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 likes to pitch its smartphones as "multimedia computers" largely because they do much more than take calls. That's certainly true with the E71, and perhaps its best recommendation is that it rarely leaves its owner at a loss for features. There's no one aspect that will do anything less than an acceptable job, and for GPS as well as common calling, it's excellent. The form factor is a welcome relief from the outright fat designs that plague competitors, too. It's a smartphone that doesn't intrude the way many smartphones do, and it even manages this while delivering reasonable battery life.
At the same time, the majority of features don't truly rise above that level. Messaging isn't as good as on a BlackBerry, and media and web browsing aren't as good as they are on an iPhone. The operating system is also mired in a set of legacy design decisions that slow down even experienced users configuring the phone to work the way they'd like it. Nokia's phone will do the job well for many, but those who want especially strong performance in any one category will be a bit disappointed.
Wisely, Rogers has mostly left the E71 alone, though it would be appreciated if the carrier pushed its own music application to the background rather than attempting to draw the few customers that are likely to shop for songs on a business phone.
Thankfully, Nokia has one feature going for the E71 that many of its competitors can't match and which the company isn't normally known for: a low price. On Rogers, the only North American carrier currently selling the phone subsidized, the handset sells for just $100 Canadian ($80 US) tied to a long three-year plan. That's half as much as many competing devices, and even at full price it sells for $400. The US version sells for $442 but comes completely unlocked and thus supports apps that would otherwise be restricted, such as VoIP calling.
As such, it's not a trivial expense but could very well be the best budget option for a full-featured smartphone. More importantly, Nokia doesn't treat its design as an afterthought. The company just needs to put the phone on par with competitors on their strongest points, not just defeat them at their weak points.