I received a Nokia E71 test unit about a week ago from Nokia care of Fleishman Hillard (thanks Olga Queen!). It came at a great time because I have been salivating at the thought of getting one of these popular devices for myself for a little while now. The first thing I did was to turn it on and take a couple comparative photos with my Nokia N73 (probably the worst Nokia phone I have ever used and thankfully soon to be forgotten) and my iPod:
A common comment about the E71 is how slim it is and it is really slim. Reviewers who make that comment often then say you need to hold it to experience just how slim and well built the phone is and they are right. I am not going to present yet another review of the phone in this post (I recommend Jonathan Greene’s excellent review instead). Rather I thought I would let you know what my experiences were using the phone as my day to day phone for the last week or so.
The phone’s interface is pretty fast and that is already a huge plus for me. I am so used to my N73 taking a couple minutes (ok, a slight exaggeration) to do anything that doing anything on this phone was blissful. Menus responded when I clicked buttons and applications opened when I wanted them to.
One of the reasons I want the E71 is the keypad which is a great looking QWERTY keypad. The keys are pretty small but, as some reviewers have mentioned, the keys are raised and that makes a big difference. I actually struggled more with the location of the keys than I did typing out accurate words (although it does take a little time to start typing as fast as you may be accustomed to with a normal numeric keypad) mainly because I have only really used a numeric keypad on a mobile device for the last decade or so that I have been using a mobile phone.
The screen on the E71 is apparently the same size as my N73’s screen and while this doesn’t seem like a very accurate assessment of their relative sizes, the E71’s landscape orientation does indeed make a difference to activities like web browsing, email and applications like Nokia Maps (which looks great on the E71). I understand the web browser is a Webkit-based browser (the same engine that powers Safari and Google Chrome to name two modern browsers) and it is pretty zippy. It isn’t as good looking as Safari on the iPhone but then again there are reasons why I chose not to pursue an iPhone and go for this baby instead. That being said the browser on the E71 does a great job rendering pages and its handling of flash video on the web blew my mind mainly because I wasn’t expecting what it did. I pulled up a random video on Blip.tv and the video displayed in my browser although because the video size on the size was bigger than the display space, it didn’t fit very well. So I clicked on the video and it resized for the display and played as if I loaded it as a standalone video! Try do that with an iPhone 3G.
As awesome as the browser is, the email is very humdrum. There is no html support in email but the flipside is that email on the E71 works pretty well. I was using Google’s Gmail and Google Apps for Your Domain Mail apps for my two main mail accounts and decided to instead use the E71’s built in email app. The E71’s email app recognises certain webmail services and configures the local email account using those services’ specific settings. When I set up my Gmail account I gave the E71 my username and password and the phone gave me an IMAP configured Gmail account where all I had to add was my name and to capitalise the account name. Very nicely done! It didn’t take much more work to configure my Google Apps mail account either.
I have read a couple reviews where reviewers have lamented the relatively poor camera on the E71. True its 3.2 megapixel camera doesn’t really compare to the 5 megapixel Carl Zeiss cameras on some of the Nseries phones but you have to bear in mind that the Eseries is intended for business whereas the Nseries is for consumers who want a media/games/non-business use phone. The E71 is a little drab when it comes to its themes and its entertainment functionality isn’t quite as cool as some of the better Nseries phones but if you can live with a little drab, you will be quite happy with the E71’s fun side.
There are two aspects of the phone which I was a little disappointed with. The first is the GPS. It is very possible I fudged something on the device when I was navigating the seemingly endless range of prompts and warnings about licenses and so on when I turned on Nokia Maps (in itself an issue – give me one, maybe two, prompts, not a dozen when I am driving and just want to find my way somewhere) but I haven’t been able to get the GPS to connect to the satellites overhead and find me on a map. My second disappointment is that I haven’t been able to work out how to use the phone as a modem despite installing the E71 driver for my Mac and setting the phone up to be used as a modem. Both of these issues probably have simple solutions, I just couldn’t work them out.
Otherwise battery life is pretty good (I spent about two days playing with it almost constantly, most of that time using wifi or 3G and I have half a battery left); voice quality is great (although the speakerphone isn’t very loud) and I just love wifi in a mobile device! Those of you who have had wifi are probably spoilt by it but not having had it, it is wonderful! I connect to my home network and everything just flies. I could definitely see myself using the E71 for more of the tasks I have been lugging my MacBook around and while this is hardly a laptop replacement (especially not for my MacBook), being able to check my mail on the fly; browse the Web and check my Newsgator feeds using the Java app at (up to) HSDPA speeds covers a lot of ground for me and likely a fair amount of idle time in between doing stuff.
I love this phone. As crappy as my N73 is, this is a great phone and I am looking forward to buying one of these babies for myself (just need to find a store with stock). Thanks again to Olga at Fleishman Hillard and to Nokia for the chance to try this device out. While I was pretty much set on the phone after seeing Jonathan Greene’s review, this last week has sealed the deal for me and I am once again a Nokia fan and the iPhone is a distant memory …