Prior to attending Nokia OpenLab, I was sent a Nokia E71 device for evaluation. Unfortunately I did not get time to do more than charge it before my trip, though I did get a walkthrough from the friendly staff at the Nokia Flagship Store in Chicago. Upon my arrival in Helsinki, I inserted the Finnish SIM card I got from Nokia and started using the E71 as my primary phone, as well as camera, notebook, etc. When I got back to the states I went back to my Treo 680, but then decided I really needed to put the E71 to task and put my own SIM in it, and used it as my primary phone for the next several weeks. Here’s my recap of this extremely positive experience.
Symbian For The Palm Guy
This was my first hands-on experience working with the Symbian operating system (OS) and S60, the platform that runs on it that powers the device. I had heard great things about it, namely its level of customization. This was a completely new thing for me, as a user of the Palm OS since the mid 90’s. Sadly, other than going color, Palm OS hasn’t evolved much over the years. There has been more activity on the ownership side of Palm OS, and the technical name for it today is now Garnet OS.
One of the first changes I made to the configuration was to show options and applications in list form rather than icons and to change the skin, both to make it easier for me to read. The general flow of S60 was logical, though there were some options that were not exactly where I thought they would be. I did like the home screen, with a clock and customizable list of icons for the options I would use most. A cool feature, in addition to the glowing Navi Scroll Key, is when you press the key when it is glowing, the time is displayed, which is handy as I (as well as others I am sure) use their device as a watch.
Using S60 is to learn S60 and to appreciate it. I most appreciated it being multi-threaded, so I could go between the browser, the phone and back without having to renavigate to where I was. I was also able to do everything using keys, as the E71 does not have a touchscreen. Though I (and others who are iPhone users) were tapping away at it at first, I quickly got over it when I was able to get to where I wanted to be. By walking through all menu options, I was able to truly learn all I could do.
The Physical E71
Of course I did a lot of comparisons between the E71 and my Treo 680. Palm once owned this market, and it was stripped from them by the likes of BlackBerry and now Nokia with this model. The phones had similar width and height, but the E71 is about half the thickness. This may be due to it not having a touchscreen, or just better design. Despite the size difference, it is only slightly lighter than the Treo, but it feels like a solid device, and a lot of that may be due to the amount of metal in the case. The keyboard took a little adjustment – the keys touch each other where on the Treo they do not. Also, the number 0 was to the right of the 9 rather than below the 8 and the * and # keys were to the side of 3 and 6 respectfully. On many occasions I hit the wrong keys when checking voicemail. Once I got over this, I forgot about it with the @ key being a primary key among other changes from the standard QWERTY keyboard.
There are 2 cameras on the E71, one on the front and one on the back. The one on the front is presumably so you can take pictures of video of yourself while you watch yourself. The camera itself was hit or miss with me, and I was prompted to test this from others’ experience. Pictures in brighter light came out better than those in dimmer light. Note my degree is in computers and not photography, and it could have also been what I was shooting and how. I was not a fan of the “spotlight” flash on the camera (there is only one flash, on the back) as when taking pictures of my baby daughter or other infants in dim light, it was impossible to get a shot without them wincing. But it is a 3.2 megapixel camera, and there were decent pictures I got from it, and it beat the socks off of the 640 x 480 pictures I get from the Treo.
Other thoughts on the E71 include the very long-life of the battery, the decent amount of memory (namely as I did not add a memory card to it) and the magnet that it is to fingerprints. I would put a piece of screen-guard film over the screen to reduce some of this. It only crashed on me once, interestingly when I was locking the keyboard. Crashing once in a month is not bad as compared to the several times a week it happens to my Treo 680.
Down To Business
The E71 is part of Nokia’s business line, and the phone does not disappoint. As I simply used the device without a plan, I hit on many of the features that were selling points to me on it. I was able to easily setup 2 POP email accounts, and could check mail with no problem. It took a little poking around to get email lists to show on 2 lines, and how I could choose to download entire messages or not. At one point I filled the on-board memory of the device and in my attempt to try to check mail, I somehow blew away my mailboxes. Not sure what I did, I recreated them and was back in business.
Browsing the Web was enjoyable as I was able to view full Web pages. I like how the browser will load a page, show part of it and as you scroll show you where you were on the larger page. Bookmarks showed favicons, a nice feature, and I was able to use pretty much any Web site I tried on it. And the multi-threaded S60 is worth mentioning again, as I was able to go between calls and the Web without losing my place.
You can create, edit and view Office documents on the E71. All I did was view a couple of Word documents that were emailed to me and I didn’t even realize I could do it – this is something I do on the Treo 680 all the time, and just assumed I could perform it on the E71 as well, and was not let down. I like the idea you can work with PowerPoint, as it would be a great tool to use for reviewing a presentation.
Applications I had fun with were Qik and the barcode reader. I had heard of Qik but never used it myself. Shooting and streaming video over S60 devices is, borrowing from my Boston roots, wicked cool. As I have not been able to find a barcode reader for Palm OS, the one installed on the E71 allowed me to experiment with QR codes, the 2-dimensional barcodes that are now starting to appear more in the US, and will soon be appearing on my own business card. I should note I did not use the GPS features much on the device. I did use Sports Tracker application one day on a walk to a business meeting, but I did not fully exploit these features.
I never installed the Nokia PC Suite and as a result never loaded my contacts onto the phone. This will be something to pursue once I get my own device as I am a Palm Desktop user and am not an Outlook user. The migration of contacts will probably take some work, a task I would like to avoid more than a trip to the dentist! I will probably check out Howard Forums and All About Symbian for input and advice as to the shortest path to completion of this task.
However I almost installed the PC Suite as I wanted to pull the pictures I took on the phone onto my PC. I was talking with tnkgrl at Nokia OpenLab and commenting I was about to do this, when she told me all I needed to do was plug in the USB cable, and the device would ask me how to “act” and I just had to choose it to act like a mass storage device, and it was like copying files from one drive to another. Sweet!
I Like It
In summary, I really like the Nokia E71. It is a durable, quality device that works with me to get the job done. It has a lot of the features the Treo 680 is lacking, and where there is a match of services, they are much better on the E71. It also sold me on Symbian and S60.
If you are looking for a new mobile device, I highly recommend you explore the E71. If you do, please feel free to comment as to your opinion of the device.
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Nice job Mike. Nokia was smart to make Symbian available to all via Open Source. Now folks can crank out lots of applications for it. I use Wayfinder Access as my navigation instrument. Very handy for a visually impaired person as it reads aloud streets and directions. I also love that my Nokia N82 allows you to set the menus and soft keys to any application. I use the voice recorder, phone directory, internet, gps, and of course, the KNFB Reader. The Reader utilizes the 5 MP camera to take a picture of any document and then reads what is on the page to me within seconds. BTW, I will be featured in the Boston Sunday Globe in the Sci-Tech section showing this stuff off. They are also going to put a video on Boston.com of me using this wonderful product. The PC Suite took all of 15 seconds to download. I am about to Sync for the first time this weekend as well. The best thing is that the learning curve flattened very quickly, so I feel confident all will go well for us both.
Comment by Don Pedro
on 10/23/08 at 07:20 AM
Thanks Don… I am glad to see you have found such an accessible device!
Comment by Mike Maddaloni
on 10/23/08 at 07:29 AM
I like that @ key. Its much better than my present e61i in terms of processor and memory. The form factor is just perfect.
Comment by Thejesh GN
on 10/24/08 at 03:27 AM
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