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Review : Nokia X7 [Part 2]

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In the first part of the review, we explained how X7 does at what it is supposed to excel at. In this part, we will check other less significant but necessary features of this phone.

Home and Menu

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Not much has changed since S^3 but the new icon set gives it a bit of freshness. There are three fully customizable home screens that can take widgets, contacts, bookmarks, icons etc. Below is how I customized my home screens. Clicking on the key below the display opens the main menu and thanks to the new iconeset, the menus look much much better and gives it a bit modern look.

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Similar to earlier versions of Symbian, most preinstalled apps are at level 1 of the menu while apps that you install are placed under “Applications” directory along with few other pre-install apps. Homescreens and the menus work in portrait and landscape mode and you can set the menu items in icon grid and list layout. You can also create folders in the menus and move the icons between the folders (long press to get edit mode for menus) which helps keeping the menus clean if you install a huge number of various applications.
    
Nokia Bubbles

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This innovative app gave S^3 the best lock screen. I mean the best lock screen a mobile OS can have. And it is from Nokia beta labs. The concept is simple. The lock screen has couple of bubbles, each bubble represents a functionality like one for unlock, one to turn the phone into torchlight, one to access contacts (added to the app), one for mobile phone’s profiles (silent, general, meeting etc).

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Holding a bubble will remove all other bubbles from the display and instead show options available for that functionality. As shown below, when I select the contacts bubble, I get list of contacts that I can call or message. To make the call, all you need to do is drag the bubble that you are holding into the respective contact’s bubble. If you long hold the bubble on the contact, you get an option to call or message.

Easy but very innovative application this is.

Navigation

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The Good:

  • Very very detailed
  • Offline maps
  • 3D view of monuments and buildings
  • Walk navigation
  • Supports plugins (lonelyplanet, burrp, bookmyshow etc)
  • Places give foursquare like check-in functionality
  • Voice guided navigation is perfect
  • Speed limit warnings, live traffic update

The Bad:

  • Are you crazy! This is the best navigation software for smartphones. Period!

Let me say it again. When it comes to navigation, there is no match to Nokia maps. You don’t need an internet connection, though it takes a bit more time to get a lock on your position. But hey, it’s better to get a position lock than to fail getting a lock due to lack of internet.

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You have options to directly go to the map or get directions (walk/drive), add and open favourites, use add-ons to get information like weather, nearby places, check-in to places etc. The maps are well detailed and updated regularly and they are accurate too. Once I set my home location, it takes a single click to set the route to home or to office, wherever I am.

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Once the route is set, there is a truckload of information that is displayed for you like the speed at which you are going, your current location, route directions, distance to next turn, approx time left to reach your destination. You can set the map to different views like drivers-eye, birds-eye, display entire route, etc.

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If you want to have voice guided navigation, you can opt to have wide range of language and voice selection. The routes changed based on your options of going by walk or by driving a vehicle, which in my opinion is innovative. When you are at an unknown location and want to find places, you can install plugins (need internet connection for these) like burrp, lonelyplanet etc which will help you find your desired place based on your location. There are quite a few plugins to select from and each has it’s own functionality.

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Here is a quick example of finding a place using burrp and then checkin to the location using places plugin.

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In short, Nokia maps, not only gives me location info and direction, it can help me find places, check in to places and let my friends know where I am. Legendary stuff, isn’t it? One more thing. This is a feature that is added recently to apps. 3D monument view. Nokia Maps display historic monuments and famous builds in a 3D view as shown below:

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Web Browsing

The Good:

  • Feeds
  • Makes use of all real estate
  • Supports multi-touch

The Bad:

  • Lacks proper flash support
  • For some unknown reason, I still prefer Opera over this

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The biggest change in Anna updates goes to the web browser. This is how the browser will open when you set it to launch with a blank page. Click on the icon at the bottom right corner to give you various options like bookmark management, history, window management, search etc. A great feature of this browser is RSS feeds. Yes, the browser acts as your own RSS reader. The web pages load fast, they utilize all real estate available on the phone, which is a big plus from earlier version.

