Thursday, July 23, 2009

Nokia E71: A Year in Review

This was the phone I didn't think I'd love. Compared to its predecessor, it has a small screen and a small tight keyboard. But it went on to become one of Nokia's bestselling phones. After a year of use, I agree with everyone else and make the E71 one of my favorite phones.

Looking and functioning like new after one year of use

My E71 has travelled with me all over the world.
Two main selling points of the E71 for me are its stylish design and highly demanded qwerty keyboard. The E71 is still one of the thinnest available QWERTY keyboard equipped phones. It's one of the first QWERTY phones to use metal accents which was quickly followed by the Blackberry Bold. More important than looks is the E71's great keyboard. The raised keys make it easy to distinguish keys and the narrow design makes it possible to use the phone in one hand. The keyboard is positioned well away from the sides of the phone so reaching for the keys at the edge of the keyboard, like the letter A, are not a chore. The weight of the phone lies just a bit below the center around the keyboard giving it good stability while typing. I actually use my E71 to write my reviews while I'm commuting because it's much more convenient than pulling out my laptop.

More after the jump!

It is not without its weakness. First thing i did when i got my phone was to replace the theme. The original theme had horribly bland icons. I would never use the original theme. The 3.2MP camera is the worst 3.2MP I've used. It doesn't even match the quality of 2MP photos from the 3 year old sony ericsson w810i. Unlike the thousands of photos I've taken with my N82, I've taken under a hundred photos with the E71. I just installed the latest firmware and it only slightly improves the magenta tint. Although the metal frame is nice, my E71 attracts fingerprints.

Handling Enterprise E-mail

E-mail looks very basic on the E71 through Mail for Exchange.
It's no Blackberry. Carriers and companies have often set up Blackberries for their owners to fetch personal email or connect them to the company network. With the E71, you're on your own. Although Nokia has tried to make it a lot easier with their Nokia Mail offered on their E75 and wizards on the E71, users still need to know all the settings when trying to set up their E71 to their corporate mail server. At least Nokia offers a free Mail for Exchange client to sychronize your e-mail with a Microsoft Exchange mail server, which I actively use. Mail for Exchange leverages Nokia's basic included S60 mail client so doesn't look really good with no inline HTML support. I listed a number of limitations compared to the E71 competitors such as the Blackberry platform and the Windows Mobile in a previous blog post so I won't go into too much detail. Although it's functionality is limited, I do appreciate what it can do for me which is synchronize my e-mail, calendar (saved me on many occasions when I forgot I had a meeting to attend), and to-do. The screen will blink or even play an alert when a meeting is coming up within 15 minutes. Unlike the Blackberry, you have a lot more control of how you synchronize such as turning it off when you're travelling in another country to avoid roaming charges or only having the E71 check every hour on weekends to save battery. You can even set up the E71 to switch between Wifi and using your carrier's network using SmartConnect. I travel a lot so the flexibility is a strong selling point for me to keep using the E71 as my e-mail device.

S60 has saved my life
That might be an exaggeration but it has saved my work life on numerous occasions when I didn't have access to a laptop.
The ability to multi-task on a business phone is critical.
Here's a situation I frequently find myself in: I'm out on a business event and have to attend a project conference call. The call organizer only sent the powerpoint or spreadsheet file, which is the central discussion of the call, a few minutes before the call while i was out of the office. With my E71 on the call over speakerphone, i quickly sync my mail over 3G or wifi, open up the file, and follow along. A few times i've had to update a spreadsheet to send back too. The ability to multi-task on a business phone is critical. Doing all this without crashing is a testiment to the stability and maturity of Nokia's S60 platform.

Standing the test of time

Each of the E71s had a different problem.
In a year of daily use, creaking has developed around the letter A of my keyboard. The firmware has been impressively stable since the phone came out. I did get the dreaded "Out of Memory" message before and had to remove the battery to restart the phone. The E71 had a number of initial manufacturing issues. I have gone thru 3 E71s and each had its own issues such as poor reception, photo capture delays, and weak GPS. But E71s manufactured after week 42 have seem to resolved these issues.

Battery life has been amazing and doesn't seem like it's lost any of its charge. I still never worry about running out of juice after using the GPS and WiFi.

The killer apps for me on this phone are Mail for Exchange, Garmin XT, Smartconnect, Fring, QuickOffice, Mobitubia, and the included Notes and web browser.

Long live the E71
The E71 has been my main data device since I got it. I would have a hard time going back to a number pad for my web browsing and note taking. I totally rely on my E71 to keep me synchronized with my work through e-mail and calendar freeing me from the shackles of my laptop. With such a long lasting battery, I rarely worry about using the GPS and WiFi. It has been a good compliment to my photo-centric N82. I don't think i'll be replacing my E71 anytime soon... maybe with the E72.


Anonymous said...

Hi Eric,

Thanks a lot for the excellent analytical review. I am using nokia E71 as my laptop substitute, and I fully agree with your in depth review.

It's also nice to know that you have upgraded your E71 with the latest firmware. Please post a write up narrating the improvements you noticed with the newest firmware. And also state if there is any downside with the performance after installing it.

Also it will be very nice if you kindly post some comparison photos taken recently with E71,

I searched net for a lot of times, but haven't find any good analytical comparison so far in this respect.

And finally, are suggesting this firmware update? I am presently using 210** firmware.

Thanks a lot in advance!


Anonymous said...

Great review - I also have a e71.

I dont use the built in email app, instead I bought Profimail. I do use the MailforExchange app for my syncing of calendars and email.

gavinfabl of

Anonymous said...

I've only just myself an E71 just the other day. Checked the firmware, and it came shipped with the latest onboard! I got it because, even though it's a year or so old, it's also seemed like one of the more stable "tried and tested" devices out there which pretty much does everything I want it to. I really wanted high res, but I like what I see. I've just come back to Symbian from WM, and I'm very happy to be back to something that just does the business and works. Thanks for the great review, it's helped confirm for me that I chose right!


Anonymous said...

I too have only had my E71 for a few weeks. I bought it on Ebay for a good price, new and unlocked.

I agree with the other comments - this is the most solid smartphone (both hardware and firmware) I have ever used. Battery life is incredible (after using the original N95 for two years!) The keyboard and customizable keys are fantastic for data entry and calling up programs. The E71's wonderful multi-tasking ability puts the iPhone to shame. ;-)

The review mentions the lame original theme. It's really wierd but, having checked out the available themes for the E71, I ended up using the exact same one as the reviewer - twice in fact, as I have the red one on my 'business' screen and the blue version on my 'home' screen.

Oh, forgot to mention... I also bought Profimail as it's the best email client for Nokia.


ikah said...

i lurf it!
i like d design cuz its similar wit Blackberry..
even i can put it on my pocket n people wouldn't notice it..
4 sure..
so addicting!
gosh!i wish 2 get it!

please visit..

Anonymous said...

I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I dont know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.


aadi said...

The E71 is a good all rounder, all of its features work if you know how to use them - I would agree that Nokia support is almost useless - use website forums to get things going , its easier. If you don't know of its best features such as push email, wifi, hsdpa etc then maybe you bought it for the wrong reasons.
Nokia E71 Review