Nokia 500 Review

Introduction and Design

The Nokia 500 is the mass production of the new Nokia Symbian line, as it has the lowest specs out of the bunch announced in time for the holiday shopping craze. With that said, it’s no slouch, as it sports a decent display with 229ppi pixel density, 5MP camera and a 1GHz processor, based, however, on the older ARM 11 architecture

The Finns have skimped on things like an LED flash, and the internal memory – the handset has only 2GB - to keep costs down. The Nokia 500 ships with Symbian Anna unlike the rest of the new kids on the Symbian block, but is expected to receive a Belle upgrade further down the road.

An affordable handset from Nokia with decent specs and some colorful battery covers thrown in to keep things exciting is usually a Finnish recipe for success among teens and in emerging markets, but is that the case with the Nokia 500? Read on our review to find out…  

What's in the box:

  • One Nokia 500 handset
  • Two extra swappable battery covers in different colors
  • Wall charger
  • MicroUSB cable
  • Stereo headset with microphone
  • Manual and warranty leaflets


The Nokia 500 is a true candybar phone with its narrow rectangular front, but turn it on its face to review the 5MP camera and the speaker grill, and a nice curved back is revealed. The tapered form and soft-touch plastic finish of the battery cover, plus the fact that the handset is chubby at 0.55” (14.1mm), make it very comfortable to hold and operate with one hand.

You can compare the Nokia 500 with many other phones using our Size Visualization Tool.

The 3.2” plain LCD display is not with the best viewing angles out there, but it’s bright enough, and, thanks to Nokia’s usual 360x640 pixels, sports 229ppi pixel density, which is above average for the phone’s category, and helps when reading small text.

There is a simple lock/power button on the right below the volume rocker, and all ther ports are housed at the top. The back cover slides out or in with a simple click, making it easy to swap them when you get bored from the hue. Overall, a nice comfortable design, which even excels the phone’s price point a bit with the soft-touch plastic coating on the back.

Nokia 500 360-degrees View:

Interface and Functionality:

By now most Symbian^3 users should have gotten their serving of Symbian Anna, which  improves on the first stopgap touchscreen interface of Nokia. You can read our review of Anna here, but we hope it wouldn’t be long before you get Symbian Belle on the Nokia 500, which we found to be the best effort for a touchscreen Symbian to date on Nokia’s part.

Symbian Anna runs faster on the Nokia 500 than on the Nokia N8 or Nokia C7, for example. The new generation handset sports a 1GHz processor, in contrast to the 680MHz of the older generation phones. The overall speed isn't as good as on the Nokia 701 with its better hardware and the Symbian Belle optimizations, but that’s the price to pay for cheap.

Messaging, Internet and Connectivity:

Symbian Anna brought a split-screen and a portrait virtual keyboard, which are pretty good. Texting, sending email and typing in general on a 3.2-incher is not a seamless experience, however, as you can easily guess – bigger thumbs, and your typing project slows down significantly.

The Symbian Anna browser has an improved interface, which is a far cry from the Symbian^3 clunker, but rendering performance, and the lack of Adobe Flash support are big limitations. On a 1GHz platform the performance is much faster, though, and you will notice improved speed and smoothness of panning around, zooming and the automatic text reflow, at least compared to the performance on handsets like the Nokia N8 or C7. Scrolling gets choppy in complex pages, but, on the other hand, you have an above-average pixel density to even things out with crisp and easy to read text.

The Nokia 500 sports all the connectivity options you would expect in its price range, and then some. It has 14.4Mbits pentaband HSDPA radio, which means it is born ready for any GSM network around the globe. Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, FM Radio and A-GPS are standard, of course, and the latest version of Nokia Maps present means you have free voice-guided offline navigation in more than 90 countries around the world, including the US with live traffic which is one of Nokia’s affordable handsets great advantages of late.


The 5MP module on the back of the Nokia 500 is good enough for casual snaps – all you need to do is press a little icon on the right, and you go into full automatic mode with a big fat on-screen  shutterbutton, as there is no dedicated camera key.

The pictures actually turned out quite decent – fairly sharp and with saturated colors, which, however, tend to lean on the violet side. The downside here is the absence of an LED flash, which limits the phone in low lighting.

The handset also captures VGA video at 15fps, which is nothing to write home about at those frame rates.

Nokia 500 Sample Video:


The default music player sports decent functionality, such as equalizer presets, and the CoverFlow-like swiping between album covers is a nice eye-candy especially in landscape mode where it really shines. The loudspeaker is of average quality, and could be stronger. There is an FM Radio chip, but no Play via Radio FM transmitter.

Nokia doesn’t seem to advertise it, but the video player not only supports MPEG-4 files by default, but someone has bothered with hardwiring DivX or Xvid codecs in this entry-level Nokia 500 handset. We played DivX/Xvid/MPEG-4 files up to the screen resolution with no issues
There are picture and video editors preinstalled, which sport easy to use interfaces, and faster performance, thanks to the 1GHz processor.


Call quality in the Nokia 500 is very good, with loud voices in the earpiece without any notable distortion, while on the receiving end they said we sounded clear and with good volume. There is no dedicated microphone for noise-cancellation, so the surrounding noise could be heard as well while we were talking.

The manufacturer is advertising the comparatively wimpy 5 hours of talk time in 3G mode. The battery is good for 5 hours and 15 minutes of video playback as well, as per manufacturer's specs.


Overall, the world’s largest phone maker by volume has trimmed specs from the right places to arrive to its new entry-level Symbian star, the Nokia 500. The lack of LED flash and the basic video capture capabilities of the 5MP camera module seem to be the main victims that fell in the quest for a low-end pricing. Others, like less RAM and smaller battery we can live with, as they don’t affect usability that much – besides, the update to Symbian Belle will speed the interface up significantly.

On the other hand, we have a well-built affordable handset with nice soft-touch plastic grip and comfortable to hold shape, whose 3.2” display sports a pretty high 229ppi pixel density, making text easier to read while surfing with the basic default browser.

When we add the hardwired DivX/Xvid codecs support in the video player, and, above all, the free offline voice-guided navigation in most countries worldwide, the Nokia 500 seems poised to succeed in the footsteps of the 5800 XpressMusic, which sold millions around the globe.

The Nokia 500 would reign superior over the entry-level bada handsets of Samsung, for example, and cheap Androids like the Samsung Galaxy Y can only threaten it with the quantity of apps in Android Market, which, however, is a pretty formidable advantage. There is not much else you can buy with similar capabilities to the Nokia 500 in the $200 ballpark without a contract.

Software version of the review unit: 010.029

Nokia 500 Video Review:


  • Cheap but capable handset with pleasant design
  • Above average pixel density makes text crisp and easier to read
  • Hardwired DivX/Xvid video playback


  • Video capture with 15fps only
  • No camera flash
  • Symbian Anna is sluggish compared to Belle

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