Ten Things that Nokia Did WRONG in making the 5800 XpressMusic

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This feature is an affectionate companion to my "Ten Things that Nokia Did RIGHT in making the 5800 XpressMusic" from last month...

Nokia 5800 XpressMusic

Don't get me wrong, I love my little 5800 XpressMusic. And have gone overboard to say why.

However, in the interest of balance, and prompted by a flurry of reader emails (yes, really), I'd like to also present a corollary article - highlighting areas where Nokia could have done better.

In order of how much Nokia really, really should have got this sorted...

1. No Internet Radio

The 5800 has been out for three months now and still there's no Internet Radio - this has been one of the stars of Nokia's S60 application bundle over the last 2 years and it's a pleasure to use. Just not on the 5800 because there's no client. Not even in beta. Unbelievable.

2. Internal disk too small

Almost every other S60 smartphone anywhere near the cutting edge has, over the last year or two, had a full 128MB of user flash memory. With the S60 5th Edition OS presumably occupying 40MB more space, user memory is now down to 88MB. Which sounds a lot, but I've only installed the usual set of third party and Nokia-supplied add-ons and I'm already down to 15MB free and am having to install apps to memory card, something I don't normally recommend. Please, Nokia, put an extra 128MB of flash in your next devices, to compensate for the bigger OS.

3. Unintuitive scrolling metaphor

You've all seen how the Apple iPhone handles scrolling in its Safari web browser and in all its dialogs. Heck, even S60 Web borrows the same 'like paper' metaphor - you drag with your finger as if the screen was a piece of paper that you want to move. But in the Applications menus and in lengthy dialogs, S60 5th Edition reverts to an old fashioned 'drag a scroll bar handle' system, in which you drag downwards to make the content scroll up.

In fairness to Nokia, the 5800 is behaving just as desktop OS have done for years, but the point is that these are touch devices and as such a different, hands-on metaphor is needed.

4. Inconsistent interface

Just as Tzer2 found in the long term review last week, there's a certain lack of elegance in the way both touch-friendly toolbars and traditional S60 'Options' menus have been maintained - there's considerable duplication in several applications. While this isn't a problem per se, it reeks of a 'bolt-on' approach that could really do with a little rationalisation.

Nokia 5800 XpressMusic detail

5. Small camera

By which I mean both a small CMOS sensor and a small camera aperture. The unit in the 5800 is obviously much cheaper than that in the likes of the N95, despite the presence of the branded optics. The end result is noisy and blurry indoor photos and dire videos taken in anything other than sunlight. Not that all this would be unusual for a mid-tier phone, but having been used to Nokia's Nseries cameras, the 5800's unit was still a disappointment. Would an extra $5 for a better camera have made so much difference to profit margins?

Eagle-eyed readers will note that the camera made it into both my 'Good' and 'Bad' lists! This reflects the characteristic of such a small-sensored/small-apertured in producing lousy results in poor light and (with the Carl Zeiss lens) jolly good results in sunlight. Discuss!

6. No writing aids in qwerty mode

The Nokia 5800's full-screen qwerty keyboard generally works well, despite the lack of multi-touch, more or less forced by the resistive screen. But it's still way too easy to stray slightly with a finger and end up with words with mis-spelling. Nokia's recent Eseries phones have dictionary-based writing aids, so why not implement a similar (dare I say iPhone-style) spelling suggestion or correction system? This is one thing I really, really, hope gets added in a firmware update. But I'm not going to hold my breath.

7. Annoying Either-Or choice for the home screen

I find it very frustrating that I can have either the standard Shortcuts/Search/Calendar home screen (i.e. traditional S60 'active standby', as shown on the right) OR the new Contacts bar home screen. I can't have both. There plenty of screen real estate for a well designed combination of the two and I fail to understand why, in this instance, I can't have my cake and eat it.

Home screen choice 1 Home screen choice 2

Another candidate for tweaking/adding in future firmware? Let's hope.

8. Cheap and inelegant case back

Comment has already been made by many of the way you have to 'prise' the 5800's back off, running the risk of breaking it. To be fair to Nokia, I've not heard of anyone's actually snapping yet, but it's a worry, I'll agree.

9. No graphics acceleration

We're getting slightly into geek territory here, but I'm going to carry on shouting for Nokia to wake up and smell the acceleration coffee. Not having any kind of graphics acceleration electronics on board means, practically, that games are limited in scope - just look at the performance of the car racing and Bounce games supplied with each phone - each would be far, far smoother with a chipset that had graphics acceleration under the hood.

The iPhone's App Store scene is heavily biased towards games, many of them very high quality - all because of the top drawer graphics hardware on the device. No such scene can grow up on the 5800 and sister devices because there's simply not enough ooompphh under the hood.

10. Not enough RAM

As with flash memory, given that the OS is a lot bigger - in this case, bigger in running (dynamic) RAM as well, keeping the overall RAM the same as in recent S60 3rd Edition phones, i.e. 128MB, means that there's 'only' 54MB free after booting. This is me being a little picky really, since this will be sufficient for most users, but with the likes of Flash Lite inside Web and with the iPlayer widget and Nokia Maps 3, I can still see instances when RAM will simply 'run out'.

Again, if you're still reeling from the comments above, see also my balancing  "Ten Things that Nokia Did RIGHT in making the 5800 XpressMusic" - I do love my little red and black plastic friend really.... !

Steve Litchfield, All About Symbian, 27 April 2009