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Call quality on the Nokia 5230 is outstanding for a bargain-level phone. With T-Mobile service, we never had any problems with dropped calls, faulty connections, or distortion either on the phone (what we heard) or the other end of the line (what our caller heard).
Adding contacts for dialling is also slick and easy, although the Nokia 5230 does not aggregate contacts from multiple social networks (like the Motorola Milestone or Palm Pre, or the upcoming Windows Phone 7 devices).
Nokia does offer a Facebook app for the Nokia 5230 and, really, social networking apps tend to pop up on the phone in unexpected places. For example, when you snap a photo, you can upload it to your Vox.com blog account.
Messaging lives or dies by how well the soft keyboard works on phones without a real QWERTY keyboard, and the Nokia 5230 is definitely alive and kicking by this standard.
The keyboard is responsive and accurate. In fact, we had more problems with accuracy on an HTC Hero than on this phone.
The accelerometer that senses whether you are in horizontal or vertical orientation also worked well – it's important in those times when you really need to type a message in landscape mode with the full soft QWERTY keyboard.
There were a few times when the Nokia 5230 flipped back to horizontal when we nudged it in the wrong direction, something the Nexus One and iPhone rarely do – but a problem that plagues models by HTC.
For the most part, the messaging apps – for texting and email – worked well, but we did notice a slight lag on this phone for basic operations, such as composing a new message.
Once again, the slower-than-average processor is just not fast enough to keep pace with a fast-fingered messaging aficionado.
We decided to test this theory and did a side-by-side comparison between the Nokia 5230 and a Nokia N900 – with its speedy operating system and 600MHz processor. Sure enough, composing an email was much faster on the N900 smartphone.
One complaint here is that the Google Mail client for Symbian did not work correctly on the Nokia 5230 – it seems to assume you have a hardware keyboard and does not bring up the software version correctly.
The simple workaround is to access Gmail from the browser or configure the built-in email client to access your Gmail account.
The lack of Wi-Fi means email attachments take a while to download to your phone, but once they do, we had no problems opening Word documents and viewing photos on the Nokia 5230 – even if we had to wait a few seconds.
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John Brandon has covered gadgets and cars for the past 12 years having published over 12,000 articles and tested nearly 8,000 products. He's nothing if not prolific. Before starting his writing career, he led an Information Design practice at a large consumer electronics retailer in the US. His hobbies include deep sea exploration, complaining about the weather, and engineering a vast multiverse conspiracy.