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Thanks to the 4” display, the pages fit very well and here is something that many have waited for a long long time, portrait qwerty.
 
Overall, the browser is good and more importantly, usable. But after using it for a while, I chose to stick to Opera for some weird unknown reason. I am just not comfortable with the ugly (but very good) interface. Here are few more screenshots of the browser
  
Email
The Good:

  • Support for wide range of accounts
  • Push e-mail, exchange support
  • BBM support
  • Nokia Messaging

The Bad:

  • Very boring interface
  • Looks crowded

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I was actually surprised to see support for Yahoo email accounts in S^3’s email application. I had to rely on Yahoo’s tools when I used iOS or Android or Maemo. The email application interface is oldschool. First, you need to add email account
. Once configured, the account is  synced with the email servers. You can add as many email accounts as you want and thanks to Nokia Messaging, you can have push email functionality.

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The email interface though is very congested and looks damn ugly and crowded with black background. Opening a mail will give you the usual options to reply/delete/forward email. The font looks ugly and the interface looks really old. When you decide to reply to the mail, it gets uglier.

All in all, the email app is functionally good but is let down by an ugly interface, similar to earlier version of browser. I am hoping to see improvements in this area in future Symbian S^3 upgrades.

Ovi Store
The Good:

  • Simple interface
  • Essential apps are available but not many options to choose from

The Bad:

  • Mirror shattering looks
  • Slow and boring
  • Far less number of apps when compared to iTunes app store or android market
  • Recommended apps based on current app page/list is a joke

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To be frank, Ovi Store is something that I don’t prefer to use much but there is no alternate appstore. The interface is simple and straightforward but the font and look is truly ugly.

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The main screen gives you a list of features apps. You can go ahead and install these apps or head to app categories or open your account settings, which is where you can find and update existing apps and change settings/profile of your account.

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The operation is simple. You go to the catetory, pick the application you want to install, confirm your selection and wait for the installation to finish or head to the app list to install another app. There was more than one instance when I faced installation issue while installing applications with large size like HD games. The major problem with the appstore is the lack of quantity. If you are one of those that stick one application for each task, then this will serve you but if you are one of those that get bored of an app and like trying a new app that with similar functionality, then Ovi store is not your kind of medicine.

Before I conclude this review, there is one thing to mention. This is the time of social networks and many used to say that Symbian sucks when it comes to social networking. WRONG! Gravity application is single point of contact for most social network needs. I want to say a lot but that would make the review longer. So, just take a look at these screenshots and if you need more info on Gravity app, head to mobileways.de

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This is one application that can take care of my twitter, facebook, foursquare, RSS needs.

Battery life
This is one concern for many users these days, especially the Droiders. It has become as important as mileage for a car. X7, however I used lasted a full day on a single charge and once the initial hungama and R&D was over, it easily lasted a day and sometimes went to 1.5 days to 2 days (when on low activity). In short, it has impressive battery life. Sad that the battery cannot be replaced by user.

Conclusion
Nokia has branded X7 as a multimedia monster and it truly excels in that area. It also surprises you with the fresh looking UI, expert navigation, social networking integration. By no means Symbian is dead. Anna is decent and recent Belle UI demo showed that Symbian can compete with the likes of Android. It may not be the best OS for a smartphone but it does fit well for those who are looking for a non-geeky and out-of-the-box experience.

The concern here is that many think that Symbian is dead due to the recent announcement by Elop about plans to side track Symbian development. I would say that if you want to buy X7 now and are concerned about the future, don’t worry about as Symbian will keep on getting updates for the next year or two and Nokia will release many more Symbian smartphones into the market. And oh btw, given that N8 is retailing at just 1k more, I would wait just a bit for X7’s price to come down if I were to purchase this beastly beauty. X7 is one heck of a smartphone and it deserves some respect.

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