T-Mobile Astound (Nokia C7) breathes life back into Symbian

ctia-2011-t-mobile-astound-nokia-c7

Nokia may have signed a deal with Microsoft, but it isn’t ready to abandon Symbian just yet. While it readies its first batch of Windows Phones, the Finnish handset maker is giving Symbian one more shot in the U.S. market. Together with T-Mobile, a wireless carrier that will similarly cede itself to AT&T in the year ahead, it has released the C7 under a friendly new name the “T-Mobile Astound.” And astound it does. It took a complete death in the U.S. market, but Nokia has fixed a few of the most glaring issues with its most recent slate of Symbian devices and we’re happy to say that the C7 is a decent beginner device for those who want to wade, not plunge, into the land of smartphones.

Snappier

If you used the Nokia N8 or other recent Symbian devices, the first thing you’ll notice about the Astound is how snappy it is. Nokia took steps to speed up the responsiveness of the homescreens and app start-ups on the C7 and their efforts were well worth it. With the widgeted homescreens of Symban 3.0, the Astound looks and acts like part of the Android and iOS gang.

QWERTY

ctia-2011-nokia-astound-facebookCombined with its optimized response speed is a new QWERTY keyboard for both landscape and vertical orientations. Better still, it comes complete with swipe, the same finger-slide-to-type service that has been implemented in a number of Android devices. The result is much more usable and efficient than Nokia’s old T9 numeric keypad and old Symbian 3.0 keyboard. I am not terribly familiar with Swipe, as I’m still stuck with the original Motorola Droid, but I picked it up fairly quickly while testing out the C7. The keyboard could still use a few tweaks, but I’m not complaining. This is a good step forward for Nokia.

Usable Web browser

In the age of mobile Web browsing, Nokia’s previous Symbian 3 browser was wholly unacceptable. It had the navigation and feel of a five year old mobile browser and its performance was dreadful. In reaction to this criticism, Nokia has built a new browser for the T-Mobile Astound from the popular WebKit toolset, which is the same technology that is at the core of Apple’s Safari, Google’s Chrome, and many mobile Web browsers.

I apologize at how fast the representative passes over the browser in the video below, but rest assured that it rendered pages at a competitive speed and I had no problem pinching-to-zoom and performing other basic functions. Nokia also has a single tool button in the lower right that brings up a menu of options if you’d like to do something like find a bookmark.

Solid specs

The Nokia C7 (T-Mobile Astound) has a 3.5-inch AMOLED touchscreen and a relatively thin frame at 10.5mm. It has 8GB of internal storage, a MicroSD slot, and supports T-Mobile’s “4G” HSPA+ network. I wasn’t able to find out how powerful the processor or how much RAM the device has, but it is made of 60 percent recycled material, making it a fairly green phone. Nokia’s press releases tout how energy efficient the phone is as well.

Finally, one of Nokia’s greatest strengths is its cameras and the C7 comes with a solid 8MP camera with a dual-LED flash. For a smartphone camera, it performs very well, as do most Nokia phones.

It’s not perfect

I wouldn’t be fair if I didn’t mention that there are a host of outdated and inefficient features inherent in Symbian. Despite the shot in the arm Nokia has given the aging OS, its problems will shine through if you use the device for more than its basic functions. I can’t recommend the C7 (and neither does Nokia) for advanced users, but beginners could do far worse. With that said, if the T-Mobile Astound is a sign of things to come from the Finnish handset maker, mark me down as interested.

The Astound will hit T-Mobile on April 6 for $79.99 with a two-year contract.

The video below was recorded on a busy trade show floor.

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