Review of GSM/UMTS-smartphone Nokia 5800 XpressMusic (Tube)

Positioning

In our reports from the 5800 Tube’s launch event we touched upon its positioning, but now we are willing to go more in-depth and give you the big picture.

Nokia Remix – Nokia 5800 exposed

We’ve all been waiting for this – a touch-sensitive phone from Nokia. And the more they hyped the fabulous Apple iPhone, the more anxious everyone had been growing. Having launched a PR campaign of immense power Apple did not hesitate to take on Nokia on its very own turf. But Nokia have got some trumps up their sleeves as well, and among them are several solutions that will leave the whole Cupertino sleepless. That is, Nokia Music Store may not seem like much and doesn’t look any better than Sony Ericsson’s PlayNow service, but Nokia has in fact added a whole new dimension to it by bringing about Nokia Comes with Music campaign that allows the users of select phones to enjoy free subscription to a vast music database. Furthermore, you can store all tracks you’ve downloaded on PC and listen to them as long as you want. So, this is "strike one" that puts the business model of iTunes in question and makes it less of a monopoly on today’s market. But such a powerful service calls for some capable hardware – specifically, music-minded mobile phones. As you probably have guessed, Nokia has tackled this issue with its latest and greatest 5800 Xpress Music.

We already posted an in-depth story about Nokia Comes with Music a while ago, so in case you missed it for some reason, I strongly recommend that you read it.

Nokia Comes with Music

Moreover, we will put up a review of Nokia Comes with Music the day after it kicks off on October 16th, so we invite you to visit Mobile-Review.com for more info and hands-on impressions with this service.

Although it may seem Nokia have designed the 5800 exclusively for their online music service, it’s not quite true. This phone targets all other touchscreen offerings around, including Windows Mobile, Apple iPhone and some dedicated audio players delivered by smaller companies. Basically, Nokia have dropped the price of the 5800 Tube to the point where no one will even want to compete on price or won’t have the means to offer a similarly geared solution for this money. But Nokia’s real intention behind this sensationally low price tag (by the way, they are still going to make good money off it) is to clean up the whole industry a little bit. Apparently, half-dead manufacturers focusing on touch-sensitive solutions and marketing them at higher price points due to lack of competition won’t be able to survive the arrival of the 5800 XpressMusic. However, those who will find a way to adjust without altering their pricing policies will be knocked out early in 2009 by another announcement – without going into much detail, I can say that those 279 Euros for the Nokia 5800 aren’t exactly the bottom line for this type of phones; effectively they can go much lower than that.

 

These days Nokia hardly faces any competition on the mobile phone market – Samsung are capitalizing on the weakness of the rest of the field, and although they’ve been trying to back it up with pretty decent offerings too, they don’t interact with local carriers just as much. So, Nokia’s real challenges lie in services and music; obviously, it’s impossible not to mention iTues in this regard. Basically, every Apple-branded phone or players comes bundled with iTunes and there is no other way around. Nokia, however, has learned a lesson from Apple’s experience and is now looking to take on Apple’s offerings on their own turf. How? By now probably everyone knows that the stellar sales generated by the original iPhone in the US were more due to the demand they had to meet in other regions. Apple closed their eyes to all leaks and in an effort to encourage these activities, they supplied "right" people with their firmware encryption codes that essentially made the whole jailbreak hysteria possible (although these days it’s nearly impossible to break the iPhone 3G’s software). Previously Apple needed to put up great numbers and turn the market in their favor, but that was stage one. The second part of the plan, which is unfolding these days, is supposed to bring the iPhone brand back to the top price bracket. And that’s exactly the moment when Nokia chimes in with its underpriced finger-friendly devices, leaving Apple very few ways to retaliate – one of them would be to send the iPhone’s pricing through the floor (thankfully, it’s not all that popular in Europe). Without a price cut their whole campaign in Europe will come to a halt in a year or two. On the other hand, with unlimited music subscription and a more able device (in terms of core functionality), Nokia won’t allow an alternative to come along any time soon.

