The Nokia E71, see my review, is one of the best QWERTY smartphones on the market and everyone who holds it wants it because it feels so solid and is extremely powerful and functional. I think the E71x should be a popular handset with AT&T when it launches this month for only $100. Two Nokia Eseries devices, the E75 and E55, were announced in February at Mobile World Congress so my goal at CTIA last week was to hunt these two down and get some hands-on time. I found the Nokia E75 in black and red, but the E55 was nowhere to be found and one person at the Nokia booth told me this device was cancelled so I am still trying to find out what the status is regarding its existence. I was able to secure an E75 to evaluate and have been using it exclusively since last Thursday. Check out my image gallery for photos of the hardware and some software as well as my YouTube video below of the device in action.
|Image Gallery:Check out product photos and screenshots of the Nokia E75, including photos taken with the device.|
In the box: The E75 that I am evaluating is a pre-production model so the retail packaging may vary a bit when you purchase your own device. Inside the box you should find the E75, BL-4U battery, Nokia High-Efficiency charger, wired stereo headset, USB cable, and manuals. You may also get a 4GB microSD card in the retail box.
Specs: Specifications of the Nokia E75 include:
- S60 3rd Edition, Feature Pack 2 OS
- Quad-band GSM and tri-band HSDPA/UMTS support (bands for North America and international in separate models)
- 50MB internal dynamic memory
- ARM 11 369 MHz processor
- 2.4 inch square 320x240 QVGA display
- Integrated 802.11 b/g WiFi radio
- Integrated Bluetooth 2.0 radio with A2DP
- Integrated GPS receiver
- Stereo FM radio with RDS
- 1000 mAh Lithium ion battery (BL-4U) with reported 5 hours 20 minutes of talk time
- microSD card slot with microSDHC support
- 3.2 megapixel camera with flash and forward facing camera
- micro USB port for syncing and charging
- Standard 3.5mm headset jack
- Weight of 4.89 ounces
- Size of 4.40 x 1.97 x 0.57 inches
Unlike the Nokia E71, there is no infrared port on the E75. I never use this on my E71 so this is not a big deal to me, but may be for some who use IR to connect to their PC. While the E75 includes the standard Nokia charging port, Ricky Cadden also pointed out that it will charge via the microUSB port so you get dual charging capability. This is a major bonus to me since I have different options to charge from my car, on the road, work, or home now. Another major bonus, IMHO, over most previous Eseries devices (the new E63 also has this) is that the E75 has a standard 3.5mm headset jack so you can use your own headphones to enjoy music and podcasts.
Like other Eseries devices I have tried, the E75 is rock solid and feels like a high quality piece of hardware in your hand. I like when a device has a bit of heft to it since it gives me that confirmation that I am not holding a cheap piece of trash in my hand and I have spent my hard earned money wisely.
Tour around the device: As you start at the top and move left on the front of the E75 you will find the ambient light sensor, headset speaker, and forward facing camera. I find little use for these low res cameras in the US, but they can be used in other countries for video calls. The display is flush with the front of the device and at 2.4 inches is about right for a non-touch screen phone. I would like to see a bump in the resolution though since everything else coming out today has a high resolution display and the fonts and images could be crisper and clearer on these S60 devices.
Below the display you will find the left and right soft keys directly adjacent to the Home and back buttons. There are actually only two phyiscal buttons with each end service a different function and I do find that I sometimes accidentally press the wrong one in since they are quite tight with each other. There is a good sized center directional pad, the NaviWheel, that has a pulsing light indicator in the center (controllable) and a center action button. You can also setup to have the NaviWheel work as a quick scrolling control as you rotate your finger around the directional pad.
Below the left and right soft key/home and back/soft key buttons you find another combined set of buttons for send/calendar and Messaging/end. Again, these are packed in quite tightly and may cause you to press other buttons at times until you get used to the location.
Below all of these is the 12-key phone keypad. The keys are pretty well spaced on four long bars that are angled slightly outwards from top to bottom. I found I was able to press them fairly accurately, but I did goof up at times when I was up on the top bar where 1, 2, and 3 are located.
Moving to the top of the device is where you will find the first pleasant change over the E71 and that is a standard 3.5mm headset jack. I like the placement at the top because it still allows me to use the phone while listening to music and in landscape/open mode I can still type away at the keyboard without interference.
On the left side is where you will find the microUSB and microSD card slots and covers. The covers are better than what you see on the E71 and are easy to open and close while looking like they will last for a long time. The other nice surprise is that you can also charge via the microUSB port. I didn't realize this because there is also a standard Nokia charging port on the bottom of the E75. The phone mic is located next to the bottom charging port.
A lanyard opening that starts on the right side and goes to the back is present on the lower part of the side. There is a dedicated camera button in the center of the device and this is the third nice surprise over the E71. I much prefer to use a dedicated camera button rather than the directional pad or silly T key to autofocus. Dedicated volume buttons are placed above the camera button and on either side of a Push to Talk/voice dialing button. I like seeing these types of volume buttons because they are easy to press without inadverently setting your volume the wrong way.
