Nokia X7-00 review: The stealth xpress
Wading into Symbian Anna
The Nokia X7 is one of the first devices that sport the latest and greatest from the Symbian world - the update called Anna. It's technically a Symbian^3 edition descendant but that doesn’t quite roll of the tongue as Anna does.
Despite the big change in naming convention (going for names rather than numbers similar to Android, Ubuntu etc.), the changes to the OS itself are incremental. Nokia finally fixed text entry (though they didn’t do a perfect job of it), the browser is updated and so are other core Symbian apps. But there are still issues.
Before we go into details, have a look at this video to get a quick idea of what Anna is like.
Starting with the homescreen, we can already see what Anna is going to be like - much of the same but with more polish and a new feature here or there. The homescreen still consists of three panes. You are free to fill it up with widgets and reshuffle them as you see fit. If three panes are too much for you, you can delete the ones you don’t need but you still can't add more than three.
The homescreens panes are now instantaneously scrollable - it used to be that you swipe sideways and only when you are done with the gesture the screen would actually start sliding. Scrolling is mostly smooth though, the graphics are not as fluent as in high-powered Androids. Tapping the three dots at the bottom of the screen moves you one pane to the right.
You can turn the phone sideways and the widgets will automatically re-order to fit the landscape mode.
Symbian Anna brings with it a new style for the icons in the main menu - they are now very rounded squares. It's an aesthetic change mostly, as they are just as easy to hit with your thumb as the old ones (though the 4" screen does make it easier than it was on the C7).
The main menu structure is unchanged, retaining the hierarchical folder structure. This dates back from much earlier Symbian versions and we were hoping that it would change - to get to your apps, you have to hit the menu key and go into Applications. Modern day smartphones have dozens of apps installed, so easier access to them would have been nice.
You are free to rearrange icons as you see fit so you might go for placing them all in the main folder and get a flat-ish menu system, but you have to do that manually, there's no bulk move option.
You can create custom folders too, which can help you organize your apps. All custom folders look the same however, giving no clue of what's inside like some other OSes do. A list view mode is also available but that involves much more scrolling and that’s why we preferred to leave things in grid.
The task manager is identical to the Symbian^3 one - it shows screenshots of the running apps, up to three at a time (regardless of screen orientation). You can swipe sideways to browse between the apps and you can kill them with a single click too.
A neat feature is the popup available by tapping the top right corner of the screen. It gives you a bigger clock, a shortcut to the connectivity menu, a button for battery info (charge in % and "Activate power saving" shortcut) plus notifications - e.g. missed calls, new messages and others. It just shows the number of events, it won't show you the beginning of a new text message like Android's notification area will.
You can also toggle Wi-Fi and USB connectivity settings from here.
Performance-wise the Nokia X7 is virtually identical to the Symbian^3 models that came before it. Hardly a surprise, since it uses the same hardware and Anna is more of a feature, rather than performance update.
And even though heavy multi-taskers will frown at the 256MB of RAM we didn’t get any “Out of memory” errors even when the camera and the web browser with two active tabs were running in background.
Symbian Anna is definitely a step in the right direction, but we're afraid the competition has zoomed far ahead. While Apple and Google are trying to outdo each other with all sorts of user interface innovation, Symbian has just caught up with a few years ago.
One positive change is that there's always a Back virtual key visible, which makes navigating apps simpler.
On the other hand, the Options menu still relies on the menu/submenu structure, which is a relic of the non-touch days of Symbian and is begging to be changed to an Android-like solution (menu key that shows a panel with 6-8 buttons for the most common options, maybe a More button if you really want to dig into the settings).
There's more changes (with some more criticism) to come, but we'll discuss those in their respective sections.
Phonebook is pretty good
The Nokia X7 comes with a fully functional phonebook, which can easily be synced with your exchange account. Symbian has been offering users virtually unlimited phonebook capacity and excellent contact management for quite some time and now the Anna update also improves the SNS integration to bring it more up to date.
Contacts can be freely ordered by first or last name. You can also set whether the contacts from the SIM card, the phone memory and the service numbers will get displayed.
Selecting some of your contacts as favorites moves them to the top of the displayed list. This saves you quite a lot of scrolling.
Editing a contact offers a great variety of preset fields and you can replicate each of them as many times as you like.
You can assign personal ringtones and videos to individual contacts. If you prefer, you may group your contacts and give each group a specific ringtone.
A really nice touch when editing a contact’s details is the option to enter their address by locating it on a map.
The social network integration includes Facebook and Twitter, which should be fine for the vast majority of users. You can see the latest status update right from the contact info - or at least the first two lines of it. Tap on it to read the full message or send a reply. That takes a few seconds though as the Social app needs to load first.
We didn't experience any call-related issues with the Nokia X7. Reception is solid, voice quality good on both ends of a call. The earpiece is loud enough and there were no interferences whatsoever.
Voice dialing is available on the X7 and gets activated by pressing and holding the call key on the home screen. It is fully speaker-independent and as far as we can tell performs greatly, recognizing all the names we threw at it.
In noisier environments though, its effectiveness might suffer. Bear in mind too, that if you have multiple numbers assigned to a contact, the system will dial either the default number or the first in the list.
Smart dialing is also here - you just punch in a few letters from the desired contact’s name and select it from the list that comes up to initiate a call. Searching by portions of the contact's phone number doesn’t work though.
The X7 has the usual accelerometer-based feature that lets you mute the ringer by turning the phone face down is present. That same turn-to-mute trick also works for snoozing your alarm.
Thanks to the proximity sensor the screen turns off automatically when you hold the phone next to your cheek during a call.
The Nokia X7 however lacks the Active Noise cancellation feature that the Nokia C7 had.
The Nokia X7 sat our traditional loudspeaker test. The phone did well there and the Good mark it snatched means it should be loud enough for nearly every situation. More info on the test, as well as other results can be found here.
|Speakerphone test||Voice, dB||Ringing ||Overall score|
|Samsung I9000 Galaxy S||66.6||65.9||66.6|
|LG Optimus 2X||65.7||60.0||67.7|
|Sony Ericsson XPERIA Arc||66.1||66.3||78.0||Good|
|HTC Incredible S||66.5||66.1||76.7||Good|
|Nokia N8||75.8||66.2||82.7||Very Good|