Nokia Astound review: Best value smartphone available in the U.S.

I have had a Nokia N8 (see my Definitive Guide) since November 2010 and overall I am pleased with the device. The last Nokia device to launch on a U.S. carrier was the E73 Mode with T-Mobile and they continue to add Nokia devices to their collection with the new Nokia Astound. The Astound is a Nokia C7 with improvements not seen in any other C7 device while only selling for subsidized price of $79.99. The full no contract price is just $299.99 and both of these amounts are great deals IMHO.

Improvements in the Nokia Astound compared to the N8

Dieter took a look at the Nokia Astound at CTIA last month and I recently received an evaluation unit as well. While I do enjoy my Nokia N8, I am not pleased that it launched without a portrait QWERTY keyboard and with a rather lame web browser and it is taking too long to get updated. The Nokia Astound launches with a newer version of the Symbian software that includes the following:
  • Portrait QWERTY keyboard
  • Improved icons
  • Much better email client

In the box

The Nokia Astound comes in a typical T-Mobile package rather than the sleek Nokia packages I have been used to lately when buying Nokia devices outside the carrier. You will find the following inside the retail box:
  • Nokia Astound
  • Battery & charger
  • Wired stereo headset
  • USB data cable
  • Start Guide
  • SIM card
  • Terms and conditions pamphlet
You won’t find all those great goodies that were in the N8 box (USB on-the-go and HDMI cable), but this device sells for a low price for a reason.

Specifications

  • ARM 11 600 MHz processor
  • Symbian^3 software
  • Quad band GSM/EDGE with 850/900/1800/1900 MHz support
  • Quad band WCDMA with 850/900/1700/2100 MHz support
  • 3.5 inch 360×640 pixel resolution AMOLED display with Gorilla Glass
  • 250 MB of free user disk space
  • 8GB internal memory
  • microSD card slot for expanded memory
  • 802.11 b/g/n WiFi
  • Bluetooth 3.0
  • Integrated GPS with A-GPS
  • Integrated FM radio with RDS
  • FM transmitter
  • NFC wireless technology
  • 8 megapixel camera with 3rd generation dual LED flash
  • 3.5mm headset jack
  • BL-5K 1200 mAh battery
  • Dimensions of 4.6 x 2.2 x 0.38 inches and 4.4 ounces
Comparing the Nokia Astound to the N8 shows that the N8 has the better camera while the Astound includes NFC. The N8 also has penta-band WCDMA (the 1900 MHz frequency is missing on the Astound), but the four that are included cover both AT&T and T-Mobile in the US. The Astound also has a removable battery, but I honestly haven’t had any real issue with the battery life of my Nokia N8.

Around the hardware

While the Nokia Astound has the same AMOLED display as the Nokia N8 (I incorrectly said something about ClearBlack in my video) I personally think it looks better for some reason. It is crisp and clear and maybe the shiny finish around it makes it pop out more or something. The 3.5 inch display takes up most of the front with a front facing camera in the upper right, send and end buttons on either side of the menu button and a mic opening along the bottom. Nokia, C7, and T-Mobile brands are stamped on the front as well.

On the bottom you will find the lanyard opening while the top holds the microUSB port, 3.5mm headset jack, and power button. Nokia includes a 2mm standard charging port on the upper left side.

The right side is where you will find a camera capture button, sliding lock switch, distinct volume buttons, and the voice command button.

The 8 megapixel camera and dual LED flash is found on the upper back while a metal cover hides the battery, SIM card, and microSD card slot. No microSD card is included, but you can use up to 32GB in the device.

The Astound has a Near Field Communications (NFC) chip inside, but I was unable to find anything to test it with at this time. It is nice to see they are thinking ahead with the device though, especially given it is an $80 phone.

The Nokia Astound feels fantastic in your hand with solid build quality and its thinness. The Gorilla Glass and metal/plastic frame make it feel like a very high end smartphone too.

Software

The Nokia Astound is a Symbian^3 device so everything I wrote about the Nokia N8 should be the same here too. It is a mature operating system and very customizable, but not necessarily as flashy as iOS or Android. It is an excellent choice though since it is a full smartphone priced down in the feature phone range.

