One of the challenges presented by advancing communications tools like our smartphones is that it is so easy to do a lot of our work pretty much anywhere we are connected to a data network. Mobile phones made us easier to call and increasing data coverage makes it easier for us to remain in contact with email, instant messaging, social networks and the likes of Twitter. My E71 has software installed to make it easy for me to send and receive email pushed to my device using Nokia Email, keep in touch on Twitter using Gravity and message my contacts on a variety of instant messaging services using Nimbuzz (I haven’t reinstalled Fring since I got my phone back from repairs). I can be totally connected. The reason why this all presents a challenge is because it is so easy to forget to unplug from our work and take a break from it all.
This was the theme of Nokia’s E75 launch event yesterday at the Skin Sense Day Spa in Rivonia yesterday. It was all about work-life balance and how the E75 is a device that is geared for helping you achieve that. I can see how Nokia tries to market the phone partly as such a device but mostly I think it is more important to develop better habits than it is to pick a specific device. That being said, the E75 has functionality which does make it easier to close the office door.
The launch event started with a talk from Clinton Jacobs from BMI-Techknowledge. I tend to be a little skeptical of industry analysts. They seem to position themselves just ahead of the mainstream adoption curve so they retain some degree of plausible deniability in case their vague predictions turn out to be false. I sometimes see them as pseudo PR people who subtly create markets for stuff under the guise of research.
Clinton Jacobs from BMI-Techknowledge
Clinton spoke about his research and observations on the work-life balance and mobile devices and services generally. As technology evolves we can expect to see greater convergence on a number of levels, including devices themselves. There is also an increasing blurring of the lines between work and leisure.
Social networks and messaging tools are increasingly available on mobile devices in more meaningful formats. That being said, no single device will satisfy all needs. There is a trend towards fewer devices that meet most of our needs. Converged, capable devices have applications as thin clients for Web applications, location based services, in unified communications and in cloud computing environments.
Jacobs spoke about cloud computing and virtualisation trends as having potential. This shouldn’t be news to anyone using social services online in any meaningful way and his comments about these two trends was a reminder how ahead of the curve the SA online community is.
While there is definitely an increasingly mobile workforce it is important not to overstate certain trends. Jacobs spoke about smartphones
become becoming [Editorial: There are days I wonder how I managed to do so well in English in school with grammar like this!] laptop replacements alternatives to laptops with 3G access [Update: I have discovered that I misquoted Jacobs, he wasn’t saying smartphones are laptop replacements, rather that they offer an alternative to laptops with 3G access]. This is typical analyst speak and not entirely correct unless your business needs are relatively limited and you are comfortable working off a mobile device on an ongoing devices. I love my E71 and almost all my mobile devices and as much as I fantasise about working on these small devices, nothing quite compares to my MacBook when it comes to certain tasks. These devices still lack the power, the form factor and the applications to replicate a laptop.
The lines between business and pleasure/leisure are blurring and one consequence is arguably greater efficiency. This may be but what advanced mobile tools do enable is working from more or less wherever you may be (more or less). Clearly there is a need for converged smart devices but it is also important to maintain harder edges between work and personal life. It is far too easy to work wherever you may be so emphasising these differences can be key to reducing the effects of the continuous flow of information.
Mathia Nalappan’s talk
Nokia SA’s General Manager spoke next. I found his talk to be somewhat more compelling. He talked about de-emphasising the device and focussing on the device’s utility for users. Efficiency is extremely valuable and time is a “precious asset”. I can identify with this myself and I am sure a great many business people can too.
Nokia has partnered with IBM and Microsoft and has removed the barriers to freer flow of emails and information. The E75 is the first Nokia device that comes with Nokia Email pre-installed. This is a very useful application that is a big improvement over the default Nokia email application found on earlier devices. What it does is give you the benefit of virtual push email without the need for an intervening service (like Blackberry, for example). Nalappan said that Nokia Email probably supports around 90% of the email providers available. I have Nokia Email on my E71 and it generally works pretty well. The current version has added HTML support!
Data encryption is a standard feature on the E75 and was added in recognition of the need for this capability in business environments. The E75 also comes standard with mobile VPN technology. Other security features include remote and auto locking to help keep devices secure. You have choice of connectivity options and a feature called Destinations (going beyond Maps) which you can use to set access point preferences. So you can set your preference to wifi in your office or home and mobile networks when out and about.
The E71 has screens for personal and business use. The E75 has this feature too. The feature enables you to set which home screen applications and shortcuts are available so you can tell your device to hide business email notifications and only show you stuff suited for your weekends or after hours. It is a handy feature and a nice way to actively switch off from work. Nalappan also mentioned that the E75 can support multiple phone numbers although I didn’t get details from him about this. As I understand it, the phone supports a multiple SIM setup and I believe much of this takes place at the network level.
Nokia’s strategy is to present a wide range of options for consumers. The phones are available now and in black, red and copper and on all networks. I understood that the devices are being shipped to stores now and should be available shortly if they aren’t available already.
The E75 and the E71 are pretty similar in terms of specifications. One of the big appeals of the E75 is the slide-out keyboard which makes typing and messaging a lot easier. I like that the phone comes with Nokia Email pre-installed. This software is a big improvement over the default email application in other devices, including the E71. I tried the beta version of Nokia Email on the 5800 Xpress Music when I had it for review recently and that worked pretty well too.
The Destinations feature appeals to me and I’d like to see that available for my E71 (I haven’t checked yet to see if it is available). If you are looking for a messaging device and you have been considering the E71 (still a hot item for Nokia – can’t stock the shelves fast enough), then take a look at this device too. It isn’t as slim as the E71 but it feels solid and you may prefer its keyboard.
Note: I have uploaded datasheets, images of the E75 and some other interesting information to Drop.io
Update: Here is a great video with some insights into the thought processes that went into developing the E75. I love these videos. It is great to have these peeks into what the product development teams were thinking when they designed and built these devices.