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Archive for January, 2009

Nokia E66 Cellphone Review

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After having to send back the Nokia E71 that I was trialing, WOMWorld was kind enough to also send me an E66 to try out. I’ve been using this handset for about a week now, and I feel like I’ve used it enough to start offering some opinions and details.

Here we go.

This is the first “slider” phone that I’ve ever used (I’ve always had “candy bar” devices before), and I have to say that I didn’t like the slider design much at all. While the ability to simply slide the phone open/closed to unlock/answer calls and lock/end calls was kind of fun, the layers created on the keypad (different heights of keys depending on if they’re “outside” or “inside”) and the requirement to slide the phone before I can really do anything useful outweighed any coolness provided by the slide. In addition to be a slider, this is the first phone I’ve used in over 2 years that had a normal numeric keypad, rather than a full QWERTY keyboard, and apparently I’ve lost all patience of T9. I want my QWERTY. Combined with the slide vs. candy bar issue, this was almost enough to make me stop using the phone altogether.

Once I got over those issues (or rather, ignoring them for now, because I still haven’t gotten over them), I found the OS to be very similar to the E71, although I did notice a snazzy fade effect. When you transition between apps or menus, a neat fading effect is applied to make it less jarring. I don’t remember seeing that on the E71. Other than that the OS seems to be the same, with all the same updates over my E61.

There were 2 more big disappointments for me on this device when compared to the E71 in particular:

  1. The camera was completely buggy. It takes about 11 seconds to load the camera and have it start showing you an image, and when it does, it’s UPSIDE DOWN! I have no idea what’s going on here, I can only assume that this is a genuine bug either in the software or the hardware (camera installed upside down?). Videos and still images are all upside down, rendering the camera feature completely unusable. I looked everywhere for an option that might have been causing this to no avail.
  2. The A-GPS seemed far inferior to that of the E71. I found that it usually gave me a weak level of accuracy (under Google Maps) and that it took longer to update than the E71 did. This is a let-down because the GPS on the E71 was a specific feature that I liked.

OK — I’m not done bashing on this phone yet 🙂 I also didn’t like the external (top) keypad, the one with the main function keys. The keys are flat and there’s hardly any distinction between each key. They are also made from a slick plastic that causes you to slide around when your fingers are slightly sweaty or moist in any way. The E71’s center navigation button was made of a nicer, almost gripping rubber/plastic, as opposed to the button on this E66, which was again the slick plastic. This made it more difficult to navigate around (pressing up/down/center/etc), which is what you spend a lot of time doing on these phones.

There is a simple accelerometer in this handset that’s intended to do something akin to what the iPhone does when you turn it on its side. The problem is that it’s apparently not a very good one, because the handset sometimes takes some convincing to really turn, and even when it does, it’s often a bit of a mess. Not all applications (e.g. Google Mail) seem to support it properly, so you end up with your screen sideways, but your soft-keys still thinking things are in portrait. Basically I think this is a wasted feature as the phone is pretty awkward when held sideways anyway, so there’s not much motivation to use it in that mode.

Obviously, overall, I was much less satisfied with the E66 than I was with the E71. I didn’t even bother setting up synchronization with my laptop because I have no desire to “move in” on this phone properly. I’ll be sending it back as soon as it’s requested. Here’s a few things that using this handset taught me:

  1. I won’t be getting another handset without a QWERTY keyboard (or at least an on-screen keyboard a la iPhone),
  2. I’m not a fan of slider-style handsets,
  3. I’d rather have no GPS at all than have it, and have it be inaccurate (I’ll just get by on cell-tower triangulation thanks),
  4. Little things (like the material used to make keys) make a big difference to your experience with a handset

Verdict: E66, no thanks. E71, yes please.

