Review: Nokia C6 Part 3: Applications and user experience
The third part of our Nokia C6 review offers an overview of the software and some insight into the phone's user experience. Part 2 covered the camera and multimedia software bundle. Part 1 covered first impressions and hardware.
Version Reviewed: 10.0.021
Responsiveness, multitasking and RAM
The consistent aspect of the user experience on the Nokia C6 is that of its speed - it really is a nippy little device. It has 128MB of RAM; within a minute of cold start, RAM usage creeps up to 62%, leaving an ample 47MB available. Impressively, the C6's performance was sustained during multitasking stress tests. In these tests, it handled insufficient RAM without throwing up an error message. Instead, it opted to shut down other applications that were running in the background. Both of the tests were fairly exaggerated circumstances, as one might expect. Although, as free RAM began to run below 10%, general performance slowed, but the device remained perfectly usable.
Compared to earlier Symbian^1 devices the C6 seemed to have better overall performance and RAM handling, reflecting the maturity of the platform at this point in its life cycle. However, such judgements are, inevitably, somewhat subjective.
C6 Device Info
The home screen
The home screen of the C6 is the same as found on the N97 and N97 mini. That is, the home screen can be filled with up to six widgets; and if having all six widget slots occupied looks cluttered, a sideways swipe will hide (or reveal) all but the default widget.
Among the widgets on offer are some rather utilitarian ones based on the built-in applications, which wouldn't look out of place on an Eseries home screen; such as:
- Favourite Applications (up to two widgets of four apps each)
- Favourite Contacts (up to two widgets of four contacts each)
- Music Player (with playback controls)
- Share Online
- WLAN Wizard
The Symbian home screen widgets
The RAM measurements mentioned above were taken while using a full complement of widgets (in this case: Calendar, E-mail, Music and both favourite application widgets). Therefore, the C6 clearly has enough RAM to make full use of this new home screen system.
Further to the widgets, another feature of the home screen is the smart dialing feature as found on Eseries devices. Simply by beginning to type a name while at the home screen, a list of matching contacts is presented, and is refined as more of the name is entered.
One final pleasing feature to the home screen is a the on-screen unlock interface. When the screen has been locked due to inactivity or using the lock slider, a press of the menu key temporarily activates the screen. A large digital clock is displayed, along with a touch screen element inviting the user to swipe to unlock the device. This may be a little seen aspect of the phone, but just demonstrates an attention to detail that the author of this review appreciated.
Calendar and Contacts
The Calendar and Contacts applications on the C6 are the same as found on other Symbian^1 phones. Anyone looking for category support will be disappointed, as this is a long standing omission from the S60 PIM suite. However, both applications have simple user interfaces, which present the most commonly used functions via large finger friendly buttons.
In Calendar, the main buttons are: toggle the display mode (Month, Week, Day, To-Do); Add new meeting; and add a new To-Do. The content display is almost split in half between showing the desired chart, while the other half displays the contents of the currently selected entry.
Similarly, Contacts is a relatively simple application. The main content is composed of a kinetically scrolling list of all your contacts. There are three tabs, the first is for locally stored contacts, the second is for contacts stored on-line via an Ovi Contacts account, the third is for contact 'Groups' (as seen on Eseries devices).
The C6 comes with a bang up to date version of 'Web', the Symbian Web Browser; version 7.2.6 to be precise. Despite lacking a service layer as the Opera browsers have, Web is quite a capable browser. Most notably, it renders quickly (as expected, being based on WebKit), it supports Flash, and has an efficient scaling system. On zooming however, a feature lacking in Web is to reflow text. While it is possible to zoom in to a great extent, sideways scrolling will be needed.
Web user agent info
Web shows pages in full screen mode by default, with just a small icon overlaid in the lower-right corner that will recall the on-screen buttons. Pages scroll smoothly with kinetic dynamics, again benefitting from the evident optimisations in the C6's operating system.
Web's main menu
Finally, a new feature so-far only added to the C6's browser is the dual URL and Search bar. This may seem like a trivial addition, but it's another example of attention to detail, best using the area available for the user interface to provide more desktop-like functionality. Hidden fairly deeply in the browser settings are options to change the search provider - these are currently limited to just Google and Bing.
The C6's new dual URL & Search bar
Starting with the basic Messaging application (for SMS & MMS). The main menu presents the message views one would expect to find (Inbox, Sent, Drafts, etc.). Other S60 devices have included E-mail accounts as part of the main Messaging menu. However, because the C6 uses the dedicated Nokia Messaging client, E-mail has been completely separated from the Messaging application.
The Nokia Messaging client can be used as a stand alone POP/IMAP E-mail client, or used in conjunction with Nokia's Push E-mail service of the same name. Third party Push E-mail services can also plug into this client; for example, the C6 includes supports for Microsoft Exchange (Mail for Exchange). In testing the Push features of Nokia Messaging with GMail, we had mixed results, clearly there are kinks that need to be ironed out with the service, and we will report on this in more detail.
