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Nokia’s E71: Glamorous, yes…

From the day that I first saw a picture of the E71 on a Nokia press web site, all shiny and slim with those seductively gleaming keys, I knew that this phone was what I had been waiting for.

Side by side with a sleek 10 mm thick E71, my BlackBerry Curve looks positively frumpy – thick, with a cheesy little 2 megapixel camera, and ugly 2D colors.  Slimmer than my iPhone, the E71 with its all metal body and thumb-board feels far more substantial and very business like. I know if I dropped the E71, it would come through with flying colours, but the all plastic iPhone would be a shattered mess.   And with 3G and WiFi, plus the biggest battery I’ve ever seen in a cell phone, the E71 delivers hours of high speed web surfing, email and more.


The Nokia E71 is a sex kitten, no doubt about it.  I’m dumping her though.  We’re through.  She just doesn’t work the way that I do.  She doesn’t understand what I want in a phone.  It’s over.

It wouldn’t be that way, however, if Nokia had spent as much effort on the usability of the E71 as they had on the industrial design.  At the end of the day, a series of seemingly minor annoyances all add up to a device that conspires to make me less productive, not more.

  1. The keys are just too small.  Composing messages happens at about 1/3 the speed of iPhone or BlackBerry because my ordinary-size hands are too large to manipulate the diminutive keyboard on this device.
  2. The dial-pad is located dead center of the keyboard, and the 0 has been moved out of position to the right of dial-pad.  Forget about quickly dialing a phone number.  It’s impossible because you have to search for each number to dial.  Nokia should have left the dial-keys on the left or right side as RIM did with BlackBerry.  Oh… and the keys are too small.
  3. The shift key is sandwiched between the alt key on the left, and the @ key on the right, at the bottom left of the keyboard.  It’s nearly impossible to press.  Say goodbye to capitalization in your emails.
  4. The email clients (both the standard one, and the new Nokia email) suck. Yeah, I’m spoiled.  The BlackBerry client is full of easy fast shortcuts for one handed operation.  The iPhone client uses easy finger gestures.  By contrast, the Nokia client uses pop-up menus.  It feels like a return to a text based windowing system running on MS-DOS.
  5. Calendar synch seems to be an afterthought.  My email stays synched with my exchange server, but the calendar apparently doesn’t.  I’m not really sure which calendar is on the E71, but it’s not the same as the calendar on my desktop, iPhone or BlackBerry.
  6. Despite the higher pixel density of the E71’s camera, it doesn’t take very good pictures.  I’ve come to expect better from Nokia, having been spoiled by the N-Series.  In fairness, the E71’s camera sucks less than the 2 megapixel afterthoughts that Apple and RIM jammed into their devices.  That’s no excuse, though, given what Nokia has previously produced.
  7. Browsing sucks too.  Compared to the BlackBerry Curve’s browser, the E71 is a star.  But I’ve now been spoiled by iPhone, and it’s just no fun to visit web pages and view them by panning and scanning.

I put my BlackBerry away three weeks ago to trial the E71. I’ve used it every day and I wanted to love this phone.  The E71 is technically very capable with support for flash, streaming media and more. It should be a fabulous software platform as a result.  And the E71 is definitely beautiful to look at and hold.

In my opinion, this little glamour-puss would be the perfect phone for a light email user with small hands.  For me, however, I’ll take a pass on the E71. It’s just not ready for a heavy business user yet — definitely not as ready as RIM devices are, and not even as ready as the Apple iPhone.

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{ 9 comments… add one }

  • Amit Doshi October 1, 2008, 4:52 am

    Good stuff. I agree with you overall but Ive got to disagree with the keyboard criticisms. I have found it a lot more accurate and faster than the iphone. I dont have trouble with capitalisation either.

    The dial pad thing is annoying when you need to dial numbers often. I just start typing the contacts name for most calling so it works for me.

    The email clients arent great, though the new one is a vast improvement. Decent 3rd party clients available but who wants to buy a diff app for email on a email centric phone.

