We have already looked at a couple of the leading top smartphones (Apple iPhone 3G and the HTC Touch HD) so it is time that we moved on to the third, and this one is a good example of how the ‘smartphone’ market is expanding. The Nokia E71 is the flagship of their business line up (which includes others such as the clunky yet versatile N96) and it is our first example of a ‘traditional’ smartphone.
This is different from the iPhone and the Touch HD because of the fact that it uses a QWERTY keyboard instead of a large touchscreen. This itself is something that automatically gives the phone certain advantages and disadvantages over the previous ones we’ve seen. The physical keyboard makes it easier and nicer to type, but the lack of a large screen means you can fit less on it, it limits multimedia offerings and you don’t get the ease of use that a touchscreen provides.
Ease of use
I have already hinted that QWERTY keyboards can be harder to use with regards to navigation, but the Nokia E71 holds its own and manages to be impressively ergonomic not only with navigation but also with typing. The rubbery keyboard is very easy to use and will let you get a quick typing speed despite the fact that it is one of the smaller ones on offer, and the traditional Nokia shortcut buttons contribute to the ease of use.
It runs on a Symbian S60 operating system which is nice on the eye and straightforward to navigate, but is still probably not as good as the fiddly yet wonderfully compatible Windows Mobile 6.1. On the internet, it is more than adequate but is let down by the small screen which means that even with the smallest text size you cannot fit as much on the screen as you would like and the fact that you do not have the intuitive zoom functions that touchscreens have.
This is not a phone that will astound you with a variety of features but is still supplies all that you need in a smartphone and manages to do them well. It can supply fast mobile data with HDSPA along with a variety of other connective options (Bluetooth, Wi-Fi and an FM radio). However there are a few irritating things — it has a 2.5mm headset connector which means you are limited to which headphones you can use, and the fact that it cannot charge over USB is a pain.
It also boasts GPS which is done through ‘Nokia Maps 2’ which in many cases can be better than the mainstream Google Maps offered by most phones — although it has no approximate location sensing there is the option for directions to be given through voice (making it great for use hands free) and library of places is a lot easier to access.
One of the best things about the design of this phone is the portability; at just 62.8 x 12 x 115mm it is one of the lightest and thinnest smartphones you can get but still manages to have a usable keyboard (even if the screen size of just 2.36in has suffered). It is a stylish phone coming in silver, grey, black and a disgusting red which (with the one exception) looks very sophisticated — its just a shame that the screen is so small.
This is one of the cheaper smartphones on the market at a respectable £450 for an 18-month contract and only £219 SIM-free. Considering what this phone can offer it is a very good price, and it is one of the things that makes it so attractive, and if you compare it to the prices of the previous phones you will be excused for thinking that they are overpriced.
It also has a very good battery life, managing to survive nearly 90 hours away from the plug which is by no means poor. Admittedly it is not as good as the iPhone and the HTC Touch HD (surprising considering how big their screens are) but it is still impressive and easily enough to last you several days.
All in all the Nokia E71 is a good phone at a reasonable price. Despite the fact that the screen and irritating shortcomings make it harder to use, the price more than makes up for it and we can only hope that it sets a trend for cheaper smartphones in the future. If you merely wanted a phone to do work whilst on the move and did not mind about the fancy additions then the Nokia E71 is definitely the phone for you, but for those who want something with a little more je ne sais quoi, perhaps you want to look elsewhere.