Previously, the Nokia Messaging client has only been seen on recent Eseries devices and is light-years ahead of the basic Nokia E-mail application, truly offering a desktop-like E-mail experience. Automatic configuration for popular E-mail services is provided, so that by only entering your username and password, the client can automatically configure itself.
As noted above there is support for Mail for Exchange (MfE) for third party Push E-mail. Configuring with MfE also offers the option of synchronising Calendar, Contact and To-Do items. Although when testing with Google services, this feature didn't seem to work, even though the Google MfE Push E-mail worked well. There were no such problems on a standard Microsoft Exchange server, so the issues we observed may be related to Google's Exchange implementation.
The Nokia Messaging client
The C6 is the first device to get the new version of the Nokia Messaging client. Performance is significantly improved, as is support for folders and HTML email. We'll be take a closer look at this new client, which will also be appearing on the N8, in due course.
Ovi Store and Ovi Maps
The C6 comes with the latest version of the Ovi Store client (version 1.07), and an almost up to date version of Ovi Maps - version 3.3, pre-loaded with mapping data.
Many applications in the Ovi Store are available for free, however prices for most other applications range from £1.00 to £5.00. Conveniently, the Ovi Store can take payment via the user's mobile network billing system, which means no need to type in credit card details.
The Ovi Store client and the Ovi Maps main menu
Ovi Maps 3.3 is recent enough to qualify for free lifetime navigation, and to include the Loney Planet, Michelin, Qype, and Expedia guides. The Software Update application of the C6 reviewed here immediately offered an upgrade to version 3.4, which enables Ovi Maps to download more location based services, such as Trip Advisor and Map Reporter.
The C6 has all of the current positioning methods that are available to Nokia phones, even including WiFi based location. With all positioning methods switched on, the C6 could gain an accurate position lock within a minute, while in an open environment. The only navigational component missing is a digital compass which means there is no automatic map rotation.
The C6 comes with the now-standard compliment of office software. The basic applications here being: File Manager, Dictionary, Unit Converter, Zip file manager, Calculator, Notes and finally Message Reader for users with impaired vision. However, the heavy duty office applications are of course version 6.2.2 of the Quickoffice document viewer, and Quickoffice's Adobe PDF Reader version 2.5LE.
Quickoffice's Adobe Reader 2.5LE
These applications work well and the new style user interface is pleasing to use. The PDF file viewer lacks the line wrap feature, although with a 3.2" screen this is forgiveable. However, given that the C6 has a physical QWERTY keyboard one might argue that the editing version of the Quickoffice viewer should have been included. Although, the C6 is a budget phone and this would have driven up retail prices.
Quickoffice spread sheet viewer
The C6 comes with a handful of other applications. Well known S60 applications included here are; 'Active Notes' for making rich-text notes; 'Drawing' for anyone who wants to do some doodling on their touch screen; and 'Recorder' allowing the user to use the phone as Dictaphone or even record phone calls (with permission!). Finally, there is the well known Symbian Facebook application, which also integrates with the C6's home screen.
The Nokia Facebook application
Two notable third party applications are Psiloc's 'World Traveller', which has been a complementary app on many Eseries devices. This application aims to provide useful information for people on the move, such as weather forecasts and live currency conversion rates. Also included is Popcap's "Bejeweled Twist" - the only game to be supplied on the C6.
Psiloc's World Traveller and Popcap's Bejeweled Twist
Before I began reviewing the C6, I wondered whether it would be a competent Jack of all trades, or if it would be an overly compromised device that was priced too highly for its target market. Almost two weeks later as I wrap up this three part review, I know I'm going to miss it when it's gone. This is largely thanks to its speed of operation and good keyboard - both of which means that whatever I want to do, it doesn't slow me down.
That's not to say that the C6 isn't compromised. Video capture is its weakest feature (might improve with future firmwares), and those who do a lot of navigation might miss the digital compass. I would hesitate to criticise its battery life - even though it's not enough for my liking. It certainly isn't any worse than most devices out there. While the C6 is constructed from low-cost materials, there is actually nothing wrong with its build quality - it feels like a solid device; especially the sliding mechanism. Ironically, my only criticism with its physical profile is the overly-curved rear which still occasionally makes the device shoot out of my hands when I'm sliding the screen.
The Cseries is a new brand from Nokia, and we have yet to see how it will position itself in relation to the other Nokia brands. However, as well as being a physical hybrid (i.e. touch screen & QWERTY keyboard), the C6 seems to be something of an Nseries and Eseries hybrid too. First and foremost it is an S60 5th Edition (Symbian^1) device, but there a couple of hints towards an Eseries like device too. For example, the smart dialling system on the home screen, and inclusion of the Nokia Messaging client.
Finally, let's look at the economics. During the time I have been reviewing the C6, the retail price has already gone down by £10. Outlets like Play.com and MobileFun.co.uk are selling the white version for £239.99. At this rate, a price tag of ~£220 wouldn't be out of the question within just a few months. The already mature 5800 and N97 mini seem to have settled at RRP's of £189.99 and £299.99 respectively. In which case, the C6 achieves its goal of being a budget device for those wanting a hybrid design.
David Gilson 16th August 2010.
Reviewed by David Gilson at