When you first scoop up the Nokia 5230, chances are you'll be struck by a strange feeling of déjà vu. That's because this is essentially a rebadged version of the Finnish company's first ever touchscreen mobile -- the 5800 XpressMusic, which was released way back in 2008. While that phone was positioned as a flagship device, the 5230 has far humbler aspirations.
The Nokia 5230 is available for free on a two-year, £10-per-month contract. Alternatively, you can pick it up for around £80 on pay as you go, or SIM-free for £120.
When placed side by side with the 5800, the Nokia 5230 looks almost identical. We could forgive Nokia lazily emulating one of its old handsets if the device in question was a design classic, but only the most dedicated Espoo fanatic would deem the 5800 attractive.
The 5230 is saddled with the same underwhelming aesthetics that made the 5800 such an unappealing proposition back in '08. The phone feels light and cheap, and emits worrying creaking noises when gripped tightly.The raised edging around the corners of the screen helps protect it from bumps and scratches, but it looks nasty.
Closer inspection reveals the 5230 has endured a few downgrades from its older sibling. The 3.2-megapixel camera has been dropped down to 2-megapixels, and the dual-LED flash has been removed entirely. Around the front, the second video-call camera has also vanished.
Aside from these alterations, the 5230 is a close cosmetic match for the 5800. The key-guard switch remains in place, and is just as awkward to use as before, preventing quick access to the phone's functions. The main speaker is also just as weedy as the one witnessed on its predecessor, stuck in a weird position under the battery cover.
Curiously, the SIM card slot is located on the side of the phone, meaning you don't have to remove the battery to fit a new one. Rather than being a neat design feature, this actually turns out to be a real pain.
Inserting a SIM is easy, but getting it back out again is only achievable by removing the battery and poking the card out with a long, thin implement -- there's no spring mechanism here. Nokia kindly recommends using a stylus for this task -- illustrated explicitly by an icon next to the SIM port -- yet the 5230 doesn't come with one, despite having a resistive screen.
Going resistive was one of the 5800's biggest failings. By shunning a capacitive display, Nokia saddled the phone with a disappointing lack of accuracy and responsiveness. The 5230 falls into the same trap, but it's easier to forgive this time around. It's not as though this device is being mooted as a market leader, like the newly launched N8, and many other smart phones in this class only have resistive displays. Despite relying on pressure to register input, the 5230's screen is actually one of the better ones of its type that we've reviewed.
The 5230 comes loaded with Symbian S60 5th edition -- the same OS that Samsung and Sony Ericsson have recently announced they are dropping from their phones. Long seen as the red-haired child of the smart phone world, Symbian has struggled to remain appealing in the face of the current iOS and Android onslaught, and the 5230 illustrates why Nokia's smart phone software is lagging behind. It's counter-intuitive, slow and needlessly confusing, and lacks the glorious simplicity of iOS and the staggering potential of Android.
The functionality is there, and it's possible to create a reasonably info-packed home screen resplendent with widgets, but everything is buried deep within menus and even the most basic activity is preceded by an annoying 'loading' progress bar.
The much-hyped 'Comes with Music' service, which made its debut with the 5800, is nowhere to be seen, but the inclusion of Ovi Maps (complete with turn-by-turn navigation) makes up for it. Access to Nokia's Ovi Store is also included, although it's incredibly sluggish to use.
Downloading apps and music to the 5230 isn't anywhere near as straightforward as it was with the 5800. Wi-Fi has been sacrificed in order to bring the cost of the 5230 down, and this decision seriously limits the phone's appeal as a device for media-loving business types. All data transfer is funnelled through your overburdened 3G connection, which could end up costing you a pretty penny if you intend to hit the Web on a regular basis.
The 5800 was hardly given a hero's welcome when it launched in 2008, and when you consider that the Nokia 5230 is basically a less-powerful replication of that handset, it's little wonder that it has all the impact of a wet sponge.
Granted, the reasonable pay as you go price makes the 5230's shortcomings a little more palatable, but with devices such as the T-Mobile Pulse Minialready available and the Huawei Ideos looming on the horizon, it's hard to envisage any reason to shell out for this phone -- unless you're a die-hard Nokia fan who simply refuses to switch to a rival manufacturer. There are far better smart phones on the market right now, making the 5230 feel like a relic from the past.
Edited by Emma Bayly