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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

Nokia E71 NAM First Impressions

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A few weeks ago, I got an email that I almost discarded as spam, asking me if I would like to try out a Nokia phone for a few weeks. As it turns out, the email was completely legitimate, and the offer was genuine. The good folks over at WOMWorld Nokia wanted to send me a Nokia E71 NAM (the NAM is for North AMerica, since there’s a slightly different European version) so that I could try it out and see if  I liked it. Either way, I was welcome (encouraged) to write about it, talk about it, and generally let people know what I thought of it. This is the first of 2 posts that I will be making about the phone and the experience I had with it. I wanted to do one as a “first impressions” post, and then one at the end of the test period (unfortunately, I have to send it back 🙁 ) with more detail on my experiences.

Unboxing

I took a few snaps while I was opening the delivery, and of the phone when I first got it, also comparing it to my current Nokia E61 handset. In addition to the handset, they also sent me a Nokia BH-602 bluetooth headset to try out (as you’ll see below).

Unboxing Nokia E71 Unboxing Nokia E71

Side by Side Phone on Phone Action

Exterior

As soon as you lay your eyes on this phone, you’ll see it’s a sexy little number. It’s got a very similar form factor to the iPhone, although obviously there is a full keyboard in play here, so the screen is a lot smaller relatively speaking. Let’s check out a few of the things I noticed immediately:

  1. Uber-hot chroming/shiny-ness all over
  2. Dimpled stainless steel back-cover
  3. Much more compact (read: smaller) keyboard than my E61
  4. New keys! There are new keys which looking at the icons are (L-R): Home, Calendar, Contacts, Mail. The E61 had a weird “menu” key and a Mail key only.
  5. Thinner and narrower, but same height
  6. The screen appears to be slightly smaller (but when you turn it on, it’s crisp and sharp and very bright)
  7. External access to the memory card slot and a mini-USB port
  8. They’ve switched the volume up/down buttons to the other side of the phone
  9. There’s not one, but TWO cameras on the device. One on the back (with an LED flash and a small mirror for “MySpace photos”) and one on the front, I assume for video calls.
  10. The E61’s kinda poky joystick has been replaced with a nice big square key, surrounded by a single, connected directional key for L/R/U/D.

Gettin’ Dirty

Once I’d gotten over how much sexier this handset was than my current one, it was time to play around with it a bit and see if the actual experience of using it lived up to the exterior (never judge a book by its cover and all that).

One of the first things I noticed was that the screen was very crisp, and the colors were sharp. I’m not 100% sold on the font selection on the device, but generally the visual side of things is an improvement over the E61. All the icons got an update, but I actually liked the older, angled versions a bit better. Some of the color selections for highlighting things (black with a red outline?) are a bit odd as well on the theme that was active when I got it.

As far as responsiveness goes, the E71 blows the E61 out of the water. Going back now and comparing the 2 makes it feel like the E61 is running in a bucket of molasses, trapped in a time-warp where everything goes in slow motion. I really can’t stress the difference in speed that’s evident doing anything and everything on the phone. The E71 is quick, smooth, and jumps from task to task without a pause. Even when you leave a bunch of applications running it still seems to handle itself better than the E61 with nothing running.

The keyboard, although smaller than on the E61, actually feels better. It took a little getting used to but the new key style is more responsive and the tactile feedback is much nicer than the squishyness on the E61. There are a few compromises made to get the keyboard smaller though; namely the removal of the right shift key (makes it tricky to do shift+@/x/c because they’re so close). They’ve also moved a few special characters around (or hidden them off in the character selection menu somewhere) which is a pity, because I often use double-quotes (“) and ampersands (&) and both of these got sidelined.

Having a camera back on my phone is a treat that I’d learned to live without. The E61 was an “enterprise” device, so they decided that it didn’t need a camera on it (the E61i released shortly thereafter fixed that mistake), so I haven’t had a cameraphone for almost 2 years now. I was quite surprised with the quality on the camera – it’s decent, but not quite as good as I remembered 3 megapixels to be honest.

Here’s a couple of sample pictures to show you what it can do (click through for full-sized versions). L-R are: Inside, overhead incandescent lighting; Outside, mid morning, natural lighting; At night, with the LED flash only.

Mini Christmas Uphill

Parking Meter

Other than that, a lot of the features are the same or similar to the E61, so I’ll post a bit more of a comparison once I’ve played with it more. I am supposed to return the handset after the new year unfortunately. I already really like it, and am finding myself enjoying it a lot more than my E61.

More to come closer to return-time, stay posted.

Written by Beau Lebens

December 20th, 2008 at 4:09 pm