Smartphone Review: Nokia Astound on T-Mobile Network
So Nokia sent me a new touch-screen smart phone to test out for a couple of weeks and the results are in. The NOKIA ASTOUND is the company’s attempt to take on the entry-level smartphone buyer — those that might have iPhone envy, but can’t afford the several hundred dollars required to play in Steve Job’s playground.
So Nokia seems to have worked hard to find a great value proposition to the rest of the market. At first the phone was introduced in the US at a $80 pricetag. For a touch-screen smartphone, this is a great price. And lo and behold, the price is now free. Yup, you can nowadays pick up the Nokia Astound for free when you sign-up for a standard contract on T-Mobile.
This is where things start to get a little dicey. T-mobile as most people know, is represented by that quirky perky fresh spokesperson girl in T-mobile fuchsia dresses, but unfortunately their network ain’t so fresh. Our location is just outside of New York City, and I still have to drive around town about 5-10 minutes out before I can get a decent, steady signal that also supports data. If I’m located in a suburb of a major metro area in the country and can’t find consistent service throughout the day, I wonder how anyone in the rest of country fares.
So buyer be warned: This isn’t a negative comment on Nokia or the Astound, but the T-mobile network. Yet because Nokia is tied to T-mobile, it’s still a hit for Nokia and the Astound phone. You really need to check out the T-mobile network in the areas you’ll be using it before committing to this phone.
But before things get out of control downhill, here’s are some great stand-out things upfront about the phone:
- Data is only $10/month. You have to give some credit to T-mobile and Nokia for figuring out how to get people into a smartphone with a low low price of only $10 for a dataplan.
- OVImaps – great GPS app which allows a bunch of features, downloadable maps, trip planning, etc for global cities
- Slacker Radio app is pre-installed and ready to go on board — if you don’t know about Slacker, it’s a great alternative to Pandora. I have both on my iPhone and know plenty of people who use up the free internet radio account quota on Pandora, and then simply hop over the Slacker for the rest of the month. Now you can have your own radio station with you wherever you go.
- 8MP digital camera is sweet — something iPhone users can’t compete with since iPhones have a 5MP camera. 8MP is more than necessary for most snapshots – meaning you can easily print out 4×6 and 5×7 with pics taken a less than 8MP, it’s good to have a decent phone with you at all times. The cam shoots HD video too, but for some reason, it doesn’t take video at a full motion video frame rate like 29+ frames/sec. Instead, the 25 fps produces a tiny bit choppy video, especially if you have fast moving objects in view. Cost of doing business at a lower end phone? Hope they upgrade that function in future versions.
- 1st-time smartphone buyers will be happy with the $0.00 price that’s available with T-mobile contract
- Form factor is sleek. It’s a super slim pretty phone. Practically speaking it’s not easy to handle in my own hands – especially taking calls, it slips out of my hands, you can’t really reliably can’t free up your hands and hold it between your head/ear and shoulder since it again, slips right out if you are not careful. But it is a pretty shiny phone.
Here’s an official Nokia intro video that hits upon some good features of the phone:
And I was going to do a video review of the phone, but instead, I’ll offer up this one which is pretty detailed and also uncovers several issues I also personally identified that a smartphone buyer should be aware about as well when considering the Nokia Astound:
There definitely is a bunch of downsides of the Nokia Astound. Here’s a couple to take somewhat seriously if you think you’re buying an iPhone alternative:
- It’s a Symbian OS phone…UGH. Yes, it’s Symbian 3, but you’re probably going to wish they were up to 8 or 9. The interface/interactivity with the phone is just poor and sluggish. There are consistent lags between “clicking” on a button and something happening. Or when you pinch to resize a web page, it just takes a second more than you’re expecting. These days, there’s no excuses for a sluggish operating system. When comparing to the iPhone iOS 4.x, the Astound just doesn’t cut it. But given that complaint, if this is your first smartphone, and you’ve been banging out text messages on a phone keypad one letter at a time, this will feel like a huge step up.
- Video capabilities are just not 100% there. Like the OS, the 720p HD video experience is great if you’ve never had it before, but there are 2 details that you should just be aware of: (1) There’s no auto-focusing on the video recording mode. With HD video, your videos won’t take advantage of the detailing that could be available with touch-to-focus or even an autofocus. A fixed focal point just reduces the wow factor a bit. (2) It shoots at 25 fps, which isn’t bad if you’re comparing to YouTube videos, but for HD video, you’ll start to notice a slight choppiness in recordings when playing enough of them back, or if you have very active scenes in your videos.
- The touchscreen keyboard is a no-go. Even though it has the swipe technology that predicts/corrects what you type on the fly, it is only available in landscape mode. The vertical mode of typing mimics the crazy old-school telephone keypad multi-button-pressing crazy typing that you had years ago on a non-smartphone phone. The buttons are too small to be able to type confidently, even after a decent amount of time investing composing emails, etc. Perhaps if I had more than a couple of weeks with the phone, I could get better at it, but — that’s the point, it shouldn’t take a month or more to get up to speed with a smart phone for such a critical function as typing.
- Related to the OS, navigation, menuing, presentation could be cleaner / better. If you’re a Nokia user, like of the N8 or some other Nokia worldphones, you will have a better time adapting to the Astound than others. But given that this smartphone is aimed a new market, I wonder how the menuing, etc will be received by the 1st time smartphone customer. My guess is that they’ll figure out how to use only 50% of the phone’s capabilities
Overall, the Astound is a great entry level smartphone at a great intro price, especially the data package price.
Here’s some other reviews of the Nokia Astound if you’re seriously considering:
- C|Net Reviews the Astound
- Slashgear Review
- PC World Magazine Nokia Astound Review
- PC Magazine review of Astound
- Phone Arena detailed review of Nokia Astound