Nokia may be heavily focusing on the Windows Phone platform, but it clearly hasn't given up on the Symbian operating system just yet. The 700 is the company's latest Symbian release, a very compact and superbly built smartphone that has an excellent screen. Unfortunately, the lack of third-party apps will turn some potential users away, as will the incredibly cramped on-screen keyboard.
Nokia 700: Design and display
The Nokia 700 is one of the smallest smartphones we've reviewed but its also one of the best built phones we've come across. Everything about this phone screams quality, from the hefty but not overwhelming weight, to the brushed aluminium finish on the back, and the outstanding, bright ClearBlack screen. We also love the physical keys below the display (answer, menu and end call), which are back-lit and easy to press. Perhaps the only sour point of the Nokia 700's design is the physical buttons on the right side of the phone. The volume, lock and dedicated camera keys are ridiculously thin and small, and require a real firm press to activate.
The Nokia 700's 3.2in screen is without a doubt one of the best features of this phone. The 360x640 pixel resolution means text is crisp and sharp and the ClearBlack AMOLED screen technology means colours are vibrant and bright. It is particularly excellent at displaying deep blacks, so its also great for viewing photos and watching videos. The screen handles itself quite well in sunlight, too — though its glossy, sunlight legibility is well ahead of many other phones in this price range.
Unfortunately, when typing a text message or e-mail, the Nokia 700's on-screen keyboard is so tiny that it's almost impossible to type accurately. Things fare a little better if you rotate the phone and type in landscape mode, and the built-in word correction software and the option of haptic feedback does work reasonably well. Despite these features, text input on the 700 is a very painful process due to the small display.
Nokia 700: Software and performance
We know what you're thinking. Nokia has produced another phone with great hardware but poor software, right? Not exactly. Yes, the Nokia 700 does run Symbian. But it's the latest and greatest version of Symbian, called Symbian Belle. It's actually rather slick. Performance is more than adequate. There is no real lag during general use. The phone is easy to use, though there are still various parts of the OS that remain confusing once you delve a little deeper past the main menu.
The top coating of Symbian Belle is easy to use and functional. Like the Android OS, there are up to six home screens you can customise with various shortcuts and widgets. The range is limited compared to Android, but most of the basics are there. Widgets include large digital or analogue clocks, an events calendar, e-mail, Web search, handy toggles for Wi-Fi and single of favourite contact shortcuts. There's even a slide down notifications bar, clearly copied from Android but nonetheless a great inclusion. At the top of the bar are handy quick toggles for mobile data, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and silent mode. The main menu is a long list of attractive icons in a grid or list view and you can conveniently arrange them manually, sort them in alphabetical order and create custom folders to store apps in.
The biggest let down of the Nokia 700 is a combination of its small screen and the fact that it lags well behind many of its competitors when it comes to app selection and Web browsing. The Nokia 700's Web browser is also an improvement over previous Symbian phones, but still lags well behind the competition. Apple's iOS, Google's Android and Microsoft's Windows Phone platforms all perform better than Symbian when it comes to mobile Web browsing and the 700 is sadly no different. Although its relatively smooth, supports multi-touch zooming, Flash video and loads pages in a speedy fashion, the screen is just way too small for any serious mobile browsing — especially if you're having to type addresses using the miniature keyboard.
The Nokia 700 provides access to the Nokia Ovi app store for third-party apps. It's not as extensive as iPhone and Android alternatives, but the store does offer most of the essential apps: Facebook, Twitter, Angry Birds, WhatsApp, YouTube, LinkedIn — you get the picture. Perhaps the best inclusion on the Nokia 700 (and all Symbian phones) is Nokia Maps, which provides full turn-by-turn navigation for no extra cost. Often costing up to $100 on rival platforms including Apple's iOS, this function works well and is a great free inclusion, though the 700's small screen is not ideal for navigation and text can be hard to read.
Nokia 700: Camera and battery life
The Nokia 700 has a 5-megapixel camera with single LED flash on the rear and a front facing VGA camera for video calling. Image quality is less than stellar — photos suffer from excess image noise and colour reproduction is poor. Photos captured with the 700 are perfectly fine for the odd happy snap though, and the camera also doubles as a 720p HD video recorder.
Like Nokia's flagship N9, the 700 has built-in Near Field Communications (NFC) technology, but its not for wireless payments. NFC enables users to pair compatible Bluetooth devices by tapping them against the phone. Depending on the devices, it can also offer the ability to share content. Tapping two Nokia 700's together can initiate multiplayer games and unlock new levels in Angry Birds, for example.
The Nokia 700 has 2GB of internal memory and also comes with a microSD card slot. It is a pentaband 3G smartphone, meaning it will work on all Australian 3G mobile networks. The Nokia 700 has above average battery life. It should last well over a full day with moderate use — we managed to push the battery to about a day and a half before it needed a recharge.