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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

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

Playing with my Logitech Bluetooth Mobile Headset

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My headset got here today, Amazon don’t mess around!

On first appearances – totally cool 🙂 It is a big big/bulky when you put it on (sticks out from your ear a bit, and waggles when you flick your head around), but it sits nicely, and feels quite comfortable, so it’s ok, and like I mentioned, I don’t need it to be ultra-sleek anyway. The case that it comes with is really cool – doubling as a charging cradle and travel protection case. I plugged it in and got it charging while having a quick look at the manual. Nothing too interesting, basically one button handles everything, it’s just a matter of how long you hold it down.

Pairing the headset with my phone (Nokia 6230) was extremely easy – just put the headset in discoverable mode (turn off, then hold down the magic button until the light flashes blue + red), then tell my phone to search for available enhancements (via the Bluetooth menu). A pairing code is required, but that’s just ‘0000’, as the manual states. Enter that and you’re off.

Then I started noticing some problems… browsing around with the headset connected, I’d get the volume indicator come up randomly, repeatedly. Turns out that the headset was disconnecting and reconnecting every couple of seconds.

I thought I’d give it a go with my iPAQ (H5500). Very similar process, equally simple. Headset into discoverable, then on the iPAQ you go to the Bluetooth Manager, make a new connection, select ‘Headset’ as the type. You need to search for it, then enter the pairing code (0000) and you’re connected. I chose not to bother with a secure/encrypted connection, since it’s just audio.

2 seconds later, I hear the tone on the headset that says it’s disconnecting, then another 2 seconds and it connects again. Same problem as with my phone – repeated disconnect/reconnect.

Since I was still at work at this stage, I decided I’d leave it until I got home to have a proper look at things.

When I got home, I had the chance to also try connecting to my PC. Now of the 3 different connections I have available, I at least expected my PC to work. I’m connecting a LOGITECH headset, to my computer, via the LOGITECH Bluetooth Hub. Guess what – same problem. I can pair it perfectly, and it thinks it’s connected, but then it just disconnects and reconnects again and again.

I’ve emailed Logitech tech support, but from my experience, they’re not very good. Amazon are going to have a return on their hands in the near future I think. Fingers crossed that the Logitech people just send me a new one or something, because I definitely think it’s something wrong with the headset. 3 attempted connections; 3 of the same faulty connection problems; sounds like a firmware problem to me!

Written by Beau Lebens

July 24th, 2004 at 4:00 pm

Configuring a Nokia 6230 for T-Mobile USA Service

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  1. It’s not officially supported by T-Mobile, so don’t bother calling support, they’ll tell you to go buy one of their handsets.
  2. Go to the online T-Mobile Configurator and follow the steps to configure details.
  3. Once you’ve had the details sent to your phone, make sure you activate them or nothing will change!

Why T-Mobile support couldn’t have told me to try their impressive online tool is beyond me, but they didn’t even mention it. Oh well, thank goodness for the Internets!

Written by Beau Lebens

July 20th, 2004 at 4:00 pm

Nokia 6230 Bluetooth Mobile/Cell Phone

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Nokia 6230 - specs @ nokia.com.auAs I mentioned in a previous post, I got a new phone before I left Australia, the Nokia 6230. I got it because it had Bluetooth, took video and photos, and was tri-band (so it would work in Australia and the US). Unfortunately, because I am on a pre-paid T-Mobile, I don’t have access to data or multimedia messaging, so it limits the cool things that I can do with my phone, but it still rocks, and is way ahead of most of the handsets available here, which was a bit of a surprise.

Some of the cool things that I like being able to do with my phone;

  1. Take a photo and then Bluetooth it to my iPAQ for editing, saving etc
  2. Dial a number on my phone, directly from my iPAQ
  3. Synch the Contacts (phone numbers etc) from Outlook on my PC, across to my phone – I always have every number I know about on hand now
  4. Use the loudspeaker/speakerphone – it’s surprisingly useful
  5. Take photos to use for my wallpaper!
  6. Play mp3s – can’t help it on that one, had to add it 🙂

So basically, I think it was a great purchase. Being stuck on T-Mobile (because they are the only ones I can find here that will allow me to bring my own handset, and use their SIM), and paying a fair bit for my calls sucks, but it’s bearable to keep using the phone, ’cause it’s so much better than the other stuff around here (and I paid for it outright man, I’m not going to retire it already!).

If you’re looking for a nice-sized, sturdy, full-featured phone for use in Asia, Australia or America, then the Nokia 6230 is your man 🙂

Written by Beau Lebens

July 4th, 2004 at 4:00 pm

The Bluetooth Triangle

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After getting my diNovo and getting it set up, I suddenly had Bluetooth on my desktop PC. So – what to do, I couldn’t very well just leave it there only running my mouse and keyboard, I had to see what else I could cook up. First step was easy: iPAQ.

I got my iPAQ transferring files quite easily, and after some tinkering with simulated COM ports and whatnot, I now have it so that I can do a complete ActiveSynch via Bluetooth, which is pretty cool I reckon. I just turn BT on on my iPAQ, then go to the synch program on it and say “Synch via Bluetooth” and off it goes. I have it and my desktop in a paired, trusted relationship, so they don’t ask for any passphrases or permissions or anything now. I can right-click on files and say “Send to… Bluetooth device” and send a file directly to my iPAQ as well, which is handy if I just want to throw one additional file over there, rather than doing a complete synch.

When it was time to move overseas, I decided it was also time for a new phone (possibly a bad move, but that’s another story about the tyranny of telecommunications companies and their strangle-hold on the market). I decided to get a Nokia 6230 for a couple reasons, mainly photos + video + bluetooth + tri-band. I installed the Nokia PC Suite 5, which includes the Nokia PC Synch and some other bits and pieces, and again, after some fiddling around with simulated COM ports, had it synching up with my PC (Outlook)’s Contacts and Calendar entries. Now I get 2 warnings for things, one on my iPAQ and one on my phone :). The best part though is that it means every contact number I have in my PC, is also available on my phone, which is a great thing to have.

So my Bluetooth Triangle consists of my desktop PC, which includes Bluetooth mainly to drive the keyboard and mouse, but which provides a central connection point for my phone which synchs in contacts and calendar items, as well as the ability to transfer photos and videos (and MP3s, since it has a media player built in), and my iPAQ, which does complete synchronisation with the desktop. I also can use my iPAQ to edit images taken with my phone’s camera by simply ‘toothing them over to it, working away, then ‘toothing them back – easy!

Written by Beau Lebens

June 30th, 2004 at 4:00 pm