Nokia E60, E61 and E70 First Thoughts

by Reads (27,290)

 

While the names aren’t very interesting and far too similar, this new set of Smartphones from Nokia still manages to stand out, largely because of their design. The Nokia E61 is the most interesting of the bunch, clearly taking aim at the Treo and other integrated-keyboard devices like the Motorola Q. The E60 is a more basic Smartphone, similar to their current 6680 series and the E70 flips open in a Star Trek communicator sort of way to reveal a split QWERTY keyboard. All three are expected to be released in early 2006, though exact dates and pricing are not yet known.

Nokia E60

The E60 is very similar to the more consumer-oriented Nokia 6682 (Nokia 6682 review). It’s going to compete against devices like the Audiovox SMT5600 and other Smartphones without an integrated keyboard. The E60 is the most phone-centric device of the three, and really looks to offer heavy voice users a nice set of calling features, mixed with data access, albeit with a limited interface.


Nokia E60 (view larger)

The E60 has a very nice display, but the unit is a little too tall and generally large for it’s class. The advantage of these candy bar designs is generally small size, but in this case the phone is a bit too large. Even so, if a buyer is looking for a phone first and data device second; or more accurately fourth or fifth, the E60 might do the trick if the operating system doesn’t kill the deal.

Bottom Line – So-so Smartphone that won’t take much market share from more mainstream devices in the US.

Nokia E61

The Nokia E61 is really the lynchpin for the entire E-series. The E61 resembles the most familiar form factor, something of a cross between the Treo 650 and the Motorola Q. The best part of the E61 is the design. It’s a little fat, but it’s very thin and the keyboard is very well done. The latter statement is critical, since thus far the keyboards in these devices always appear to be designed by people who have never used one. It’s even backlit well, something that is often overlooked, Benq P50, Motorola Q, or not implemented well, Sprint PPC-6700.

Nokia E61
Nokia E61 front (view larger)

Nokia E61
Nokia E61 side (view larger)

The hardware we tested was a very early release, so many features were not yet working or a little buggy, but the E61 has a ton of potential. There will be a lot to get used to, for instance, there’s no touch screen. But on the other hand, one-handed navigation works pretty well with the joystick. All of the E series phones come with support for various email systems, like GoodLink, BlackBerry Connect, and Nokia Business Center. The obvious problem that has plagued Nokia with Smartphones though is the lack of support for Exchange Server. The PR people we met with indicated Exchange support would be there in time for release, but none of their press materials indicate that, so I think it’s best not to assume it will be there.

Bottom Line – It’s going to be the adoption of the OS and possible lack of Exchange sync that will slow down the E61. The hardware design, aside from lack of touch screen support, is possibly the best of anything we’ve seen to date, though we reserve final judgment for a production unit.

Nokia E70

While closer in design to the E60, for whatever reason the E70 earned a different designation class than the other two. Nokia has been fond of this fold-open-split-keyboard design in the past and they’ve rolled it out again. The E70 is going to be best for the heavy talker, who needs a little better interaction with data than the E60 user. The keyboard is actually pretty good, though the lack of differentiation between keys is a problem. It’s also a little awkward to use with half of the keys on one side of the display. The sweet spot is probably someone who needs to send short messages from time to time, not the guy who needs to edit a Word document.


Nokia E70 closed (view larger)


Nokia E70 open (view larger)

Bottom Line – More flexible than the E60, there’s not much disadvantage to selecting the E70 over the E60. The keyboard is tough to get used to, but in a pinch or for light use it’s probably fine.


We have to give Nokia a lot of credit for rolling out a new suite of Smartphones in a market that’s becoming increasingly competitive. They face an uphill battle in the US, but they’ve done a lot of things right from a design perspective, especially with the E61. All three will be available in GSM and CDMA flavors, so they could appear on any or all major US carriers next year.

Nokia E61
Nokia E-series family (view larger)

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