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Nokia E71. Hands-on review.

The blogosphere often comes under criticism (and usually, rightly so) for knee-jerk journalism. Don’t research the facts – just the get the scoop and get something up. In comes the traffic and some poor sod usually clicks on the Google Ads. Not a great place to be…

However, with product reviews – I think there may be a place for a gut-feel approach. When I’m in the market for a cellphone upgrade – I make the decision on a bit of net research, but mostly the time I get to spend with the phone in-store.

So here it is, my gut feel reaction to the upcoming Nokia E71, kindly provided to me by WOM World. I jotted these points down after about an hour of playing with the phone – then used the device for a week, hoping to let my views settle slightly. The result was interesting. New phones are usually emotional, brand decisions – followed all too often by remorse when it just doesn’t do the required. Hopefully this guide sends you down the right path when that next upgrade comes around…



Nokia E71 Hands-on Review for South African Customers.

An interesting little package. The Nokia E71 will no doubt compete for attention with the iPhone. So will everything else I guess. But I’m willing to put this opinion forward: it shouldn’t. This phone won’t start conversations, but then the mobile user who’s looking for a solid, high performance business package – usually doesn’t want to.

Without setting the world on fire – the Nokia E71 fixes almost everything that was wrong with the E61. And that makes it worthy of consideration in my books. Specs are here.

• Sleeker, better looking and a lot smaller. Titanium-like backing, jet black – much more attractive than the chunky E61 and E61i.

• Much, much faster OS. This shouldn’t go down as a pro, because Nokia owe its consumers as much after the sleepy performance of the N series and early E series phones. But… You hit the menu button and the menu appears. Performance feels faster all over the place.

• Keyboard improvements. Keys have got smaller, along with the phone as a whole, but have a much better tactile experience. And they don’t feel like they’ll start clicking and sticking like my current E61i.

• 2 gig memory card.

• GPS! Yes!

• Camera spec moves up to 3.2 megapixels and now has a flash. A camera has never been an integral part of a business phone, in my humble opinion, but the flash just means it can now be used for the odd whiteboard-shot, head shot or anything you need to “jot down” visually.

• Instant device search and application finder (think “start menu”) off the home screen. This is the first major software upgrade I noticed. Device content search is becoming de facto, and they’ve done a nice job here integrating application launchers with a file browser and a search function. Really opens up the content of the SmartPhone. Perhaps this will encourage more use of the hidden features that most S60’s come with?

• The Web Browser will remember usernames and passwords inputted on web pages (ala FireFox / IE). Excellent. With mobile browsing becoming a part of business and social life - typing my Google password in 3 times a day was getting irritating, to say the least.

• Bloatware can now be removed. Not sure VodaWorld would appreciate me uninstalling the bloatware on demo phones – but I had to try. It was a big bugbear with my E61i. Just can’t uninstall certain useless apps. The E71 happily deletes the bloatware. (See the converse issue of having bloatware in the first place – in the Con’s.

• It has an encryption option for both the phone and the memory card – haven’t played with it much – but seems like a good idea.

• It now autolocks! ‘Nuff said.

• Two home screens. Looks interesting – but didn’t grab me.

• Smaller screen. While this is a necessary evil, in order to get the device size down – I do miss the sheer screen real estate on the E61. GMail certainly looks different.

• New Symbian interface / icon design. I know they were going for gun metal, chunky web-like OS icons. It didn’t work. The facelift looks like retro nod to Windows 3.1 and bothers me.

• Smaller keys. That means more problems for fat thumbs. Where is the “perfect point” between actually having a QWERTY keyboard and keeping the keys begin enough to hit? I’m not sure…

• Fingerprints. The titanium-look backing marks worse than a black MacBook. It’s horrible. And oily.

• No stereo jack. Evidently only N95 users are graced with this “ticket to the ballpark” of music-enabled devices. More than anything else, it just removes the device from my list of possible music sources. I don’t want to carry a bunch of earphones around – and I do want to play this through a speaker system.

• Loads of bloatware pre-installed. Feels like you’re booting up a Dell really. Give me an app I can use – not a welcome screen to tease and a $20 license fee.

• GPS! No! You’re in for just under R1000 to get the maps working on the GPS. Doesn’t even come with a free trial month – hopefully this is something Nokia SA can fix.

• You’re also in for around $16 to get full functionality out of the push-email app (EMoze) as well. Seems to work at the moment, but I gather it’ll expire given time.

• None of the pre-installed themes make it easy enough to read the push email. Black text on a scattered white-ish background. White tax on a grey-ish background. Tut tut.

• Fring (my choice for consolidated IM) and Gmail (the best mobile email app around) were giving problems. Fring just restarted the whole time and GMail slowed down to a crawl. I gather these flaws will be fixed with software updates. Not too much to worry about.

Are you iPhone obsessed? Don’t bother with the E71. It just doesn’t give the experience that Apple’s killer phone provides. If you’re not obsessed, and if you’re one of the experienced few that realize a phone without a keyboard will present problems for firing off large emails… then I would seriously take a look at this latest Nokia offering.

I don’t watch movies on my phone. I don’t need to rotate photos. I don’t listen to music on my phone. I don’t need to cover flow my albums.

I need to check and type emails, browse the web (ok, so the iPhone does that pretty well), type sms’es, receive calls and get it all done quickly while not getting lost on the streets of Joburg. Did you hear the iPhone 3G doesn’t come with turn-by-turn navigation?

The Nokia E71 probably ranks as the sturdiest business phone out there. No fuss, no frills – just do the stuff you need to.

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