With the release of the Nokia Astound, the Finnish cellphone manufacturer is attempting to push Symbian, an internationally-used open software architecture, to a wider user base. By adjusting the price point of the device to fit a significantly more casual market, and including the typical features of today's smartphones, the Astound appears to be an extremely tempting offer. Exclusive to T-Mobile, Nokia plans on selling 150 million Symbian devices in the United States before finally shutting the operating system down in favor of Microsoft's Windows Phone 7.
Make no mistake about the Nokia Astound – this is simply a C7 in every way except the T-Mobile branding on the bottom of the device and a slight software upgrade. Announced during CTIA in Orlando, the device boasts a 3.5 inch AMOLED display, two cameras, and a sleek stainless-steal design. Will the device deliver an experience that puts forth Symbian in the best light possible? Let's dive into the nitty-gritty and find out.
- Beautiful form factor complemented by an incredible build quality
- Relatively low price
- Ovi Maps
- Symbian 3.1's inefficient use of processing power
- Both the front-facing and back-facing cameras
- The keyboard lacks Swype support in portrait mode
Website: T-Mobile's Web Portal
Suggested Retail Price: $79.99
Hardware Design: Aesthetic Appeal and Raw Power
Uniquely crafted and beautifully designed, the device is forged from a blend of stainless-steel and plastic. It is razor thin and has a solid build quality. It certainly does not feel like the Astound costs eighty dollars, but rather two hundred, which is one of the main selling points of the device.
Though the device sports an eight megapixel camera with dual LED flash, it does not deliver in terms of picture quality. This is largely due to the fact that the camera does not have auto-focus capabilities. If there are colors in the picture that are polar opposites, the lighter one will be washed out. The front-facing camera works well enough for video chatting purposes, but fails to offer up an additional incentive for use beyond that.
Unfortunately, Nokia's claims of incredible performance and speed on this particular handset are a bit untrue. Within the first few hours of playing around with the Astound, the device was flustered innumerable times. This was likely caused by the amount of RAM on-board, approximately 256 MB. Though the software architecture supports the multitasking capabilities, the Astound's hardware is unable to keep up.
Symbian is a relatively modern architecture and has been massively popular on a global scale, holding a fifty percent market share. Nokia is hoping to push its operating system to a larger audience. However, there are certain aspects of its software apparatus that are obvious pains.
Nokia's latest creation further innovates on the company's Ovi architecture, which is essentially Symbian's skeleton, providing an overarching structure. Coming preloaded with Ovi Maps, one gets free turn-by-turn navigation in over one hundred countries in forty-six available languages. There is also an integrated social apparatus that slams your Twitter feed and Facebook feed together, giving a quick and easy interface to view your social networks.
One gripe that one will find with using Symbian 3.1 on a regular basis is the multitasking, which is truly app switching. After opening two applications, the device will begin to hiccup and eventually completely freeze, rendering the Astound useless for some time.
As mentioned earlier, the speed of the device was especially dwarfed during web browsing. This is largely due to the inefficient use of the Astound's processing power. On both T-Mobile's cellular network and my local Wi-Fi, I could not help but cringe at the constant checkerboard patterns that would appear on screen. Pages that typically behave appropriately on other mobile browsers become jumbled within the phone's convoluted Internet portal, which is both frustrating and unproductive.
While this could be attributed to the lack of a dual-core processor, one may be interested to learn that browsers can efficiently run on single-core devices. An example of this would be the iPhone 4, which is powered by Apple's A4 chip. The browsing performance directly correlates with the software's integration with the processor that it runs on, and this is where the Astound runs into a problem. With a chip developed by ARM and an operating system produced by Nokia, the two aspects of the device fail to mesh in a coherent, accurate manner.
Considering the fact that nearly half of the smartphones in the world run on Symbian, there is also a great deal of developer support embodied in an app store that offers such favorites as Angry Birds and Fruit Ninja. Games run smoothly when left uninterrupted by other tasks, and the graphics are certainly bearable for short mobile use, though there is a noticeable lack of "flagship" applications that are exclusive to Symbian.
By no means is the Astound a horrible phone. It runs well enough for the amount that it costs and the operating system is modern and quick. It is sleek and stylish, definitely tailored for a younger audience. Inputting text is difficult on the device, but Swype technology in landscape orientation makes it much easier. Web pages do not load very fast, and the processor has a difficult time dealing with many tasks at once.
If you are looking for an affordable device that is able to perform some of the functions that high-end smartphones offer, then the Astound is certainly meant for you. While it may lack some of the stability of higher-end handsets, it is a fantastic value for its price range.
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