Nokia’s E71 brought slimline sex appeal to a messaging world that was dominated by the more functional-looking BlackBerry pack. But it wasn’t just about the sleek profile; high production values and a capable multimedia performance made it a five-star Symbian smartphone to seriously challenge its fruity rivals.
Wisely, Nokia has decided not to radically tinker with this winning formula on its follow-up, the E72. Cosmetically there are only slight tweaks to the control panel and an E63-stylee keyboard refit. To entice E71 owners to upgrade the 3.2MP camera has also been hiked to 5MP and a 3.5mm headphone jack added.
Unfortunately, the E71’s elongated and tapered bottom end has been ditched for a more conventional shape, dampening some of the original’s slinky design but freeing up space to expand the navigation panel.
The domed keys on the QWERTY have a softer action compared to the E71’s stiffer buttons, and the space bar has been reduced in size to accommodate two extra punctuation keys. These adjustments haven’t massively improved or marred usability, but the QWERTY is still great for thumbing long messages at speed.
Like the E71, the five-way joypad doubles as a touch-sensitive navi-pad but annoyingly its ridged outer grip hampers a smooth thumb stroke. It’s not a patch on the BlackBerry’s lucid Trackpad and is best turned off.
Down with the resolution
Another gripe concerns the screen. With its arch nemesis, the BlackBerry Bold 9700, flaunting a vivid hi-res display it’s a shame to see the E72 stalling on a QVGA-quality panel. The resolution is adequate but we expect something more cutting edge from a flagship messenger.
The size of the screen – a wide 2.36in – also restricts navigation on Ovi Maps, though the E72 is one of the phones to support Nokia’s new free turn-by-turn guidance. To seamlessly surf the web on its smallish display we recommend downloading the latest Opera Mobile 10 Beta or Skyfire’s flash video supporting free web browser.
You can download further apps from Nokia’s Ovi Store, although the selection is pretty threadbare compared to rival stores like Apple and Android. We also found its virtual shelves to be very unstable, as it crashed several times.
Although Nokia’s Eseries devices are self-styled business blowers, they also have a fun multimedia alter ego and the E72 has really upped the ante on the camera and music player front. The E71 delivered a competent all round performance that topped its BlackBerry rivals but the step-up on its successor is marked.
The 5MP camera is surprisingly sharp with nice detail and vivid colour, and isn’t far off the best at this level. The lack of a dedicated shutter key is a bummer though, especially when the navi-pad’s centre button doesn’t offer the same degree of autofocus control.
E71 owners who upgrade will notice a more dynamic-sounding music player, and thanks to the new 3.5mm headphone jack you can now use your own headphones for even more revealing audio.
Nothing has changed on the email front – setting up a using the desktop style Nokia Messaging is superb – but Nokia has improved its multimedia line-up enough to get E71’s owners twitching for an upgrade.
But if a front facing QWERTY-packing messenger is the order of the day then it’s a tussle between the BlackBerry Bold 9700 and Nokia’s sleek smartie. The latter edges it on design and multimedia, but the second-gen Bold a tad more user-friendly with email. The choice is yours.