When you take yourself shopping for a new prepaid mobile phone, you probably set your expectations fairly low. A majority of these devices are designed to look rather cheap, exposing their budget backgrounds to help their more expensive counterparts seem all the more desirable. Not so with the Nokia C3. While it is made from the same stiff plastic that most phones in this price range are made from, the C3 is a very nice-looking handset with a deceptively premium feel. Our review unit is in a shade of midnight blue with matte black trim and its high gloss finish gives it the appearance of one of Nokia's E-series range.
Also, like Nokia's business range, the C3 features a four-row QWERTY keyboard below its TFT display, and though we haven't seen an E71 for a long time we'd hazard a guess and say that this keyboard looks to be just as large and is equally usable. The keys are raised into soft humps, making it a little easier to navigate the small keypad with two thumbs. The navigation pad between the screen and the keyboard isn't as well designed, with Nokia opting to squeeze eight controls into the small space surrounding the five-way nav pad.
The budget for this handset doesn't extend much beyond its slick design, and as with most prepaid models, the 2.8-inch colour display suffers some. This screen is bright and colourful enough for basic everyday use; you'll have no trouble dialling numbers or reading messages, but the screen's poor viewing angle makes it a poor choice for long sessions. We played several simple video games on the handset and found that the optimal viewing angle of our review unit was actually 15 or 20 degrees off-centre, something we can't remember encountering before.
Just looking at the C3 reveals quite a bit about the features you can expect to take advantage of when using this phone. With its QWERTY keyboard, the C3 has a decent range of communication tools baked in; there's standard SMS with threaded conversation mode, email with support for POP3 and IMAP accounts, and Facebook and Twitter clients with a pre-installed home-screen widget. If you prefer your messaging to be more instantaneous, Nokia includes Ovi Chat on the C3, allowing you to connect to multiple IM clients like Windows Live and Yahoo.
You also get access to Nokia's Ovi Store for downloading new apps to the phone. What you don't get is 3G internet connectivity, so web browsing on the train or bus is a tedious prospect. Nokia compensates for this with the inclusion of Wi-Fi, which is essential for downloading new apps, but you will have to make sure you plan ahead and download what you want before you leave any Wi-Fi network you have access to.