Nokia E61 smart phone
The Finnish firm's would-be BlackBerry beater
Review It has taken the major handset makers some time to respond to the success of Research in Motion's BlackBerry. Having tried to convince buyers that what they really want is a regular handset that can also send and receiver email, phone makers like Nokia have just had to accept that there is a demand for devices with big screens and keyboards. Announced last year, the E61 has finally begun shipping as Nokia's answer to the near-ubiquitous RIM email tool...
The wedge-shaped E61's layout will be familiar to BlackBerry users but feels a wide affair if you're used to more traditionally styled phones and even if you've used a Palm Treo. The phone's face is dominated by a gorgeous 320 x 240, 16m-colour screen and the QWERTY keyboard. Between the two sit the joystick, dedicated menu and email buttons then the soft menu keys and, below them, the call make and break buttons. All the keys are kept apart and well-placed for two-hand and single-hand usage. It's a little weighty, perhaps, but not prohibitively so.
Above the screen sit the power key and the incoming email alert light, both symmetrically placed either side of the earpiece. The speaker grille is on the phone's left side, next to the volume control keys - alas, they're not Nokia's answer to the BlackBerry's jogdial - and a third key which activates the voice recorder.
The base of the handset is home to the infrared port - do people still use these? - and Nokia's Pop-Port connector. And that's it - the rest of the phone is entirely featureless. There's not even a camera on the back. Part of the back-panel slides off to expose the battery compartment, the SIM slot and the handset's memory card bay. The SIM slides in sideways and is held in place by the battery itself. The MiniSD card - there's a 64MB unit in the box - is hot swappable and could have been made accessible without having to remove the back-panel had the cover been sculpted with suitably sized hole. Presumably, Nokia believes E61 users aren't the kind to swap memory cards in and out on a frequent basis. Not that removing the back-panel is hard, and at least this way the card is kept safe from accidental removal and loss.
Starting up the E61 for the first time with a new SIM forces it to determine which network you're using and install appropriate data connection codes. Clearly, if you buy your E61 through a carrier, all this will have been done for you. The handset runs Nokia's Series 60 (S60) front-end to the Symbian OS - version 9.1 here - and you've the customary array of PIM and messaging applications. These are joined by Nokia's new browser and a set of office applications: Document, Sheet, Presentation and Screen Export, the latter used to control a plug-on projector connection module.
Nokia provides PC-based synchronisation tools, but I hooked the phone up to my MacBook Pro using Bluetooth and Apple's iSync software. Pairing the devices was straightforward, but with the current version of iSync pre-dating the arrival of the E61, I was forced to hack the application to allow it to recognise the new handset. This done - the information's available on the Mac OS X Hints website - I was able to add the E61 to iSync's list of maintained devices and copy over more than 300 contacts and a dozen or so calendar entries.
Hope that Nokia pays attention!
Thanks for telling it like it is. I have been demoing this phone for the last month and was wondering if the software engineers ever tried to setup or use WiFi outside of their office cubicle. This phone has great potential, but the software UI needs to take more than a few lessons from the good old Palm Treo, that actually lets you intuitively manage your network connections. After a recent trip cost me more than €100 Euro in roaming charges, since I couldn't figure out how to turn GPRS off if an installed application was asking for a network connection, I was glad to return to the security of a Palm Treo that I could actually control.
Nokia with citrus flavour
I have had a number of problems with my Nokia E61, including problems synching contacts: it won't take more than an thousand or so contacts: so can't compete with a Palm Zire 22. It won't play nicely with my Nokia Bluetooth headset. The browser falls over on a regular basis.
However the product design is gorgeous and you can keep it in your pocket rather than wearing a 'beat the crap out of me and rob my belongings' holster. And it doesn't have an antenna like the Treo that is designed to dig into your groin.
Nova Media do a great third party conduit for iSynch on the phone and the PC synch software is better than Palm's offering.
Much Better Than That!
I've been useing the E61 for a couple of weeks now and not having anything other than my non-smart phone to compare it to I think it's great.
The set-up of wireless is less than intuitive, but having RTFM its easy enough. I quite happily spent a couple of hours browsing the web without the need for restarts of the phone.
Like the previous comments I got around some initial awkwardness by getting the phone to ask me which connection to use each time. I'v just set-up a more comprehensive access point group and will be happy to let you know how it works in a few days.
I was dissapointed that I've been unable to synch directly with Exchange (we use a HTTPS gateway at my office) but Im receiving POP mail without any issues and my calender and contacts come across from Outlook like a dream.
Im using the phone on the 3 network and it comes with two browsers (or at least two configurations) One uses the mini-map system which is a little fiddly with very large pages, the other renders a page as a vertical column in a smilar way to Opera. Less fiddly but not as pretty.
Call quality is clear and crisp and the screen quality is amazing. I havent found an option for handling Windows DRMso I assume it's unsupported.
Document handling is reasonable. I've been able to read documents on the go without too much fuss.
On the whole a great phone, I'd have given it 8/10
But it fills the gaps in the Blackberry offering
I jumped on this handset as soon as it became available, keen to ditch my Blackberry 8700g handset. I don't regret it, either.
I think this review's a little harsh on the E61 seeing as it does so well to bring a device with push email capability up to the level one would expect with its inclusion of WIFI and 3G.
I am disappointed with its slightly spongy keyboard which misses my attempts at keystrokes from time to time, resulting in me being confused by its other annoying characteristic - some occasional hesitance in operation.
Having said that, it builds on any blackberry handset with; 3G & WIFI (just in case you missed their mention first time around), external memory, 'open' OS which makes a wide range of 3rd part apps available for it at much less than blackberry pricing and overall a more usable device - getting photos and text on and off it for example, ever tried that on a bloody blackberry?
Of course, the blackberry has to be acknowledged for its total ease of use. I was always very impressed that whatever you wanted to do at any point and in whatever app, the option would always be there, only a thumbwheel press away... Add to that the consistent responsiveness of the device and it's a joy to use - until you start thinking of it as a smartphone, which it clearly isn't - wanna use it as a modem for your Mac? Forget it. Wanna add some less than $30 dollar apps on it? Crank up your wallet some. Wanna copy a file or photo off it? No way..
I agree that the E61 is less than perfect, but at last, I have a device that;
does push email,
I can add apps to,
is open enough to make the data on it accessible,
I can use as a modem for my Mac/PC,
allows me to (finally) ditch the PDA-phone combo.
Incidentally, I cope with the rather strange Access point thingy issue by allowing the browser or other app to ask me each time, when it tries to connect. I know when I'm in range of a WIFI point, or whether I should use a GPRS/3G conneciton and it only adds a second or two to the experience.
I've seen this device summarised as a good first try. I wouldn't argue with that view too much, but I *am* impressed and so look forward to the subsequent iterations of it with some optimism!
Same problems as E60
I've just returned a Nokia E60 after 2 weeks. The wifi configuration options definately could do with more work and aren't up to Nokia's normal intuitive UI design. Being able to enter the full alphabet into a field accepting a hex WEP key seemed silly.
There was no mention of the excellent SIP support in the review which I successfully configured to operate (even over NAT which Nokia says is not supported) but it was everytime let down by the very poor wifi support. I found that the wifi would have disconnected in the background without informing me and would not reconnect without a power cycle.
I found that using the advanced wifi options I could turn off power saving mode and the wifi would work great - but the battery would then last less than a day.
Almost there but not quite. I bought this phone because of its wifi and SIP but had to return it because the wifi is SO BAD.