updated 12:20 am EDT, Fri April 3, 2009
Nokia Hands-on at CTIA 09
Nokia had only the E71x to introduce at this year's CTIA, but the company's booth on the show floor is also the first opportunity for many in the US to see phones that have until now only been on view in Europe. We tried the N86 8MP and found that it's ultimately a pedestrian phone in most respects; its design recalls the N85 with the exception of the obvious swap of dedicated camera controls on the slider. However, what we could see showed a phone that lived up to its hardware claims, with a fairly bright and rich OLED as well as a high-resolution camera. Photo quality is unsurprisingly difficult to test without a larger screen and freedom of movement, but previews were promising.
We also tried the Finnish phone developer's two new business phones, the E55 and E75. There's little to say about the E55 as its only real change is a SureType keypad with two letters on each key; the feature is convenient if a user is a fan of the BlackBerry Pearl's layout and a nuisance if not. However, the E75 arguably makes a good phone (the E71) better. The slide-out QWERTY keyboard is decidedly more comfortable and easier to punch quickly than the E71's usable-but-narrow fixed design. There's also an improved e-mail interface that may tackle one of the E71's greater flaws, though without the true freedom to test the e-mail client this was difficult to gauge. Perhaps the most useful improvement beyond the input itself is the ability to view content in either portrait or landscape views thanks to the keyboard's presence.
The E71x in question isn't particularly unique by itself. It is, effectively, a cosmetic variant of the stock version with AT&T-specific software that may or may not matter to those who want carrier-backed GPS subscriptions or similar features. We found the original comfortable but partially hampered by software design choices. All the same, the device will often be a better alternative to the unlocked version and some other phones simply due to price: at $100 on a two-year plan, the E71x is less than half the $359 price of the unrestricted version.