Nokia C7 Review

Introduction and Design
This is a global GSM phone, it can be used with AT&T and T-Mobile USA.


What do you get if you take a Nokia N8, give it a little more shine, a lot more curve, and monochrome it with a makeover? Well, you'd be left with something that looked much like the Nokia C7, a handsome contender for those of you who want a familiar Symbianˆ3 experience without the visual statement that is the N8, or its premium price tag. On top of the visual streamlining, the Nokia C7 also has a lower spec'd camera and no mini HDMI port, so it is aimed less at multimedia fiends and more at traditionalists who still want some smartphone perks.

With a more curved, pebble-esque look than the Nokia N8, the Nokia C7 also looks more like a phone, with its call and end buttons sitting pretty underneath the screen. Taking into account its curved, chrome edges and super glossy fascia, one would be forgiven for thinking that the Nokia C7’s design is aimed at a female market with a penchant for the shiny things in life.

You can compare the Nokia C7 with many other phones using our Size Visualization Tool.
Speaking of shiny things, now onto the screen. As with the Nokia N8, there's a 3.5-inch AMOLED display on the Nokia C7. Colours are punchy and vibrant enabling the fascia to transform from a reflective mirror into a bright, beautiful display with the press of an unlock button. Brightness is set to auto by default, meaning it will adapt to your surroundings. While the brightness levels are okay when auto is active, we often found ourselves overriding auto brightness and just whacking it up to full. We wish there was a brightness widget on the homescreen as found on Android's power controls. On full brightness, the Nokia C7 is viewable in almost every situation with decent angles of view, which is impressive given the extreme reflectiveness of the screen.

Images, videos and text are displayed well on the Nokia C7. With a resolutiion of 360x640, pixel density is good enough to ensure adequate sharpness for most smartphone tasks. The capacitive glass fronted screen feels comfortable when your finger or thumb glides along it, and scrolling and sliding feels smooth with an adequate frame-rate displaying what you do, when you do it. In this regard, Nokia have delivered another Symbian^3 phone with a screen that feels high-end, hopefully putting a nail in the coffin of sub-par resistive displays on premium handsets.
Physically, the Nokia C7's curved and beveled edges encourage a comfortable hand holding experience. Made of a combination of plastic and metal, the phone, with its candybar form factor and lack of moving parts, feels distinctly durable and dense. In stark contrast to the high gloss front, the back of the Nokia C7 looks a little plain, sporting the camera and battery cover, but very little in the way of visual stimulation. Without the Nokia N8's anodized alluminium chassis, it hasn't quite got that same expensive air about it, but nevertheless, feels durable and a whole lot more practical. This reiterates our earlier point - the Nokia C7 feels like a phone, an attractive, slim phone. Without any protrusions, it fits very nicely in the pocket, and is comfortable to hold to the ear when making calls on it.

The three physical keys below the screen really help define this phone. They are comfortable to press, provide a satisfactory click and are each identifiable by touch alone. Words can't express the pleasure we get from pressing the call button twice (without even looking at our phone!) and knowing we're ringing the last person we called. Sure, maybe we're just having trouble breaking away from our physical key laden smartphone past, but oh how it feels good and oh how the Nokia C7 is the first Symbian^3 phone we've reviewed that has tickled us in that way.
Based on all this, the Nokia C7 leaves us in general, impressed with the design. Not because it's beyond cool, edgier than edgy and inspired by something positively futuristic, but because it's a solid mix of innovative new and functional old, immediately accessible, with enough slick and sexy to keep things spicy. The phone is too reflective, but we got over that and are sure you will too with the remainder of the package coming together so well.

Symbian^3 on the Nokia C7 is in a pure form, with no real changes to differentiate the interface from the Nokia N8, so for a comprehensive introduction to our opinions of the new mobile OS, check out our Nokia N8 review. For a briefer overview of the OS and how it feels on the Nokia C7, you're in the right place.
Power up your new Nokia C7, and after setting the time, date and location, Symbian^3 will begin to give you some tips as to how to use your new C7. These tips continue through to the day to day running of the phone and prompt you in the form of an SMS. For totally novice phone users, this could be useful, though we found it very tedious and turned it off. Tips down, and you're ready to get into your Nokia C7, and what better way to begin than the home screen.
Our unit had a different theme loaded on than the Nokia N8 we reviewed, so was able to offer a slightly different aesthetic that matched the phone's physical design out of the box. It's homescreen, comprising of a variable number of pages (1-3) is able to host up to 6 widget blocks per page. The pre-loaded widgets on the Nokia C7 we received included the Paramount Teaser Trailers, and E! Videos widget, as well as a host of generic Symbian^3 widgets. As mentioned earlier, with superfluous widgets like this to hand, we would have really appreciated, for example, a simple power saving type bar as found on Android, and more core function widgets that saved us plodding through menus. Hopefully, with the OS's maturation, this will be addressed.

