Nokia E70 smart phone
World-beating design let down by bugs?
Review Nokia's eagerly-anticipated E70 phone revives one of the company's cleverest designs, stuffs it full of bleeding-edge features, and aims it squarely at the enterprise market for the first time. It's one of the most versatile designs on offer, and appears at a time when enterprise email has matured.
Unfortunately, the promise of the design remains just that. The phone has been released too early: the flakey software on today's production model makes for an unsatisfactory user experience.
The fold-out design made its debut three years ago in Nokia's 6800. Finding an appropriate metaphor for this design isn't easy. We've suggested 'mousetrap', but Rafe Blandford's "gull-wing" is probably the most elegant and evocative. Based around a hinge, the keypad lifts up, and as the phone is rotated through 90°, with the screen rotating too, it reveals a split keyboard. This permits the phone designer to pack a full QWERTY keyboard into a small space, and it's an approach that doesn't compromise the simplicity of its use for basic phone functions. The widely copied Blackberry design offers fewer keys, and mixes up the numeric keypad with the other keys.
A year later, Nokia followed the 2003 model with the 6820 [read our review], which knocked a third off the volume of its predecessor without significantly impacting the convenience of the QWERTY keyboard. For users who valued messaging, this was a welcome move, and the 6820 might be the most versatile phone ever made: 100mm and 100g remains the sweet-spot for phone designers today.
The E70 sees a return to the larger proportions of the 6800, but packs in 802.11b/g Wi-Fi and a dazzling 352 x 416 pixel screen. This is twice the resolution of first and second generation Series 60 devices.
Unfortunately, at this highly competitive end of the market, the decision sees the E70 weigh in as one the bulkiest, although not the heaviest, of its primary peers. See the comparison table below.
Nokia will doubtless argue, with some justification, that only its 9300 and E70 models provide a full, QWERTY keyboard. And both too win out on features likely to appeal to enterprise: Wi-Fi and security.
As you can see from the chart, Motorola's Q may steal the laurels by being the slimmest of the bunch but, incredibly, like the M600i, the Q doesn't offer Wi-Fi, and the Q screen feels cramped when compared to the luxurious Nokia displays.
I've used an E70 for 3 months now
I've had all three of Nokia's gull-winged phones, and still use a 6822 as a backup phone.
Download Opera Mini for surfing most websites, and use the Web browser for gmail, which it handles perfectly. Gmail + the E70 are a neat mobile email solution that I now use for 50-70% of my email (leaving the longer emails for when I get back to my desk).
I've found wifi to work very well, after some initial pain getting the security settings to work. It did take me several hours to get the wifi working on my secured access point but once it worked, it was flawless. And surfing open wifi points is a cinch.
The OS is too slow and complex for my tastes. It takes 5-7 seconds just to open a new memo. That's unacceptable. The keyboard action is too stiff, more work than the 6822. I like to type a lot of memos but it's not practical this phone, despite the generous screen. Why can't I reduce the size of the screen fonts, for instance?
The format of the phone is excellent; it's a bit heavy but provides me so much in that package that I don't mind. Good camera, good video recording, USB connectivity, expandable memory... all nice features. I tried connecting a Bluetooth keyboard (a laser keyboard) but no joy, even after downloading a BT keyboard driver from Nokia.
The software is... second class. Pretty, but flawed in many ways. Switching applications does not work well. Applications run out of memory. I've crashed the phone by exiting a Java application at the wrong moment. The way photos and documents are managed is totally uninuitive. Basic functions like editing a memo take too long. There's no way to display the phone numbers for contacts in the summary, an essential feature. The email manager (which lets one download emails) has no way of deleting emails. And so on. The phone has options like VoIP that are so complex I've not managed to configure them. This is a very bad sign. Why does the phone contain functionality that people cannot use, but cut-back on basic functionality everyone needs? Not a good sign.
I can see many possibilities for such a format, if the software were more intelligent. For example, how about an email system that detects open wifi networks without any prompting and silently downloads and uploads emails as it can, then alerts you when new email arrives.
There are two ways this format can go, IMO. One is to return to a simpler and more sane OS, something like PalmOS. Two is to move to Linux and open source the applications so that the developers of the world can fill in the gaps left by Nokia's QC department. To continue with more buggy and complex software will drive away users. I might buy one more gullwing after this, but if Nokia can't deliver my core requirements, I will probably return to separate devices: AlphaSmart Dana for taking notes, a Palm for my agenda and wireless surfing, and a small, simple, fast phone for voice.
Nokia E70, VoIP and Wifi
I have had my E70 for a couple of weeks now. The VoIP client itself takes some time to set up, but has excellent speech quality once you got it working. (I've got mine connected to my asterisk server).
The Wifi implementation is not so good - and that is very nicely worded. After a couple of minutes, the VoIP client doesn't register any more because the WiFi connection doesn't work any more - even though the phone claims it is still connected. You can check that it's the WiFi connection by using VoIP over GPRS - everything is fine (quality of course bad, but the client stays registered).
Nokia has to do something about the WiFi implementation on this phone - the E61 has exactly the same problem. I sent mine back to Nokia to fix it!
No VoIP review :(
It looks like the reviewer missed out to see the VoIP feature of E70. There was no mention of it.. Has anyone got any info on that?
Symbian OS is a disaster
Symbian phones are unstable (most of them reboot itself at least twice a week), memory leaking and with unwieldy User Interface. On top of it Symbian Signed making it a closed platform, killing most of 3d party application devlopment and destroying backward compatibility. Who need smartphone which can only use preinstalled applications ?
I must admit, I'm itching to use this phone. I've got two of them in my cupboard which are currently useless. We want the phones as a Blackberry with a full keyboard, to replace a few Siemens SK65's (another great phone design with flaky software)
Nokia have finally released the Blackberry client, but the firmware on the phones is too low to install it. No supplier or Nokia Care Centre has any phones with a high enough firmware, so my phones are left gathering dust.
At some point, Nokia must allow end-users to flash their own phones. Until then, we are all at the mercy of their supply chain and their deminishing reputation.