The Top 10 most beautiful Symbian smartphones ever

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I've done other top lists here, based on functionality and innovation, but never one based on pure cosmetics and elegance. And, with that in mind, we discover in my latest Top 10 a few unsung heroes of the Symbian world. You see, the raw power and functionality usually championed on this site often comes with something of a price in terms of compromises to appearance - the devices on offer here include some which are fairly unusable out in the world but which look a treat...!

In my hands at the moment, I'm holding a Nokia 8800 Sapphire Arte, with truly awesome build quality and appearance - and it got me thinking. From the Symbian world, which designs, from all manufacturers, have had similar cosmetic appeal? Here's my top 5, but your comments welcome if you disagree with my selections!


In reverse order of beauty (in my humble and extremely subjective opinion!), and with links to our original reviews from back in the day:

10. Nokia E6

Nokia poured years of expertise into the E6's design and construction and in many ways it really is the best of all worlds. Cosmetically, it's blacker than black, with the highlights being all the metal detailing and fabulous keys/buttons. The smooth transitions between metal and plastic on the back are just stunning... [Original review of the white version from 2011]

E6 in black

9. Nokia 9500

This may seem an odd choice, but after two previous generations of Communicator (running GeOS and Series 80 on Symbian respectively), we at last had one which looked sleeked and stylish, with flowing lines all round. Yes, the 9500 is still a brick by most people's definition, but the superb contoured keyboard inside tips this device inside my top 10. [Original long term review from 2005]

9500 closed

8. Nokia N70

Another device that was beautiful because of the ugliness of what had gone before (think the Fisher Price Nokia 3650, 6630, 6680), the N70 was the first 'Series 60' smartphone to look the part. It was sleek and stunning, with great materials - and I loved it. Even better, the internals were up to the job too and the N70 lasted until the N93 came along and changed the camera phone game forever. [Original review from 2006]


7. Samsung i8910 HD

With hindsight, this was Samsung trying out full-face touch devices with cutting edge specs, but in the Symbian world, before it went mainstream with Android. Back when the i8910 HD came out, the looks - a 3.7" AMOLED display, sleek profile, minimalist buttons, were astonishing, especially when you fired up that huge screen. For a Symbian world used to TFT and LCD on S60 5th Edition, the i8910 was a revelation. Maybe not classically beautiful in terms of styling, but... brutishly, wonderfully beautiful overall. [Original review from 2009]

Omnia HD

6. Sony Ericsson P800

"What?" I hear you say? "The P800 was pug-ugly!" Well, it was 'interestingly' coloured in blue and white, the hinged flip had the ugliest buttons in the world and the whole device was, in hindsight, rather portly. BUT. Use the supplied screwdriver to remove the flip and turn the P800 into its alter-ego - a full-face, stylus-driven touchscreen smartphone, announced five years before the iPhone and ten years before the (also optionally stylus-driven) Samsung Galaxy Note. In this guise, the P800 is transformed. For 2002 it was a glimpse into the future - yes, we had bigger stylus driven Windows Mobile communicators, but this was smooth, phone-sized and, yes, as beautiful as acres of translucent blue plastic can get.... [Original reviewette from 2003]

P800 without flip

5. Nokia N76

There's something about 'flip' phone that screams style. After all, the Motorola RAZR ruled the world for a while - and with good reason, flip phones still look great and are often a triumph of styling over functionality. The ill-fated N76 was no different, essentially Nokia copying the RAZR design for Symbian and failing utterly in the process through poor choice of components, principally a poor TFT screen that you literally couldn't see when you went outdoors - which is perhaps where you might use a mobile device, Nokia? Anyway, there's good use of materials at least, with all the mirror finish bits (including the arty etched keypad) making sure the N76 made it into this top 10. [Original review from 2007]

N76 close-up photo

4. Nokia 6650

Ah yes. Take two on the RAZR clone, this time with more of a unique Nokia slant, more attention to detail and more modern internals. Oodles of stainless steel on the outside, a really solid construction, a lovely outer 'cover' display and, sealing the 6650's place in the top 10, a gloriously beautiful set of LED backlights for the keyboard - watching the keypad cycle through seven deep colour shades is right up with watching Christmas lights in my household... [original review from 2008]

Nokia 6650

Nokia 6650

3. Nokia N93i

Yes, another device in this top 10 that's actually almost unusable in the real world - but which still stands as a piece of Symbian art, at least. The N93i was a complete no-go as a smartphone - it tried to take the classic N93 design and slim it down, adding a load of mirror-finish style, and it succeeded. But for some reason the product manager decided to stick in the same display tech as the N76 above, meaning that when you wanted to photograph something out in the sunshine you couldn't actually see the screen, rather foiling the point. But the mirrored front with embedded time and status display and the steel-effect keypad with lovely rubber dividers both swing my vote. Ultimately, the N93i also failed because the N95 arrived, rather stealing its camera phone thunder. But a beautiful device for its time - as long as you didn't try and use it when the sun was out. [Original review from 2007]


2. Nokia N86

The last two choices in this list probably won't be a surprise to anyone - I've mentioned before what lookers they are, both Nokia design classics. In this case, the N86 is the ultimate incarnation (in terms of materials and camera internals) of the classic N95 form factor. The main beautiful touch is the full-face sheet of tempered glass. Along with the superbly sculpted metal keypad, the N86 was and is simply a premium device to use. And the engineer in me appreciates the beauty in an all-metal slide mechanism inside - so no wobbles, no breakages in time. Beauty and premium experience all the way, even if a QVGA display seems err... restricting, today, in 2012. ['Pimping' the N86]


1. Nokia C7

So beautiful the company even made a version in Sapphire (the Vertu Constellation) and one in gold (the Oro), even the vanilla metal and plastic version shines, with mirror-finish screen and surrounds, curves everywhere you look and an oleophobic coating that keeps the screen looking smooth and clear. With Nokia Belle on board, plus FM transmitter, NFC and much more, I've already proclaimed the C7 to be a storming second hand bargain (average eBay price under £100), ironic (in a good way) since it looks a million dollars. [Original review, from 2010]

C7 switched off


Steve Litchfield, All About Symbian, 10 May 2012