Nokia’s E71 is often lauded as one of the toughest, most capable smart phones and I had high hopes for the AT&T version- the E71x.
At a svelte 4.45 x 2.25 x 0.39 in and weighing in at just under 4.5 oz, the E71x is billed as the “world’s thinnest smartphone” -and it lives up to the name. There have been plenty of moments where I’ve slipped into panic mode thinking I’ve left the phone in a conference room or Dunkin’ Donuts. In fact, the only way you’ll know the phone is there is due to its weight- the phone’s body is entirely made out of metal and feels extremely solid with none of the give or flimsiness found in many of today’s smartphones (I’m looking at you Palm Pre).
Many a YouTube video will attest to Nokia’s rock-solid hardware and some daring lads did their worst to crush the E71 (here:http://www.e71fanatics.com/2009/01/check-this-out-e71-getting-beaten-and.html)
The keyboard (which seems to be a weak spot on so many smartphones) is solid- no clicky keys or wobble while keyboard real estate is slightly cramped. The overall feel is no where near as natural as the keys on the Blackberry Bold.
There are a few physical differences between the E71x and it’s European counterpart the E71 – for one thing the E71 has two cameras: One 3.2 mega-pixel camera (with flash) on the back and one lower resolution camera on the front of the camera near the ear piece for video conferencing. On the E71x, AT&T requested the front camera be removed as we in the United States are clearly not cool enough for sweet face-to-face video conferencing.
In addition, the E71x has a cool black anodized frame you can only get on the AT&T version. The case doesn’t slip or slide around on hard surfaces and the phone is a natural fit in the hand.
Software Issues: (NOTE- Nokia/AT&T recently released v.3.28 of their firmware for the E71x -not sure if it changes much but I’ll report back if there’s anything major)
The E71x runs Nokia’s Symbian OS 3.2 with Feature Pack 2 (something you can’t get by default on the standard E71) but here’s where things start to head downhill fast-
The OS is generally responsive and tends to handle multitasking fairly efficiently. Battery life was awful for the first two weeks (a common issue on Nokia message boards- many have pointed to the fact that the Nokia battery takes 5-7 cycles to fully break in and hold a full charge but I can’t confirm this) but currently stands at around 60 hours with light push email, some browsing, and 25 minutes worth of calls (all browsing using 3G
The real issues pop up once you’ve unboxed and are up and running. To put it simply: AT&T has absolutely crippled the E71x as in addition to the missing front camera the E71x lacks customizable hardware buttons, requires signed packages (or face repeated “access point” reminders every time you attempt to transfer data- a move which essentially cripples certain free GPS applications and even Twitter applications). The default browser is on par with the woefully outdated Blackberry browser (with the notable exception that Blackberry trackballs provide somewhat snappier navigation) and Symbian feels like its a stagnant OS left to drift by Nokia with many third party applications feeling like relics from my Palm Vx days.
Push email using the default MailForExchange application is spotty at best and obliterates battery life while AT&T’s XpressMail by Seven is inadequate for Gmail users (especially those of us who want to sync Contacts, Calanders, and Emails) A work around exists using MailForExchange to sync Google’s Calender and Contacts and Seven Beta to sync Gmail (Seven Beta being a much more robust client).
Another major issue for many business users is the fact that the home screen is simply not customizable. You can re-arrange certain shortcuts but cannot easily place applications a la Windows Mobile and sometimes the Nokia PC Suite software doesn’t play nice with certain business applications.
AT&T also includes about 10 applications by default on the E71x. Unless you feel like delving into the depths of Symbian, it’s impossible to delete these applications (or even move some from the home screen). Some are handy like AT&T Navigator while others such as Monopoly (in the loosest sense of the game as the graphics are awful) add insult to injury by virtue of their shareware licencing and outrageous fees. In essence- AT&T puts a number of simply awful programs on your phone and then does not allow you to remove them.
On the whole the E71x is a great phone for the average light business user and while it can easily stand up to rigorous abuse and mistreatment, the impotent software package, spotty AT&T 3G coverage, cramped keys and bloatware will surely drive consumers to RIM or Apple.
Pros: Great hardware, Superb fit & finish, Excellent reception, Pairs easily with accessories (Works beautifully with my Motorola S9-HD bluetooth headphones), 3G is speedy, tethering is easy, PC Suite has some cool features, snappy GPS
Cons: Clunky interface, lacking 3rd party apps, trackpad makes browsing cumbersome, AT&T’s software modifications, cramped keyboard, text-to-speach/voice commands are an absolute joke, missing the “fun” factor of the original E71 (not to mention the ability to install the same software), 2.5 mm headphone jacks are no longer acceptable.
Network Quality 8/10
Ease of use 7/10
A great phone for casual users or the would-be corporate executive who doesn’t need to respond to email frequently but power users and enthusiasts will find the phone and more importantly, its software, lacking.
Phone Specs (read: http://www.wireless.att.com/businesscenter/NokiaE71x/index.jsp):
- Dimensions: 4.4×2.2×0.4 inches
- Weight: 4.4 ounces
- Battery: 1500 mAh Lithium ion Battery
- Talk Time: Up to 4.5 hours
- Standby Time: Up to 12 days
- Technology: GSM/GPRS/EDGE/UMTS/HSDPA*
- Frequency: 850/900/1800/1900 MHz (GSM/GPRS/EDGE); 850/1900 MHz (UMTS/HSDPA)*
- Operating System: Symbian S60 3.2
- Memory: 120MB with microSD™ expandable memory up to 8 GB (microSD card sold separately)
- Display: 2.4 inches, 16M colors, 240×320 pixels
- GPS and aGPS ready
- Wi-Fi®: IEEE 802.11 b/g
- Micro USB (USB 2.0 Full Speed)
- Bluetooth® 2.0 with EDR + Stereo A2DP
- 2.5 mm UHJ connector for audio
- Video playback file formats: .Flash Lite 3, mp4, .3gp; codecs: H.263, MPEG-4 VSP
- Music playback file formats: .mp3, .wma, .aac, AAC+, eAAC+
- Hearing Aid Compatibility Rating: M2
- Intelligent input with auto-completion, auto-correction and learning capability
- Dedicated one-touch keys: Home, calendar, contacts, and Messaging
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