Pull up the menu and the Nokia C7 delivers a nostalgic black backdrop with a grid of icons. All finger friendly, all found in previous iterations of Symbian and almost all leading to a menu within a menu. This exposes another chink in the Nokia C7's interface: while other OSs at the moment are trying to at least appear like they're reducing the menu wading you'll be doing, Symbian^3 doesn't even try to disguise the layers you'll have to peel back to get to, say, your brightness settings. That said, being so familiar an experience, neither does it take an age to figure out how to get it done. Another perk of keeping everything so simple and similar, is that everything runs reliably quickly without lag.

Social networking integration is limited to Facebook and Twitter. The phone will enable you to manually link contact information from your phonebook with Facebook, however, won't automate the process like other mobile OSs, so it is pretty impractical for multiple contacts.
Using the screen as a dialer is a doddle. Just press the Call soft key on the bottom left of the display and boom, dialer's up with big, visible keys that make for easy pressing. They are quick and responsive to the touch, and the haptic feedback playfully throbs with every press.

Text entry on the Nokia C7 is done on the standard Symbian^3 keyboard and is virtually identical to that of the Nokia N8, with a portrait numeric pad and a landscape QWERTY. The 3.5-inch screen is a bit tight, especially after just testing out the HTC Desire HD's on-screen keyboard (which is fan-freaking-tastic, by the way), but still quite usable.

The Nokia C7 has a voice dialing hardware button between its volume controls. This does a pretty good job of calling who you want to call, when you want to call them, however, we found it wasn't as accurate as Google's voice recognition on Android when we directly compared the two. Nevertheless, if you, for example, drive a lot with your phone to hand and want a physical voice dialing  button, the Nokia C7 is one of the few phones at the moment that delivers.
Beyond that, the interface, organizer and dialer are very predictable. A finger-friendly calendar with a range of organizer tools standard to the OS and a standard set of Symbian functions with no surprises.

Camera and Multimedia:
One of the areas the Nokia C7 has been stripped down when compared with the Nokia N8 is its camera. Megapixel count isn't the where the phone's downgrade strikes hardest, with a more than adequate 8MP sensor on the Nokia C7. The real blow comes with the lack of auto focus, leaving the Nokia C7 perfectly usable for landscape shots and distant group shots, but not for shots of objects closer than a meter.
All the camera options on the phone are the same as on the Nokia N8 except for two: the Nokia C7 has a video light mode, and the Nokia N8 has a macro mode. To take a snap, you can use the one stage camera button, or there is a single camera icon on the screen that we found delivered less in the way of camera shake. The camera has face detection, an optional on-screen grid, as well as the following:
    * Scene modes (auto, user defined, portrait, landscape, sport, night and night-portrait)
    * Self timer (off, 2 seconds, 10 seconds, 20 seconds),
    * Colour tone (normal, vivid, black and white, sepia),
    * White balance (auto, sunny, cloudy, incandescent, fluorescent)
    * Exposure (-2 to +2 in increments of 0.5)
    * ISO (low, medium, high)
    * Adjustable contrast
    * Sharpness (hard, normal, soft)
Colour reproduction is slightly dull and dreary in full auto. Symbian helps the problem with its vivid shooting mode which compensates for this in processing. The camera's recall for the last shooting mode you were on is however patchy, so you can't for example set the default camera mode to vivid which we found annoying.
A lot of these issues can be corrected from within the phone's in-built editing software, which is one of the most comprehensive editing experiences hard-wired into a mobile OS.

Detail is weak for objects under a meter away as can be expected. Take a look at the picture in the restaurant. As you can see, the face in the background is sharp, whereas our subject is very soft. That said, the more time you spend with the camera, the better able you are to identify optimal focal distance and take good shots, and once you do, detail is generally good.
Exposure on the C7 is not great but is more than tolerable when it comes to camera phones. The inbuilt processor does a good job of evening out high contrast scenes, and for the most part, delivers pretty usable photos. A notable absence is metering control.
Dynamic range is okay in brighter scenes, enabling a well set up shot to deliver a pretty picture. Turn the lights down, and it's naturally going to be another story. Blacks can get blanketed into a sea of noise and highlights unnaturally toned down.
On the topic of noise, this is an area the Nokia C7 has some issues. Without the super advanced sensor or the Xenon flash of the Nokia N8, its twin LEDs aren't enough to make night time shots look like they should. In its attempt of processing the image to lift brightness, the camera brings out huge amounts of noise. In good lighting however, when the image doesn't need to be processed heavily, blacks look clean without too much in the way of noise.
The Nokia C7 captures video at 3 resolutions, HD, VGA and very low res for multimedia messaging, with its HD 720p capture at 25fps leaving us impressed on the whole. As this phone isn't being heavily marketed as an HD camera phone, it was a pleasant surprise that the results weren't far behind the N8. With the Nokia C7 producing a generally duller video than the Nokia N8, and worse night time capture, it nevertheless offers the same shooting modes, including vivid to compensate for the dullness and a video light for darker scenes, something the Nokia N8 lacks.
Nokia C7 Sample Video 1 at 1280x720 px:

Nokia C7 Sample Video 2 at 1280x720 px:

The music experience is an unchanged Symbian^3 experience, which is not a bad thing as it has had a very nice revamp. Upon opening up the application, it takes you straight to artists and albums, unlike previous versions which would require an extra step to get here. Clicking the options button lets you view tracks by now playing, song, playlists, genres and podcasts. There is also a link to the Ovi Music store. When viewing albums and artists, holding the Nokia C7 in portrait displays a list, while landscape displays a coverflow like stream of album art. The Nokia C7’s coverflow is one of the smoothest we’ve seen and is very usable. The revamp however comes in portrait mode. Once an album or artist is selected, the screen will split, the top half displaying a mini coverflow, while the bottom half has the track list. This is very usable and makes single handed music browsing a doddle.

