Nokia 603 Review

Introduction and Design

The Nokia 603 is supposed to be the workhorse of the new Symbian Belle portfolio, balancing the value-for-money virtue in the low mid-range spectrum. Thus it is pretty average in terms of specs – 3.5” display, 1GHz processor and 5MP camera with 720p video recording but no LED flash.

It shares the “brightest mobile display” of the Nokia 701, however, and has an abundance of swappable back covers in various colors for the joy of the teen market, but does it deserve its price point, and is it distinctive enough apart from those different shell paints? Read on our review to find out...

In the box:

  • Spare color back cover
  • In-ear headphones
  • Wall charger
  • microUSB cable
  • Warranty and information leaflets


The Nokia 603 comes chubby at 0.5” (12.7mm), so it's not going to win any design awards that seem to be all about waistline these days, but its tapered edges and sloping corners make it pretty ergonomic and easy to hold. Operating the phone with one hand is also easy, and all buttons around the sides are protruding enough for a decent feel, plus their travel is decent.

You can compare the Nokia 603 with many other phones using our Size Visualization Tool.

The 3.5” IPS-LCD display boasts 360x640 pixels of resolution, and 210ppi pixel density, which only came detrimental when we were trying to read very small text. Viewing angles are wide, and brightness is very high thanks to the 1000 nits output, plus the ClearBlack tech minimizes reflections. The higher than average brightness and low reflection make for an excellent outside visibility on the Nokia 603.,

The handset comes in black and white, with a number of swappable back covers in different colors, and one is included in the box for free. There is no front-facing camera, just a 5MP fixed-focus shooter without an LED flash.

Nokia 603 360-degrees View:

Interface, Functionality and Software:

Symbian Belle that we already reviewed runs oily on the Nokia 603, without hiccups - the handset sports the same 1GHz processor with 512MB RAM other Belle handsets like the Nokia 700 and 701 have. It has 2GB of memory, which is expandable via a microSD card.

Typing on the 3.5” display is a decent experience, although the keys come a bit small in portrait mode; for an alternative input method you can always try Swype.

The Nokia 603 comes with the rich set of preinstalled apps we are used to with Symbian Belle – QuickOffice for document viewing and file browsing, Adobe Reader for PDF docs, Shazam for song recognition, as well as photo and video editors. Here we also have the ABC dictionary app and Vlingo, the voice-recognition service that is no substitute for something like Siri, but still allows you to control your phone by certain phrases while driving, for instance. Angry Birds and Fruit Ninja round up the entertainment offerings.  

Internet and Connectivity:

Browsing on the 603 is a good experience when compared to older Nokia phones, thanks to the sped up hardware and optimized Symbian Belle.  Panning and scrolling is fluid enough to be usable, but not as smooth as on Android, Windows or iOS phones. The rendering engine resorts to the checkered boxes more often than it should while pinching in, and scrolling stutters occassionally. Of note is the very good automatic text reflow for easier reading of articles. Adobe Flash support is sorely missed, too, so you won't be able to play games or watch video from some sites. Flash Lite 4.0 comes to the rescue with things like Flash-based ads, which you probably don't care much about anyway.

Penta-band HSDPA radio is tucked inside the Nokia 603, so you can use it on T-Mobile’s 3G network as well, with download speeds up to 14.4Mbps, provided that the carrier can supply them. In addition the phone has Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, FM Radio with transmitter, A-GPS and NFC.

Nokia Maps with Drive provides the free lifetime navigation with voice guidance in most countries of importance worldwide, as well as life traffic in some of them. The NFC capability has its own video tutorials and comes in handy if you want to exchange files with another Nokia handset with NFC without the PIN codes hassles of Bluetooth, or for pairing with some accessories, but not much else for now.


The camera interface boasts face recognition, color/sharpness/brightness adjustments, and some effects, but not much else in terms of features. The 5MP fixed-focus camera can't do clear macro shots, as it focuses on objects about 15 inches (40cm) away from the lens.

The photos turned out in focus and decent in terms of sharpness, but lacking a bit in the detail department. The color representation is pretty accurate, too, and the camera has a fine dynamic range preventing objects from being under- or overexposed.  

The 720p HD video runs with consistent 30fps, but also lacks sufficient detail. Colors are well-presented and the exposure adjustment corrections are swift  enough while you pan around with the handset. Indoor photos and videos were mostly in focus and detailed enough, but the videos introduced a fair amount of noise. All in all, performance is in line with what we were expecting from this camera – it didn't blow us away, but there weren't significant mishaps as well, like with the Nokia 700.

Nokia 603 Sample Video:

Nokia 603 Indoor Sample Video:


There are photo and video editing apps preinstalled and integrated with the Gallery, which work very well, especially the picture editor, which has an abundance of options, including adding comic text bubbles and funny animations to your photos on the fly, and is with an easy to use interface.

The music player shows album art now on a bigger part of the screen, and the progress bar is fatter, making it easier to touch. As usual, there is a sleek CoverFlow-like interface in landscape mode.

The music player keeps its good level of functionality with the equalizer presets, and the “Play via Radio” FM transmitter is present directly in the song's options. The loudspeaker is fairly strong but the output is a bit flat and indistinct.

The Nokia 603 video player ran DivX/Xvid files from the start, and we were able to play clips up to 720p. For some reason, however, DivX/Xvid files looked pixelated compared to MPEG-4s.


Voice quality in the earpiece of the Nokia 603 is decent, with enough volume and clarity. The other side complained we sound a tad muffled, but our voice was otherwise distinct enough.

The battery is rated for 7 hours of talk time in 3G mode and 20 days on standby, which is about average.


The Nokia 603 serves its purpose to be an affordable yet capable smartphone with Symbian Belle. It offers an ergonomic grip, very bright display and decent camera quality, unless you are into macro shots. Free lifetime navigation with Nokia Maps, the novelty of NFC, and a good set of preinstalled apps aren’t something to sniff at too.

The thing is that it serves its purpose in the Symbian world only, while Android mid-rangers have already encroached on its turf so tight that it barely has a breathing ground. Android is a better OS, Android Market has way more 3rd party apps and Adobe Flash support is another advantage.

An Android handset in the same price range as the Nokia 603 is currently the Sony Ericsson Xperia neo with nice design, larger, more resolute screen and better camera with flash. Another good alternative is the Samsung Galaxy Ace, which is now notably cheaper than the 603, and with comparable specs.

The Windows Phone powered LG Optimus 7 is currently around the same price as the Nokia 603, too.

Actually, even the Finns’ own Nokia 500 seems a good value in comparison despite the smaller display, since it also has a 5MP camera and free navigation, and will be updated to Belle, but comes much cheaper than the Nokia 603.

Software version of the reviewed unit: 111.020.0310

Nokia 603 Video Review:


  • Penta-band raido makes it usable in the whole world
  • Very good sunlight visibility
  • Free lifetime navigation


  • There are more capable Androids for its current price
  • No front-facing camera and no LED flash

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