Nokia C5-03 Review

Introduction and Design
This is a global GSM phone, it can be used with AT&T's 3G and T-Mobile USA's 2G network.


Nokia has had a tough time coming up with a hugely successful high-end device and instead has taken the path to cheaper and more affordable smartphones for the masses. The Nokia C5-03 finds its place at this exact spot as it fits in the mid-range segment of Symbian smartphones. The phone is a close copy of the Nokia C6-01 spec-wise and promises a full connectivity package with 3G on board and free navigation and maps by Ovi. On the negative side, however, the Nokia C5-03 saves on both capacitive screen in favor of resistive and on Symbian^3 in favor of the now officially ancient Symbian^1 aka Symbian S60 5th edition.

The Nokia C5-03 comes with a 2GB microSD card, but you can use cards with up to 16GB of memory. Included in the retail package is also a charger, user guides and one of the shortest microUSB cables we have seen so far.


The Nokia C5-03 is light on your pocket. And we mean it light as light in money, and light as 93-gram light in weight, which puts it somewhere in the top of our list of flyweight smartphones. The phone comes in a variety of color combinations with black or white choices for the body, which can be then paired with different colors for the bottom part. The variety of looks comes bundled with eco-friendly materials – 80 per cent of the body is recyclable, while half of the packaging is made from recyclable materials.

You can compare the Nokia C5-03 with many other phones using our Size Visualization Tool.

One thing you might not notice in the beginning is that around the edges, where the screen meets the casing, seems to be a minimal distance, just enough to collect all sorts of garbage. Apart from this issue, the phone feels a bit like a toy, but still with no moving parts and good build quality for a mid-range device.

And speaking of affordable handsets, the screen is where budget played big and Nokia went with resistive technology. This undeniably ruins some of the fun of the otherwise pretty 3.2-inch screen, which boasts a resolution of 360x640 pixels. We pumped up the brightness to its highest level, but that still did not help much in direct sunlight where legibility suffered seriously.

On the back you will see a glossy plastic cover, which is a fingerprint magnet and you will find yourself wiping it out every now and then. What really defines the phone is the bottom part which stands out with its color and three physical buttons. We appreciate that Nokia sticks with physical keys, which give a solid phone feel to the device, something we have been missing even on high-end handsets.

Just behind the plastic back cover lies a 1000 mAh battery, which promises up to 11.5 hours of talk time.

Nokia C5-03 360-degree View:

Interface and Functionality:

With Symbian 9.4 S60 5th Edition on board, let's talk about memories, not the OS. There really isn't much new that can be said about the aging platform. The very familiar Symbian^1 is still rich in features and not very touch-friendly. On the positive side, it does have kinetic scrolling and great phone functionality. However the lack of portrait QWERTY and the 3.2-inch screen may make texting hard for some. For a deeper review of the familiar interface take a look at our Nokia 5530 XpressMusic Review.

Camera and Multimedia:

One thing you might not like about this phone is the fixed-focus camera, which also lacks flash. What we expect from the camera of a budget phone, however, is to complement the overall experience and produce some decent images that you can share on Facebook or the like.

The 5-megapixel snapper shoots at a maximum resolution of 2592 x 1944 pixels and has a number of pre-defined shooting modes, including a manual one, where you get to choose ISO light sensitivity, exposure, sharpness, contrast and white balance. Unfortunately, we had to test the camera in cloudy weather, but dull colors still seemed to be an issue. We could also notice the poor dynamic range and the somewhat oversharpened images. And if you like shooting objects in macro mode (20 inches or closer), you should steer away from anything that has fixed-focus in its name.

Overall, we would rate the photos at just about average, nothing more than you would expect on a budget device, but good enough for the times when you don't have your camera.

The videos shot with the Nokia C5-03 at 14 fps were only good for viewing on the small screen of a mobile device. The camcorder has some settings about scenes, color tone and white balance, but they cannot make up for the low quality of recorded video.