Don’t forget it supports things like USB on-the-go, FM transmitter (called Play via Radio on the Astound), Bluetooth 3.0 connectivity, Nokia Maps (FREE worldwide navigation), and more.

T-Mobile also includes some software on the Astound without turning it into an AT&T disaster with tons of bloatware. These titles include:

  • Swype
  • TeleNav GPS Navigator
  • Slacker
I LOVE the updated email client with a look and feel that is efficient and attractive. It clearly shows read and unread email (something the N8 does a very poor job of doing) and full HTML in a much better interface. It still has issues setting up Gmail right through the Nokia servers so make sure to decline the last prompt when setting it up.

The browser still isn’t the latest and greatest, but I just loaded up the free Opera Mobile and am perfectly happy with its performance.

Conclusion, price and availability

The Nokia Astound is available now for $79.99 with 2-year contact or $299.99 with no contract. I have been seriously considering picking one up because I just can’t stop holding it and flipping it around and around in my hand. It takes good photos, has solid RF reception with excellent call quality, has much improved email software, and is a very nice Symbian device.

I haven’t yet taken a ton of photos or videos with the device so I can’t fully judge the camera yet, but will try to get to that soon. Battery life has gone at least a day for me with heavy usage and push email.

If you are a person with a Nokia Nuron, then this really is a no brainer upgrade if you like Nokia and Symbian devices. T-Mobile can sell a lot of these at this price and unlike some other devices in the past, there are very few (if any) compromises with the Astound when compared to smartphones in this price range. T-Mobile currently has an unlimited talk, text, and data plan for this phone at just $79.99 per month.

Ratings (out of 5)

  • Specs: 4
  • Form factor: 5
  • Customizability: 4.5
  • User interface: 4
  • App support: 4.5

Overall: 4.5/5

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Pros

  • Sleek, super slim, solid hardware
  • Very good quality camera
  • Solid RF reception and phone call functionality/quality
  • Responsive, snappy performance
  • Full support for latest Ovi Store apps
  • High end features for low end price

Cons

  • Native browser still needs an update

Best of Smartphone Experts, 17 April 2011

Nokia’s Ovi Store hits 5 million downloads per day

Nokia's Ovi Store hits 5 million downloads per dayLast November I wrote that the Ovi Store was seeing 3 million downloads per day and today Nokia announced they are up to an amazing 5 million downloads per day. This is quite an achievement and on my Nokia N8 I have definitely seen the quality and quantity of apps increasing.

Along with the 5 million per day figures, 158 developers have seen 1 million download each. 15% of the 5 million downloads are happening on the latest Symbian devices, the N8, C6-01, C7, and E7. Another statistic in the press release states that there are about 200 million Symbian users today so if you are a Nokia Symbian fan then you can pretty much rest assured that Symbian will be supported for some time as Nokia is not about to give up on such a huge customer base.

Nokia E6 is the QWERTY Symbian phone of your dreams

nokia e6We know that more than a few of you have stuck with Nokia and Symbian for one reason: they’ve consistently made the most incredible hardware around in the portrait-QWERTY-no-touchscreen form factor around. The new Nokia E6 continues that fine tradition but brings something that we’re sure every single E71 and E72 user has been coveting: massively increased screen resolution. Packing in a 640 x 480 set of pixels into a 2.46″ screen makes for some pretty intense pixel density. Moving around the phone:

  • 115.5 x 59 x 10.5 mm
  • 133g
  • a 1500 mAh battery good for 7 and a half hours of talk time
  • 680MHz processor
  • FM Radio
  • 8mp Camera with 720p video and a with front-facing camera too
  • 8gb microSD included
The E7 runs Symbian Anna, which brings a new icon set and improved browser to the platform along with Microsoft Communicator for you business types.

