The Nokia X6 runs on the Symbian^1 operating system and platform. S^1 was formerly named Symbian S60 5th Edition, and serves as the first application of Touchscreen elements in the S60 branch of the Symbian platform. Thankfully, the X6 is not the first use of this OS on a Nokia device, and there has been a number of lessons learned (and some forgotten) in this implementation.
The hardware of the X6 gives this smartphone a few notches in its favor right off the bat: more program memory (over 270 MB free after booting) and a faster processor (clocked at 600 MHz). This allows the X6 to be one of the faster devices running S^1, but at the same time, faster doesn’t always mean better.
Until a recent firmware update, for instance, the X6 was a very bad manager of of its RAM. So, while it had tons of space to store applications, it (like the N97) had very little space to actually run them (less than 50 MB on boot). So, run a few heavier applications such as Ovi Maps and Nokia Messaging, and you will be hard pressed to even take a phone call without one of those apps shutting down on you. This has been remedied in part with the V20 update, but there is still only so much software can do to fix not enough headroom with hardware.
Thankfully, this is the only glaring weakness for the X6. Much like Nokia’s other S^1 devices, newer firmware updates have improved the general use and consistency of the operating system. Features such as kinetic scrolling, better utilization of network resources for better battery life, and even tweaks in the UI makes the X6 very much the livable device.
As with other Symbian devices, phone signal and voice quality are excellent. I swap between a Truphone (using T-Mobile’s network) and AT&T SIM card and have no issues with the delivery of messages or call clarity. Depending on your region, these results could waver a bit.
Because the X6 is sold unlocked, it can be used with an array of carriers, as long as they use the GSM standard.
This model backs up its 3G support with Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. The version I bought even came with a set of Nokia BH- 214 Bluetooth Stereo headphones — an unexpected find in the box.
The Symbian platform has long been lauded for its solid phone-oriented features, and the Nokia X6 continues that legacy unchangingly. The key improvement in the phone interface is in the addition of the contacts carousel, which appears on the homescreen.
This carousel allows you to put up to 20 persons there for quick access. Clicking the avatar/photo of the person, you are given a menu of quick actions (voice call, send SMS/MMS, read RSS feed, or configure mini-card details) and a log of recent activities to that specific contact. It can seem like a little things, but if you have a core set of people you contact, then this carousel works great.
The other PIM functions are basically unchanged. With the only exception being the addition of kinetic scrolling throughout. One note, unlike the n97 (and a few other S^1 devices), when scrolling the contacts list, you don’t get the neat letter pop-up indicating where you are in the list. Typing is context-sensitive within Contacts, but takes a good bit longer than scrolling.
The X6 also comes with File Manager, a link to the online service Files on Ovi, number converter, Real Player, and a few games. Additional applications can be installed from the Ovi Store application (included in the latest firmware, or it can be manually downloaded).
In use, the X6 is similar to other Symbian devices in everything except the loudspeaker – its clear, loud, and really nice. There’s nothing that really stands out in its productivity software, and then again, the X6 really does fit in very well, just as it does in the hardware and design.
The Nokia X6 is a music-focused device and its here that it shines the best. When it comes to access the Web, it’s OK, even competent, but again, nothing that stands out.
The music application is the same standard Symbian Music Player that has graced many devices over the years. This iteration of the app includes the RDS Radio, Podcasting, Recorder, and Playlist DJ apps, and a stub to the Ovi Music store for purchasing music. The X6 as sold in the U.S. isn’t a Comes with Music device, though you can select to either sideload music from the Ovi Store (supported markets only), iTunes, or any other music store right to the device.
Because the bulk of my music is stored on my N97 — and the X6 lacks a memory card to efficiently transfer music from one device to another in absence of a PC — I use the music streaming application Mobbler and have found both the sound quality and battery life to be more than sufficient for leisurely listening or workout sessions, even with the included Bluetooth headphones.
Still, the X6 offers plenty of storage space for those who want to keep their files locally: 16 GB.
This Nokia model is not able to take advantage of the homescreen widgets, as the N97 and n97 Mini can. It has widgets for contacts, applications, and the Music Player (this one only shows when music is playing from the default player only). Widgets are pretty much just lighter applications in the context of the X6.
An application that is definitely not lighter, and does show some promise is Ovi Maps. Recently updated to version 3.04, Ovi Maps is almost like another world inside of the X6. GPS locks are fast, and there has been some improvements in the POI databases used — it’s not as good as Google, but much better since the X6’s launch. The additional applications for Lonely Planet and Michelin are neat – when there’s content to be displayed for where you are or are traveling. And unlike the N97, it doesn’t randomly shut down as often due to the RAM issues.
A couple of other applications that I use on the X6 fairly often are SportsTracker, and Quickoffice Viewer. These and other applications are available in the Ovi Store.
So again, it’s a very capable device, — and without needing too many additional applications to be so — which does surprise some folks. But in that respect, the X6 is much like the rest of Nokia’s lineup: functional to a point, and working on getting prettier while doing that work.
This Nokia smartphone comes with Messaging, an app that supports SMS, MMS, Microsoft Exchange ActiveSync, and several POP/IMAP email accounts. I actually prefer Nokia Messaging Email, which replaces the Messaging app and supports HTML messages and in most cases is just a faster, better, and easier way to do email.
I don’t fine it terribly easy or hard to do browsing on the X6, it’s just tedious. For example, there’s a page overview mode, but because of how sensitive the capacitive screen is, it’s difficult to use that to zoom around a page — in addition to it taking three taps just to initiate that mode.
This is probably the area of the X6 that gets the lowest marks in my book. Thankfully, many popular websites do have widgets or full applications, which allow you to bypass the web browser for some tasks.
The X6 sports a 5 megapixel camera with Carl Zeiss optics. We see the same dual-LED approach which grants better low-light and video taking, and a much faster processing time between taking pictures due to the use of 16 GB of internal (non-removable) memory.
As with other Nokia products over the years that have had this lens, the auto-focus works best on non-moving and well-defined objects. Though I can say that the quality of the X6 is what made me retire my N95 finally. Photos and videos both are definitely an upgrade despite essentially the same tech used (two plus years apart).
The camera software also supports geotagging and the sending of photos and videos to Ovi Share, other photoblogging services, and even other contacts.
The battery gives about 1 day of moderate use with the AT&T SIM, 2.5 days with the Truphone SIM – this is the North American 3G model, supporting AT&T’s 3G bands, hence the difference in use times.
When listening to music, it will last me 3.5 hors before a low battery warning.