 

Now, several words about the phone itself. They call it "feminine", "teenager-ish" and a whole bunch of other ways. But nobody is trying to conceal the fact that it’s aimed primarily at the younger audience, although even people past their thirties should be pretty content with the 5800 XpressMusic as well (we’ll see some more imposing offerings of this breed down the road, though). Those who are into innovations and cutting-edge gadgets won’t be put off by the Nokia 5800’s simplistic design. And on the other hand, people who shun touch-sensitive screens won’t even think of the 5800 as a possible way to go. This way, Nokia will never face the risk of letting the sales of their conventional smartphones plummet in favor of the 5800 XpressMusic. It’s quite another matter, though, that with the arrival of this phone they will have to give up on several music-minded offerings given the price tag of the 5800 Tube.

That said, the Nokia 5800’s positioning shouldn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out – it’s simply the most feature-rich and affordable touchscreen device with a focus on music. Furthermore, you won’t find any other phone that can come close to it in terms of price/quality ratio. Windows Mobile devices are by no means "multimedia-ready", so the only other way to go is the Apple iPhone – however, retailing for twice as much, it’s not much of a mobile phone per se. And the Nokia 5800 makes it clear that the real price of the Apple iPhone 3G should revolve around 300-350 USD before subsidies. All in all, I suggest we wait until December and see how Apple will alter their pricing policy in view of Nokia’s latest efforts on the touchscreen playground.

 

Again, I never tire to emphasize the following – the 5800 Xpress Music is nothing but Nokia’s first step in this segment, and we’ll see more of them down the road. What Nokia is really up to is defeat the myth that touch-friendly phones are always on the expensive side – they know it’s all nonsense and they are building up a mass market for this type of solutions. And they seem to be doing pretty well, considering how much arguments and feedback their latest release has sparked up.

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Design, Size, Controls

The 5800 XpressMusic is a pretty much standard plasticky candy-bar without any metallic or chromed accents in it. The build quality, however, was pretty good – we didn’t find any parts on it that would creak when pressed or feel wobbly (just as you’d expect from this d
esign, though). Also, there is nothing wrong with the 5800 Tube utilizing only plastic parts – some more expensive offerings don’t have any metallic accents either and somehow this fact doesn’t turn many off. Apparently, since the Nokia 5800 doesn’t have any other newsworthy drawbacks, its haters will be looking for any opportunity to blame it for not having metallic parts in its design. I especially like some "qualified" opinions of people who haven’t even touched the 5800 yet, but for some reason feel competent enough to share their point of view. Here are some gems:

  • It’s a plasticky made-in-China toy;
  • All other touchscreen phones are made of metal, the 5800 is not – why?;
  • It looks and feels so cheap!;

 

Thankfully, though, these mumblings have absolutely nothing to do with how things really stand. As far as materials are concerned, the Nokia 5800 has nothing to shout about, but at the same time it doesn’t expose any crucial letdowns.

 

The phone measures in at 111×51.7×15.5 mm and tips our scales at 109 grams. Let’s put it up against some other today’s offerings to see how it is "too small" or "way too bulky", "feminine" or whatever:

Nokia 5800
Motorola ZN5
Sony Ericsson W902
Apple iPhone 3G
Samsung PIXON M8800

111×51.7×15.5 mm, 109 g
118×50.5×16 mm, 114 g
110x49x11.7 mm, 100g
115.5×62.1×12.3 mm, 133 g
107.9×54.6×13.8 mm, 124 g

Nokia 5800 vs Nokia N85:

 

 

 

 

 

Nokia 5800 vs Nokia N96:

Nokia 5800 vs Nokia 5310:

I suppose the numbers above are more informative than any words – the 5800 is reasonably wide and not overly fat (which some tend to groundlessly blame it for). All in all, in terms of size it’s a typical candybar of 2008. It also features a lanyard eyelet that can be used to attach what Nokia calls "stylus plectrum" (comes with a strap on it). I’m pretty positive that some girls will use it as a wrist strap.

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