The on-board loud speaker is a-ok. With no stereo output, and a slightly sharp sound though, it isn’t there to be used very often for music. It does a great job of ringing, being loud and audible, and also acts as a good speakerphone which we'll talk more about later. Output from the on-board 3.5mm headphone jack is great. As is generally the case, connecting a good set of headphones makes all the difference, turning the Nokia C7 into a very capable MP3 player.
Video playback is also immense. The Nokia C7 played back everything we threw at it up to a resolution of 720p (DivX, H.264, MP4 and Xvid), and managed to play it as smoothly as can be. Sure, it won't output content to an HD TV, but if you're looking for a very capable phone-based video experience and don't feel the 3.5-inch display is too small - this is a great way to go.

Internet and Connectivity:
Once again, the Nokia C7 keeps you connected in much the same way as the Nokia N8. With the same wireless options and the only physical connection difference being the lack of mini HDMI out. This means, if it should be on a high-end smart phone, it's on the Nokia C7. GPS, Wi-Fi, quad-band GSM and dual-band 3G, Bluetooth all play their part in making this a well connected phone.
With an improved mail client, it’s a piece of cake to set up email accounts such as Windows Live, Gmail and Yahoo!, and with Mail for Exchange support, inputting just a little more information will give you access to additional mailboxes as well as calendar, contacts and task sync.
Symbian^3's web browser sadly doesn't carry forward the speedy performance seen in the rest of the OS. Web pages load accurately enough, however, stutter when swiping around, especially on larger pages. This can be remedied by loading up Opera however, available through the Ovi Store. While this does mean forgoing multi-touch, it makes for an improved experience on the whole.
The on-board GPS finds the Nokia C7’s position pretty quickly. Coupling this with Ovi Maps makes the phone a possible GPS replacement. As the Nokia C7s battery life is pretty good, using it as a GPS for short journeys is realistic, however, we'd take either a charger or a spare battery for any journey in excess of half an hour.

The Nokia C7 doesn’t have a huge amount of software loaded on it, but what it does have is generally good. Take social networking for example, there is a social networking element from Ovi - Social. This integrates Twitter and Facebook, pulling up feeds into a widget on the home-screen, and linking it through to the installed Facebook / Twitter app. There is also Ovi Maps which as mentioned, does the job well of getting you from A to B. Quickoffice reader is also on the Nokia C7 as is Adobe PDF reader, but for the most part, that’s it, except for a Paramount trailers app which we didn't use more than once. Even the on board YouTube shortcut is just a link to the mobile site.

With little slowdown anywhere except perhaps when web browsing, the 680MHz ARM 11 processor is doing its job well. The Nokia C7 is at the top of the game along with the N8 in areas like video playback. With 8GB of on board memory and expandable memory up to another 32GB via microSD expansion, the Nokia C7 has considerable media potential.
Voice calling is clear and crisp. When receiving a call on the Nokia C7, volume and audibility are good, even in busy environments. Clarity is also above average. We tested quality in an arcade to really challenge it, and are pleased to say that the listener said they still managed to hear us despite considerable background noise, and we were able to hear them too. In more controlled environments, call quality yet again proved great, both to us on the Nokia C7, and to the recipient.
Battery life on the Nokia C7 is also good. The quoted talk time is 9.6 hours while the standby time is 18 days. Practically, we found we could get nearly two days of semi intensive use out of it. The Nokia C7 also defaults to a power saving mode when the battery is low, which can be deactivated, offering easy ways to extend the life if need be.

The Nokia C7 is a good phone, and that's without all its bells and whistles. It's simple to make calls on, and makes the phoning experience a pleasure. Add to this the functionality of Symbian^3 which admittedly won't be for everyone, and the fantastic multimedia support, and you've got a pretty nice package. The build quality is also great, and we would say it comes in at very fair price-point to boot. If you wanted more of a gadget with an amazing camera, and like Symbian, then the Nokia N8 would trump the Nokia C7. If you're after another platform, then the HTC Desire or the iPhone 4 each offer a different premium OS experience. Having said that, we are on the whole impressed with the Nokia C7.

Nokia C7 Video Review:


  • Solid build quality
  • Fantastic codec support
  • Good battery life


  • Shiny fascia loves fingerprints
  • Symbian^3 is at times convoluted
  • Camera lacks autofocus

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