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Nokia E61i review

I try to limit my new mobile purchases to one device a year. I follow new releases very closely, and try to spot that gem which will do everything I need it to do well. The Nokia E61i, released last month, caught my attention as a potential gem.

I’ve been using my N73 since last summer (you can see my review on HoFo), so I’ll obviously compare my experience with this device with it. The main reason to buy an E61i was that I wanted to try out wifi and qwerty, which are critical for a true convergence device. I did not need GPS so I felt the ridiculous price of the N95 was not for me, and I don’t like sliders.

The box came with the following: phone, manual, CD, charger, USB cable, headset, 256m memory card.

This is the firmware information: 1.0633.22.05 15-02-07 RM-227

Hardware
As seen in pictures, this device is very nice looking and thin. It’s obviously wider because it’s a qwerty device, and you get a large screen. It feels a lot more solid and better built than even my N73 which wasn’t that bad. The back cover and front is all aluminum with plastic around the edges. The screen is very big and of excellent quality. The loud speaker is pretty standard compared with past phones, and the notification light is useful and customizable.

The keyboard is very nice. I have to get used to qwerty since I’m used to the normal phone keypad, but the keys are nice and the D-pad is such an improvement over a joystick. I find it weird that the side buttons are on the left side instead of the right side which would seem more intuitive for using it with the right hand, but the buttons are fine and easily usable.

Battery
Battery life is very good. The day I got it, I spent hours at 1 bar left and it never gave me a battery low warning. After charging in once overnight I have yet to drain the battery with heavy use. This is one of the major reasons for getting this device, as I really didn’t feel like charging a phone every night. This thing will probably be charged once a week and never come close to running out.

Software
This is where I think the E61i really shows what kind of device it is. The OS is S60v3, and does not include FP1. The UI (so far) is very stable and hasn’t crashed or given me a memory error at all. While FP1 would have been nice, I also see the N95 bug threads pop up and am glad they play guinea pig. Although stable, I did find the menu browsing to be slightly slower than my N73, but not enough to be annoying. I installed all my usual (GMail, Google Maps, etc) without any problem. As a test, I loaded the device manual in the PDF reader. On my N73 any time I tried to do that, I could not zoom in or browse it without crashing with an out of memory error. I was pleased that the E61i could view it with no error.

Another nice thing I found out is the device comes packed with software. Not only does it have all the usual Nokia stuff like messaging, Web, IM, PTT, WLAN wizard, quickoffice, etc, but it also comes pre-installed with Worldmate which I think is a very nice program, as well as installers for Exchange and Blackberry connect for those who need it, a golf game, Widset, Podcasting, a Reuters news app and even location and positioning software already on the device for use with a bluetooth GPS module. Note that mine came with a 256m memory card and most extra software were on that, so versions in other markets may vary.

As far as connectivity goes, it has everything from GSM, UMTS (which I can’t test here since I live in Canada), bluetooth, ir, wi-fi. The built in WLAN wizard works well and had no issue finding my network. The implementation is good, and it creates an access point so all applications can select to use wifi just as they would use a normal access point. I tried the built in wi-fi telephone app but couldn’t figure it out, I guess you need a SIP service for that. I just installed Friing and Skype was working right away.

Multimedia
The big change over previous messaging handset is the 2MPx camera. From reading comments I feared that this would be a weak spot that couldn’t take pics inside, but it’s not true at all. I found the quality to be quite good for a 2MPx and it works fine indoors and outdoors. The camera does not have auto focus or a flash so obviously sufficient lighting is required.

The gallery app is the standard non-Nseries gallery. It doesn’t have the fancy features, but it’s faster and it’s not buggy. This was the single most buggy area of my N73, and I can’t tell you the number of times my N73 crashed, froze or gave a memory error while using the camera or gallery software. The E61i doesn’t have the enhanced multimedia features of the Nseries such as picture editing but I prefer it to bugginess.

The music player is the same, which I find pretty basic, and it comes with the usual RealPlayer and such.

Conclusion
I think for what it’s purpose is, this is the perfect device for people wanting a well built, stable Internet device. It does everything it supports well, from browsing, messaging, editing documents, doing some basic multimedia and connecting in various ways. When looking at the competition in this area, I think this is a top solution. Over my N73 I gain the qwerty keyboard including a much better D-pad, wi-fi, a more solid build, at the cost of enhanced multimedia features of the Nseries.

Out of all the convergence devices out there (Windows Mobile, Palm, Blackberry, Symbian) I believe right now the E61i is the best choice, at least for me.

Pros:

  • Solid build
  • Battery life
  • Wide range of connections
  • Included software

Cons:

  • Missing extra Nseries multimedia software

Score: 9.5/10

Nokia site for the E61i: http://europe.nokia.com/A4344018

May 6th, 2007 Posted by Patrick Lambert | Symbian, Reviews | 28 Comments

A world of convergence

phone_evolution.jpgMobility Now seemed like an appropriate title. Mobility means many things. Certainly a mobile phone, but true mobility means being able to do things, the things you’re used to be doing, but at any location. Being able to do phone calls while on the road is not new. Early cellphones from the 1980s allowed people to talk while on the road. But that was not true mobility. Phones were huge, they were of low quality, and the calls were restricted to analog signals, and often to specific networks. Every year new features were added. First came SMS messages, where phones would now allow people to type and receive messages. Then technology got better, we saw color screens, and additional functions were added such as a calendar, calculator, a better contact book and much more.

At one point, when connections got fast enough and phones powerful enough, the cellphone world and the Internet world connected for the first time, and this was a revolution. No longer was the cellphone user trapped in the closed world of the network provider. With the early browsers, now all the technologies of the Internet started to open up to mobile users, from web browsing, email and much more. At first this was a very painful experience, because suddenly a device meant to do phone calls was being used to render and display web sites, and accept complex input from the user. More powerful technology, even faster networks, and the introduction of the QWERTY keypad was the second revolution. Phones were powerful enough, input was easy enough, and software was advanced enough to bring raise to the smartphone, not only a phone but one that has all the capacities to be expanded and used for brand new things.

Only a few years ago smartphones were making their entry into the world of mobility, and enthusiasts were seeing the birth of true mobility. Companies were started, web sites appeared, and developers multiplied at a breakneck speed to improve and facilitate this brand new world, a world where anything that can be done on a standard computer was now being translated to the mobile space. Now, we’re in the most exciting era of true mobility. Devices are becoming mature, technologies are being deployed and software developers are out there. Almost every week a new breakthrough appears in the domain. From IM (Instant Messaging) clients, new web browsers, VOIP, 3G, push email, the Internet is full of buzzwords, and interesting solutions are available for all simply by searching for them. This is why I decided to create this site. This is where I will chronicle the changing world of mobility.

May 6th, 2007 Posted by Patrick Lambert | News | No Comments

 

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Ever since early sci-fi shows like Star Trek showed futuristic hand held devices used for everything from scanning their environment, providing instant information, long distance communication, showing pictures, videos and much more, I knew this is how the future would be. Today I believe the age of true mobility has arrived.

The original idea for this site was to be a news portal about high end mobile phones. Unfortunately a lack of time and resources prevents me from keeping it up to date properly, and there’s already a large amount of sites covering the news. Instead, here you’ll find original content about the mobile world.

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