The RIM BlackBerry Tour and T-Mobile Dash 3G features were posted last week and this E71x article rounds out our QWERTY Kings series. A summary article with a comparison spreadsheet and my personal preference list will be posted this week too. The AT&T Nokia E71x was launched back in May and IMHO is the BEST Symbian smartphone launched and now carried by a US wireless carrier. There are very few of these smartphones that have been provided to us in the US so I think we were blessed to have such a fine one come to AT&T. The E71x is a third generation Eseries device in this particular form factor with the E61 (came to AT&T as the E62) and E61i came first. There is another model coming soon to upstage even the E71x and that is the E72 that just recently cleared the FCC.
I have made it clear I am a Nokia fan and even write the Nokia Experts website where I share my passion, and frustrations, with Nokia devices. That said, I am also very critical of them in my judgements, relating my experiences, and pointing out areas for needed improvement. You can look around online and even those who are not big Nokia fans are very impressed with the E71x hardware and form factor. When it comes to forward facing, non-touchscreen QWERTY devices the Nokia E71x is definitely one of the kings of QWERTYs.
Operating SystemI am sure you have all now seen the trend here with these front facing QWERTY non-touch smartphones where the OS used is not the newest and flashiest around. The Palm Pre with the WebOS is the closest to these forward facing QWERTY devices and there are rumors of a model coming to AT&T that is similar in form factor to a Palm Treo Pro. That said, these established operating systems do very well with this form factor and it is great to have such a choice in devices.
The Nokia E71x runs the Symbian operating system with the 3rd Edition, Feature Pack 2 S60 user interface. This is the latest version of the OS for non-touch S60 devices and is extremely stable and reliable. One thing I enjoy about S60 is the ability to customize the folder structure, wallpaper, and home screen setup. Unfortunately, AT&T worked with Nokia to limit the customizability on the E71x so that several apps cannot be removed or even moved to other folders and there is limited customizability on the standby/home screen compared to what you can do with the unlocked Nokia E71.
Like all of these mobile devices today there are utilities and applications loaded in the OS so that people really do not have to add 3rd party applications if they don't want to. AT&T and Nokia actually give you a pretty functional email client powered by Seven, but you can also use Nokia Email or 3rd party clients like Profimail. You will also find an Office viewing client (Quickoffice) that can be upgraded to full editing and creation, powerful S60 web browser, and much more. There are also several 3rd party apps installed by default I will discuss in a later section.
The Settings screens have been updated a bit over the years and are a bit more user friendly than that found on the BlackBerry Tour and T-Mobile Dash 3G.
HardwareOut of all the areas we are looking at here in this feature article, it is clear that the hardware on the E71x is clearly the most outstanding aspect of the device. If you have not yet held a Nokia E71x, I highly recommend you swing by an AT&T store just to feel it in your hand. Every single person I have handed the device to has immediately fell in love the the form factor and feel of the device. The E71x is wrapped in a stainless steel shell and unlike the silver unlocked one, the AT&T model is colored in black and really looks professional and sexy. The device is also quite thin so when you hold it your hand it feels even better. The heft is just about perfect too and everyone can tell it is a quality piece of industrial design. Even though it is priced at $100, it feels like a $500 phone.
The QWERTY keyboard is pretty well designed with domed keys that are tight together, yet easy to distinguish and enter text on rapidly. The keys give fairly good feedback. Unfortunately, there are not really any keyboard shortcuts and the copy/paste shortcut found on the E71 does not work. There is a 3rd party application to help you setup and control shortcuts and I would love to see Nokia implement this into the OS. I love the fact that the @, period, comma, apostrophe, and question mark can all be entered without having to press a function key. This helps me efficiently enter text.
Another major bonus for the E71x is the 1500 mAh battery that takes up almost the entire back of the E71x. I consider myself a power user and use my devices extensively throughout the day so when the E71x goes for almost two full days for me I know it is a solid performer.
Like the T-Mobile Dash 3G, you get a 3.5G wireless data radio, 802.11 b/g WiFi, Bluetooth, and GPS.
You will find a 3.2 megapixel digital camera on the E71x and I am happy to report that the software/hardware has been improved so that you can actually capture pretty good still photos. The video recording capability is a bit choppy though so you may not be using it too much for video. These forward facing QWERTY devices really are not designed for high end multimedia capabilities because the people buying them are looking for a messaging device and not for a multimedia powerhouse.
Nokia devices are known for their high phone call quality and RF reception and the E71x continues with that tradition. I also find the Bluetooth stack to be quite good and connections to Bluetooth devices are constantly clear and strong.
CarrierWhile you can pick up a SIM-unlocked E71 and use it with T-Mobile or AT&T in the US, the Nokia E71x is only available from AT&T. The Nokia E71x is priced at $99.99 after 2-year contract and $50 mail-in rebate. Full, no-committment price (what I paid) is $299.99, which is still not a bad price for such a full featured smartphone.
Individual eligible voice plans start at $39.99 with unlimited voice for $99.99. AT&T unlimited data is available for $30, $50 with unlimited text messages, and $60 for date with tethering (no text messages included). As you can also see on my E71x Starter Guide there are several services you can pay for each month, such as AT&T Navigator, XM Radio, and more.
I have seen very good reception with the E71x on AT&T and the data has been quite fast. I have used it to tether a few times and it has performed very well using the Joikuspot application.
3rd Party ApplicationsThe Ovi Store is the newest online application store for S60 devices, but the store application is not yet available for the E71x. However, Nokia and AT&T have stated that it will be coming before the end of 2009. I have been able to access the Ovi Store via the S60 web browser, but don't recommend using it yet since the web browser version won't always indicate what apps actually work on the E71x. You can try it for free apps though since you won't lose any money that way.
You can always load applications the old fashioned way and that is by buying apps through developers or other online stores. I prefer to buy directly from developers myself.
One of the first applications I loaded up on my E71x was Mail for Exchange. You can also try out DataViz's RoadSync application for Exchange syncing. These apps let you sync Exchange email, contacts, calendar, and tasks with your E71x.
Some other applications I loaded up to try on the E71x include Qik (streaming video), Skyfire, Opera Mini, Wordmobi, Gravity (the BEST S60 Twitter client), Free-iSMS (threaded text messaging), Handy Taskman, and Handy Weather.
A couple AT&T apps I enjoy on the E71x include AT&T Navigator (TeleNav-powered voice navigation application) and Cellular Video (streaming video content with no additional subscription fee). There are several other subscription apps loaded by AT&T, which some people may like too.
Final ThoughtsThe Nokia E71x is truly a QWERTY king and I think will appeal to those looking for a very solid QWERTY messaging device on AT&T. In my experiences with other smartphone enthusiasts, moving to a S60 device can have a high learning curve for those coming from another smartphone operating system. However, it is much like all the other mobile operating systems with an icon-based interface (can be switched to list view too if you like seeing menus in this manner) that launches apps. I have been using S60 devices for quite some time and like the capabilities and customization of the operating system.
The Nokia E71x is a sweet piece of hardware that I have not seen a single person dislike, even if they hate the S60 operating system. Nokia has done an excellent job with the E71x form factor and the fact that I have had an E71 or E71x in my possession and use for almost a full year is saying something about the device. If you have or are thinking about this device I highly recommend you check out my E71x Starter Guide page.