The Nokia C3 is part of Nokia’s new lineup of messaging phones, which includes the E5 and C6. As its name implies (the further along the alphabet and the higher the number, the more advanced the phone), the C3 is a basic and budget phone which will appeal to hardcore texters and social networkers (simply put, most of the younger generation). The main highlights of the phone are its full QWERTY keyboard and Social Network Service (SNS) enhancement, and not forgetting its affordability.
The C3 is easy on the eyes; its lustrous all-plastic front frame and matte-coated keyboard, complemented by the aluminium rear battery cover, guarantee a “love at first touch” experience. It is the C3’s price tag that makes the build quality all the more impressive. Measuring 115.5 x 58.1 x 13.6 mm, it is compact and highly-pocketable; although at the expense of the screen size, which, at 2.4’’, is rather small. The C3’s smoothened edges make it comfortable to handle, despite its thickness. Its TFT QVGA screen displays 256,000 colours with a resolution of 320 x 240 pixels. Image quality is a pleasant surprise, and can be attributed to the relatively small screen. Viewing angles are impressive too, and so is sunlight legibility. Not too shabby for a phone with its price tag. Also commendable is the 4-row QWERTY keyboard. Nokia got the demarcation, size and convexity of the keys just right – heavy texters will no doubt find the C3 a delight. It’s not a bad thing either that the C3 looks like its business counterparts – the E Series smartphones. It certainly adds a touch of class to this sleek phone. And with 3 vibrant colours to choose from – Hot Pink, Golden White and Slate Grey; users have more reason to fish the C3 out of their pockets every now and then.
The C3’s exterior makes it look more expensive than it actually is, and so does its Symbian Series 40 user interface. You would be forgiven for mistaking it for a Symbian series 60 phone at first glance. Alas, that impression is skin deep as the outdated S40 software is far from groundbreaking. That being said, buyers will be pleased with its simplicity and efficiency. Its functionality is limited, but the upside is that it is not draggy. However, the non-native java applications like Facebook and Email do take some time to load. What users will be missing out on because of the outdated software are applications, support for multi-tasking, as well as a document reader. This helps to keep the user interface free of freeze-ups but may cause business users to look elsewhere.
As mentioned earlier, messaging is the C3’s forte. The QWERTY keyboard is a joy to use, even for first-timers (although it will take a little getting used to for them, naturally). The C3 also makes messaging a breeze with its various sending options – no more wasting time finding the send-to contact. What’s more, messages are stored in conversations with contacts, making them a lot easier to keep track of. The C3’s email support is basic, but gets the job done, with support for SSL, POP3, IMAP4 and SMTP. Another feature of the phone is Instant Messaging (IM). Ovi Chat is one of the C3’s native apps, hence it is quick to load, and users can choose to stay connected even when it’s not visibly running. Ovi Chat has pretty complete functionality and allows users access to Windows Live Messenger, Yahoo Messenger and Google Talk, in addition to Ovi Chat. The Communities application connects users to Facebook and Twitter. When users are logged in to one of the two sites, Communities will display messages received through the site as well as the sender, on the homescreen. The app takes a while to load (it being a J2ME app) if users wish to use it to post replies.
In addition to its messaging prowess, the C3 covers its basics pretty well too. In-call and loudspeaker sound is loud and clear, but the phone vibration could be a little stronger.
The C3’s 2 Megapixel camera is capable of snapping photos with a resolution of 1600 x 1200 pixels. This is where the C3’s compromise for affordability is most evident. Those into photography will be appalled by the very limited settings. Its slow shutter speed and lack of autofocus and flash translate into disappointing images. Photos are severely lacking in detail and show a high level of noise. All in all, it is decidedly subpar even for a 2 Megapixel camera.
Video recording is equally mediocre – the camera shoots at a QVGA resolution of 320 x 240 pixels or QCIF 176 x 144 pixels, and manages 15 – 20 fps. Apart from MMS, users will be hard pressed to find any use for the video recording feature.
The C3’s music player is basic, and supports WMA, MP3, AAC, AAC+ and eAAC+ formats. There is a 3.5mm audio jack which allows users to use their favourite headsets with the phone. Audio quality is quite good with clear sound produced through the phone speaker as well as through headsets. However, audio volume through the headset is a tad low, even when cranked up to the maximum. The video player is not anything to shout about either. It supports up to QVGA H.263, H.264, AVI, MPEG-4 and WMV files. Playback is often laggy due to the C3’s paltry 64MB RAM.
The C3 offers nothing exciting in terms of connectivity but taking into account its price, it is not half bad. WiFi is not a feature you see in most budget phones (it is often absent in midrange ones too), so the fact that the C3 has it is a major plus point. It supports 2G (GSM/EDGE) but not 3G. EDGE is sufficient for IM, social networking and light web browsing; heavy data transfers will require WiFi connectivity. Local connectivity comes in the form of microUSB v2.0 and Bluetooth with A2DP support for audio streaming to Bluetooth headsets. S trangely, the phone cannot be charged through USB – an inconvenience indeed. The C3 also supports up to 8GB microSD cards and the good news is they’re hot swappable.
The C3 comes with a Nokia web browser and also the Opera Mini browser. The former cannot be used to browse the web; it is used only for “Web Services”, for instance, when accessing Nokia’s mobile site, MySpace, AccuWeather and so on. For browsing, the Opera Mini browser is the solution, and an excellent one at that. Opera renders the pages on its servers, compresses the images and sends them to the phone in a much smaller size. This considerably lowers the amount of data transferred, therefore cutting down on data charges as well as page loading time.
The BL-5J 1320mAh battery that powers the C3 provides up to 7 hours of talk time and 800 hours of standby time. It is adequate but hardly impressive, considering the lack of advanced features like 3G.
Pros and Cons
The C3 is a texting powerhouse that isn’t hard on the eyes, and whose stylish design and build quality are accentuated by its very reasonable price. Overall, the C3 does its job well, but there is not much else it has to offer – don’t expect 3G network support, multi-tasking, or a quality camera. The S40 platform it runs also deprives users of many applications, some of which they may deem essential.
For those who love texting, have an active social life and want something stylish that won’t burn a hole in their pockets, the C3 delivers and then some. Its strength lies in its efficiency and user-friendliness; and with WiFi and SNS thrown in, the C3 is a real steal. To some, the C3’s entry level connectivity and multimedia capabilities are a turn-off, but it is precisely this no-frills quality that may ironically endear it to its target audience.