A major improvement for the Nokia Eseries that faces tough rivals. (December 13th, 2008)
Product Manufacturer: Nokia
Price: $100 (3 yr. CDN, Rogers); $442 (US unlocked)
- Very sturdy, stylish design.
- Good keyboard and navigation pad.
- Much improved battery life.
- Good GPS mapping and media playback.
- Easily accessible card slot and USB port.
- Good camera versus many phones.
- Very reasonable price.
- Symbian still tough to use in some areas.
- Mail isn't full-featured despite the phone's focus.
- Camera is a step down from the N95 in most respects.
- Browsing is still limited; connections aren't auto-managed.
- Rogers music player still at the top level and not very useful.
Nokia's E62 was always, comparatively speaking, the runt of the smartphone line in North America: outside of Europe, it was always sidestepped in favor of BlackBerries and Windows Mobile devices even before smartphones like the BlackBerry 8800 and the AT&T Tilt (HTC TyTN II) threatened to sweep the Nokia phone away. The E71 marks Nokia's return with a vengeance and is a dramatic improvement over the old device, though whether it's enough to unseat favorites in Canada and the US is the real question -- and one whose answer isn't immediately clear.
design and the keyboard
The E62 was a wide, fairly cheap-feeling device that called virtually no attention to itself and wasn't especially comfortable to hold. Thankfully, the same can't be said for the E71. Nokia has instead opted for a very solid-feeling, true metal design that feels absolutely unshakeable. It's also unusually narrow (2.24 inches across) and especially thin; at 0.39 inches deep, it's thinner even than the iPhone 3G. The combined effect is unusual in that the E71 is decidedly easy to grip with your fingers during a phone call where many full QWERTY phones often ask you to stretch your hand.
The back has received almost as much care as the front. It carries a form of understated luxury and yet has a textured feel that doesn't feel slippery. A chrome finish does make it hard to keep the back free of fingerprints, however.
This does have the ramification of shrinking the keyboard, which has a relatively unusual layout. Most smartphones' hardware keyboards have a slightly staggered layout to mimic a computer keyboard, but the size dictates that Nokia stack the keys almost perfectly vertically in a narrow format. It isn't quite as uncomfortable as it looks and is actually surprisingly quick and accurate. Having said this, the layout does occasionally produce errors. It's all too easy to hit "M" when you meant to type "N," for example.
Above the keyboard, the navigation pad is also a definite step up and could serve as a guidebook for other non-touch phone makers: the direction controls are clear and precise, and the four shortcut buttons (up from two on the E62) make it much easier to leap to calendars, contacts or the home screen than before. The side buttons are also reasonably well-positioned and convenient, if not entirely intuitive. Also, there's no dedicated lock button: unfortunately, users have to hit a slightly awkward key combination to start using the phone.
Ports are easily accessible; the microSDHC card slot and micro USB jack are both readily available through rubber covered doors, which is a relief from having to expose back panel covers or else leaving ports exposed. The E71 does use a 2.5mm headphone jack and is limited to its pack-in earbuds (or aftermarket adapters) as a result, though as a mostly business smartphone it's a more forgivable offense than if the N95 had done the same thing.