Nokia C5-03 Sample Video:

The Nokia C5-03 follows the footsteps of its XpressMusic ancestors and delivers loud and rich, clear sound even at maximum volume. The music player comes with cover art for albums and has various equalizer settings. Radio is also featured, but it will require you to plug in your headphones, which work as an antenna.

Even though 3.2 inches is a bit on the small side in today's smartphone world, we could not help but watch some videos to kill time on the Nokia C5-03. The vivid colors on the screen are a pleasure to behold, but the handset lacks DivX and XviD support out of the box. MPEG-4 is supported, but resolutions higher than the native 360 by 640 pixels are not tolerated and we would recommend you to stick to the native screen resolution or lower for video.

Internet and Connectivity:

As we said, the Nokia C5-03 is packed with features for the price – quad-band GSM, tri-band 3G and Wi-Fi connectivity as well as free navigation and maps by Ovi are all on board. And while 3G should mean some fast speeds for a smartphone, do not expect to be blown away with extra-quick browsing. We lay the blame mostly on the dated browser as the 600MHz ARM 11 processor works good with other applications.

The Nokia C5-03 doesn’t have multitouch support and browsing is handled by one-finger navigation and double taps to zoom in or out. The surfing experience is below average. Pages render just as on a desktop PC, which would be great if it wasn't for the lag combined with the very uncomfortable zoom controls that make surfing a much more time consuming experience than it should be. Flash videos are limited to YouTube. But at the end of the day, you can always switch to Opera Mobile for hassle-free browsing.

What makes the Nokia C5-03 stand out among other budget solutions is great and free navigation. The on-board A-GPS module finds the Nokia C5-03’s position quickly and accurately. Driving and walking directions as well as voice navigation on Ovi Maps 3.0 are equally good. Screen size is the biggest setback here, but if you find 3.2 inches enough, then you should be more than happy with what you get.


Save for the aging OS, software is one of Nokia's strong sides with the company's free navigation and mapping service. The phone comes with Quickoffice to let you view your documents on the go (including the latest 2007 Microsoft Office formats), but for editing you would have to go for a paid upgrade. Disappointingly, PDFs are not supported out of the box. Social networking is loosely present with poor apps far from the functionality you get on Android or iOS.


Voice calling is clear and loud. Volume on the Nokia C5-03  was very good and audibility was on par. We heard natural and clear voices on our end and on the other things were just as good, our callers heard us clearly and we sounded natural.

Battery life on the Nokia C5-03 is very good with quoted talk time of 11.5 hours and standby time of 25 days. In reality, we found we could get two days out of the battery with moderate use.


We appreciate Nokia's attempt to deliver an affordable smartphone but the dated Symbian^1 stands in the way of enjoying the almost full connectivity package and the 600MHz of processing power. Because of that, we feel that low-end Android handsets, such as the HTC Wildfire and the LG Optimus One, also have connectivity covered well and could be your alternative.

There are plenty of setbacks that could break the deal for the C5-03: some of the apps like the gallery and the browser are just terribly slow, Symbian is stuffed with menus, which make you feel like you are in a maze, and finally the fixed focus camera does not impress.

Currently, the Nokia C5-03 is sold at a retail price of about $280, but the phone is still expected in many markets and with the wider launch we can expect its price to get somewhat lower. Nokia enters deeper into the budget and mid-range smartphone markets and with the C5-03 it has some good potential. The price is more affordable than on current low-end Androids for example and compensates for some of the issues. If you are in store for a balanced phone with good functionality and can live with a dated OS, you might find the Nokia C5-03 just right.

Nokia C5-03 Video Review:


  • Affordable price
  • Connectivity well covered with 3G and Wi-Fi
  • Free navigation
  • Good battery life


  • Symbian^1 is dated
  • Camera lacks auto-focus
  • Poor video recording
  • Noticeable lag in some essential apps like the browser and the gallery

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