Written by Beau Lebens

January 23rd, 2009 at 4:08 pm

Nokia E71 NAM Real World Usage Review

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Now that I’ve been using the Nokia E71 NAM for a few weeks, I wanted to post a follow-up review covering some of the more “day-to-day reality” aspects of the phone. I’m going to bullet-point my observations/comments for brevity’s sake, and as with my initial review, any comparisons made here are as compared to my Nokia E61:

The Good

  • The operating system is much snappier and more responsive overall. The phone just feels a lot faster than the E61.
  • The new 5 way navigation key absolutely rocks compared to the little joystick on the E61. The only thing I don’t like is that perhaps the outside edge (“arrows”) could be a little bit wider to make it easier to hit with the end of a finger.
  • Connecting to and using EDGE seems a LOT faster.
  • Wifi connect time and bandwidth/throughout also seems a lot faster.
  • Web pages render and respond a lot quicker (scrolling etc)
  • I like that when the phone is “asleep”, if you hold down on the middle button, the screen shows you a large clock for a brief period (including icons for any messages, missed calls, etc)
  • From the Home Screen, you can start typing the name of a contact and they will appear in a list so you can just select them from right there.
  • You can also dial letters now, which was a frustration of mine with the E61. If, for example, you needed to dial 1800FLOWERS, there was no way to do that on the E61 without figuring out what “FLOWERS” is in numbers, which is hard because you don’t have a normal phone keypad, you have a QWERTY keyboard instead. On the E71 you can dial 1800FLOWERS and it will figure it out.
  • After a quick download of an iSync plugin from Nokia I was able to synchronize my Calendar and Contacts to my Mac Address Book/iCalendar.
  • Google make a version of their Gmail App specifically for Symbian 60 series devices (e.g. the E71) and it’s really slick.
  • Google’s Map application is also available for the E71 and detects and uses the GPS device automatically. It’s awesome. It won’t give you true turn by turn directions, but you can plot out a course using the directions feature on Google Maps, then follow along using the GPS to achieve almost the same result.
  • I also tried out qik (over wifi) and it worked like an absolute charm. Simple set up, easy streaming, decent quality. I was very impressed.

The Not So Good

  • The operating system, although responsive, is still just as confusing/non-user-friendly as it always has been, if not a little more so. The menus have been moved around a little and things have been re-classified to make them even harder to find.
  • I felt like the vibrate feature is a bit weak. I rely a lot on my phone’s vibrate (rather than a loud, obnoxious ring-tone) and found that I quite often missed calls unless I was sitting down (so it was pushed to my leg) or somewhere really quiet where I actually heard my quiet ringtone.
  • It took a lot of poking around in the menu to figure out how to customize the 2 softkeys on the Home screen
  • As usual with recent Nokia phones, to use the voice-dial command you have to master talking like a robot, and can’t just record a voice-tag against a contact and use that.
  • I couldn’t figure out how to customize the middle button (between the volume up/down buttons) at all. That seems like a good button to be a shortcut to the camera.
  • The Automatic Network Selection algorithm on this phone seems to be quite aggressive. I noticed my handset changing quite frequently to another network because my signal got too weak.
  • I tried out Quickoffice, which is included with the handset. It is absolutely painful to try to create even a tiny, simple spreadsheet on 🙂

As a side story, I’ve been quite sick for the past few days, and spent most of my time either on the couch, or in bed. During that time, I used the E71 to browser the web, check email and send SMS messages a lot for 2 days without charging it at all. I was impressed that it stood up to that much usage with wifi, as the E61 tended to drain the battery quite quickly if you stayed connected too long. It was good to have a device like this handy to keep me at least a little bit connected (even if my mind was thoroughly disconnected!).

All in all I’ve been very impressed with the E71 thus far, and will be very sad to have to return it. Everyone else who has seen the phone has been impressed by its design, and by the features I’ve mentioned (usually GPS, internet access, email etc). It’s been described as a “sexy BlackBerry”, an “iPhone with a keyboard” and “sweeeet”, amongst other things. I’d have to agree with all of those descriptions.

Congratulations on another solid phone Nokia – now please spend a little more time on refining the software/UI side of things if you’re hoping to compete with the likes of Apple!

Written by Beau Lebens

January 6th, 2009 at 4:08 pm