    Calendar hasnt been much of a problem for me, but I enter stuff into my own calendar and synch with outlook using PC Suite so I dont really need OTA synch.

    I've been using the S60 browser for a long time, so I am used to it and comfortable with it. I actually prefer it to the zoom in zoom out way that one surfs on the iphone, but thats a matter of choice, and I am fairly sure that my preference is not whats going to win in the long run.

  • Alec October 1, 2008, 5:01 am

    re: the keyboard — i am sure there are people who won't find it a problem. They are likely more dexterous than I, with smaller fingers.

    E71 is a good evolution, but they could have done much more.

  • Wilko October 1, 2008, 3:44 pm

    I own an E61 phone (the predecessor model) and have recently fiddled with a friend’s new E71. I see very little improvement in this phone, except speed, camera and GPS.

    While one could argue that the technical improvements are quite a leap (especially getting it all into the small package), I am also put off by the User Interface. Virtually nothing has been done since the software I have on the older E61. Usability still leaves much to be desired (as before), which to me is a deal-breaker.

    As for the web browser, I can highly recommend Opera Mini (the Java browser). I have long put aside the attempt of a browser (again, the criticism is mostly UI) installed on the E61 by default, and have instead relied on Opera Mini.

    This little browser uses server side rendering, which may not be desirable to all. However it is a beautiful demonstration to how good user interface can be built. With only a few minutes to learn the basic shortcut keys it is a pleasure to use. It renders very well, and has a great zoom in/out feature. It is very fast, much faster than most native apps on the phone, especially the built in browser.

    Anyway, just my 2 cents.

  • Alec October 1, 2008, 9:02 pm

    Brad, I didn't really see a big difference. Here in Ottawa, GSM coverage is fairly uniformly good. I notice a bigger difference in quality travelling to the US than simply changing changing phones.

  • Brad October 2, 2008, 1:00 am

    Thanks for the viewpoint on the E71. I am considering purchasing one. Though I have been reading about receptions issues with this new device. Did you notice a difference in call quality in comparision to your Blackberry? Just wondering . . . .

  • AC October 2, 2008, 1:28 am

    What could someone in Ottawa possibly know about smartphones?


  • James Body October 2, 2008, 6:13 am

    I have to say that I really do like the E71 – a lot!

    As a guy who has access the the latest and the best mobile toys I get to learn a lot about hat is good and what is not. I have selected the E71 as my platform of choice upon which I operate my principal mobile account.

    In this role I find the E71 quite a bit better than the sturdy and reliable E61i that it replaced. Interestingly I find that typing on the E71 is easier and faster than on the E61i – pricipally due to the way that the individual keys have been sculpted with a curved surface, thereby facilitating excellent tactile feedback and accurate input.

    The only slight wrinkle in this otherwise faultless and highly desireable device is that the auto-focus on the 3.2 Mpixel camera is sub-optimal and gets confused when attempting to focus on an object. I trust that this will be fixed soon with a firmware upgrade.

  • geekfreek October 13, 2008, 12:59 am

    Hi there…………nice and detailed review, but slightly bias. The key pad is not at all that bad. Yes smaller but the things that you get in return (size, compactness, qwerty etc…etc) are amazing. Phone looks every inch a sex kitten……..could be the next centre spread for playboy(for mobile phones )……….go ahead enjoy !

  • Dave November 16, 2010, 11:38 am

    Good review all-around.

    I own a Nokia E71 (For 1 year now, purchased November 2009). It is by far the nicest looking QWERTY non-touch-screen phone available, and it's not even a new model.

    I own the white version of the E71, and everytime I take it out people are still asking me what that is and where can they buy it lol.

    Functionality… pretty decent. I only use my phone exclusively for texting and sometimes talking, so it does the job well enough. I don't have a data plan and only browse sometimes where there's free WIFI available.

    Overall, 8/10. I know for hardcore users, the E71 wouldn't be that good … no games, no apps, no flashy user interface, etc… but for those who want simple and sturdy with the extra flare of "Oooh what is that!".. the E71 is the best! :)

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