More at Nokia.com

Symbian Anna released on Nokia X7, E6

homescreenx7_010411Along with the Nokia X7 and Nokia E6, Nokia has announced the latest version of Symbian, “Symbian Anna.” Formerly PR2. It’s coming on those two new devices, but will also be made available as an upgrade to the Nokia N8, C7, C6-01, and E7 “in the coming months”

Anna features an updated icon set, an improved browser with faster performance and some UI enhancements, and (finally!) a proper portrait keyboard. Microsoft Communicator Mobile is also on board for IM, as are update Ovi apps.

More at Nokia.com

Nokia X7 official

x7

Nokia has announced the Nokia X7, a Symbian-powered slate-style phone with a few new features to tout courtesy of a new version of Symbian they’re calling Anna: a proper portrait QWERTY keyboard and improved browser chief among them. This being Nokia, it’s no surprise that the new features take a backseat to the incredible hardware.

  • 119.7 x 62.8 x 11.9 mm
  • 146 g
  • 4″, 640×350 AMOLED touch display
  • 1300mAh battery good for 4 and a half hours of talktime
  • 8mp camera with dual-LED flash and 720p video recording
  • 680MHz CPU
  • 256mg RAM / 1G ROM
  • 8bg microSD included
Nokia would like you to know that they expect this to be an “entertainment-focused” device and so they’re preloading it with Galaxy on Fire HD and Asphalt 5 HD.

More at Nokia.com

Nokia Drop pushes links and pictures from your desktop to your phone

Nokia_Drop

While Android users have had a similar service for quite sometime now in the form of Chrome to phone, Nokia Beta Labs has now unveiled Nokia Drop to Symbian^3 and S60 5th Edition users. While still in the experimental stages at this point, Nokia Drop allows for pushing links and pictures to you Nokia phone, all from within your web browser on your computer –provided you are using either Firefox or Google Chrome. You will have to of course, install the browser extension and mobile application in order to get things up and running but after that the operations are rather seamless. So much so that you can even install wallpapers through the services. As you do not need any cables or Bluetooth connection, Nokia Drop is built for the testing of Push Notifications on Symbian. You can jump on past the break to see a video of Nokia Drop in action or click on the source link to learn more. [Nokia Beta Labs]

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Best of Smartphone Experts, 27 March 2011

CTIA 2011: Hands-on with the T-Mobile Nokia Astound

The Nokia C7 was one of my favorite devices at Nokia World and if I didn’t like the camera on my Nokia N8 so much I would like have picked one of these up. I have to admit I am a bit shocked at what T-Mobile and Nokia announced with the Nokia Astound launching at just $79.99 after $50 rebate. Chris already posted on the announcement, but Dieter and Phil are at CTIA Wireless and were able to get a bit of hands-on time with this new Symbian^3 device as you can see in the image gallery below.

The Astound is a Nokia C7 that actually still has the C7 label in the upper left. It feels like a touch screen Nokia E71 in your hand with metal and hard plastic construction. I think that new smartphone owners are going to scoop this up in seconds and all of the teens that I have seen with the Nokia Nuron (thanks in large part to its cheap data cost) will want to switch to this much better device.

Nokia portrait QWERTY and usable browser not coming until summer 2011

Sorry that I haven’t been posting here much lately, there just hasn’t been a lot going on with Nokia and my excitement for the company continues to wane. It doesn’t help that they are rolling out PR 1.2 for the Nokia N8 and C7 with a delay in 2.0 that provides the portrait QWERTY keyboard and modern web browser until “summer”. This could mean the end of summer which could put this update just a month or so away from the Nokia N8 one year release anniversary. Seriously Nokia, no wonder you had to partner with someone as the ship sinks from under you.

I was quite excited when I heard that WP7 was coming to Nokia hardware, but given that none of my WP7 devices have this mystical pre-NoDo update yet my confidence in a successful partnership is slipping fast. Neither company seems to know how to roll out updates in a timely manner and actually both of these updates should NEVER had been updates. WP7 should have launched with copy/paste and a usable Marketplace search function while the Nokia N8 should have launched with a portrait QWERTY keyboard and a browser that wasn’t years old.


Nokia N8 Guide



Nokia E73 Mode Guide
Nokia N900 Guide