats).

Though Nokia's 5800 own web browser uses the same WebKit rendering engine as Safari on the iPhone, the browsing experience is not comparable. Browsing the web on the Nokia 5800 is fast, but zooming in and out of columns and pages is by far not as smooth and functional as on the iPhone.

PCWorld.com

Nokia 5800 Tube: Specs

  • GSM/EDGE 850/900/1800/1900, WCDMA 900/2100
  • Bluetooth 2.0, A2DP & AVRCP
  • IMAP, POP, SMTP email, SMS
  • HTTP, WAP, JavaScript web browsing
  • GPS
  • 3.2 megapixel camera (2048 x 1536 pixels)
  • video capture
  • Nokia Nseries digital music player
  • touchscreen, 3.2in, 640x360-pixel display
  • BL-5J 1320 mAh Li-Ion battery
  • 81 MB internal memory, 8GB microSD memory card in-box, expandable up to 16GB
  • Micro-USB connector, USB 2.0 High Speed, 3.5mm Nokia AV connector, MicroSD card slot, small DC jack, Micro USB cable interface to PC (CA-101), TV out interface (CA-75U)
  • 111x52x15mm
  • 109g
  • GSM/EDGE 850/900/1800/1900, WCDMA 900/2100
  • Bluetooth 2.0, A2DP & AVRCP
  • IMAP, POP, SMTP email, SMS
  • HTTP, WAP, JavaScript web browsing
  • GPS
  • 3.2 megapixel camera (2048 x 1536 pixels)
  • video capture
  • Nokia Nseries digital music player
  • touchscreen, 3.2in, 640x360-pixel display
  • BL-5J 1320 mAh Li-Ion battery
  • 81 MB internal memory, 8GB microSD memory card in-box, expandable up to 16GB
  • Micro-USB connector, USB 2.0 High Speed, 3.5mm Nokia AV connector, MicroSD card slot, small DC jack, Micro USB cable interface to PC (CA-101), TV out interface (CA-75U)
  • 111x52x15mm
  • 109g

OUR VERDICT

The Nokia 5800 is by no means an iPhone replacement, but if you're not into the iPhone and you want a good music handset with a decent camera, this might be the one for you, especially if you get the handset bundled with Nokia's Comes With Music offer, which gives you unlimited music downloads for a year. Also, given the recent firmware upgrade, it seems that Nokia is actively working to improve the phone's features and responsiveness.

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