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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.