The back of the E75 is very attractive with the shiny silver stainless steel battery cover takng up most of the back. There is a release button below the cover that you slide over to open up the back. Above the cover is the mono speaker that actually gets pretty loud and works just fine for me in my car to listen to podcasts. There is a 3.2 megapixel camera, flash, and self-portrait mirror on the left side of the back. I was very pleased to see that photos look much better than those taken with the E71 that is plagued by purple tint issues. If you check out the photos in my image gallery you will see that the E75 takes some of the most vibrant photos I have ever taken with a camera phone and the flash even works well in near-complete darkness. You can also capture VGA quality video at 30fps with the camera.
The unique design feature of the E71 is the 4-row QWERTY keyboard that is visible when you slide the top of the E75 over to the right. The display flips into landscape mode and then you can have a Messaging display open up for quick message creation. The settings allow you to control what happens when you slide the keyboard open and close so you can select what application, if any, launches when you slide it open and if you go the Home screen or do nothing when you slide it closed.
The keyboard is not as wide as the HTC Rose and works comfortably with twho thumbs without requiring a far reach. Each key is quite large, by QWERTY phone standards, and has a rubberized feel to it. There is a space between each key and I found the travel to be decent in providing feedback when pressing keys. I like seeing dedicated period, comma, apostrophe, and @ keys on the keyboard too. There is a good sized central space bar and both right and left shift keys. There is a dedicated Ctrl button so you can easily perform a cut, copy, and paste with the keyboard and I find this to be quite helpful when working on larger documents. There is a Chr key on the left to access symbols and punctuation that are not available on the keyboard. Numbers are entered by pressing the left blue Function key and then a number key that are located on along the top row.
There is a center metal piece that I think would be cool to have as a touch sensitive scroll bar, but it actually is just a design piece. The top of the E75 slides up to reveal the keyboard and so far the only weakness I have found in the device is that it does tend to move a bit on each end when you press on it before sliding it down. It is not bad, but just seems a bit wobbly when the rest of the device is rock steady.
There is an accelerometer in the E75 and sensor settings allow you to set to turn auto rotation on or off, set the device to silent or turn an alarm to snooze with two taps on the device, and turn the device to silent or snooze an alarm by turning the device face down. We saw this on some recent HTC devices and I like and use the turning to silent or snooze capability.
The Nokia E75 is available in silver/black, red, and copper yellow. I currently have the silver/black one that is very professional and attractive. The red one also looks great and would be my second preference. I never saw the copper yellow one so I can't comment on it.
Software - Nokia Messaging: The most significant update in software may actually prompt you to buy this device over the Nokia E71 and I thought it should have its own dedicated section. The Nokia E75 includes the latest Nokia Messaging client that brings together the Nokia Email service and Mail For Exchange into a single user interface. It took me about 20 minutes to finally figure out where to find MFE on the E75 and I am posted a detailed tutorial on my Nokia Experts site to help you setup your Exchange account in the new client because many of the settings are buried deep in the program. I have DataViz's RoadSync 4 on my E71 at the moment and I now see that MFE may have caught up with, and actually passed, RoadSync with this latest version. I plan to post a more detailed review of the new MFE features that have me quite impressed.
The most obvious new feature is support for HTML messages in Exchange. Other improvements include the ability to create appointments and invite attendees (unfortunately not those on your Exchange server like you can with Windows Mobile) and the ability to search your contacts list on your Exchange server remotely. I am still discovering the other new and improved features in MFE.
I have two of my Gmail accounts also setup in Nokia Messaging and it looks like the 5 subfolder limit has been lifted as I was able to add more than 5 folders to sync with Nokia Messaging.
There is a lot of scrolling around to navigate in the new email system on the E75 and I get the feeling that a touch screen device with this email system would be more efficient. The directional pad is decent, but I do find I am using it a TON to navigate around the email system. I would actually like to see directional arrows on the keyboard that I could use to more quickly move around on the display.
Software - S60 3rd Edition, Feature Pack 2: The Nokia E75 has the latest S60 3rd Edition software that gives you some additional functionality and utility with the center directional pad. Some other personalization and phone settings are also provided in this Feature Pack. There are some new default folders as Nokia tried to ship the device with software that lets you quickly jump to folders and application shortcuts using the phone keypad (you did know that the keypad is mapped to the 12 icons on the display, right?). It actually took me a bit of time to find all the applications and settings because I wasn't used to this new default configuration. The great thing is that you can go in and customize these folders and organize your device just how you want. This is one aspect that is severely limited on the AT&T E71x that comes loaded with lots of unnecessary AT&T icons and other games and apps that AT&T required to be put on the device.
It is still a S60 device and as we now have the iPhone and Google Android devices, along with the upcoming Palm Pre with WebOS, the OS is starting to look a bit long in the tooth with a large number of icons, deep seated menu items, and other elements that are not always optimized for quick access with a friendly UI. I personally like the S60 and Windows Mobile operating systems that let me highly customize my devices and prefer this power and functionality over a slick UI for most operations.
The S60 3rd Edition OS is rock solid and I never, ever see my S60 devices randomly reset or lockup.
I am now also seeing a popup appear when charging is complete telling me to unplug the charger and save energy. I like these kind of thoughtful touches.
Experiences using the device: You have to hold the Nokia E75 in your hand to be impressed by the rock solid feel, heft, and pure elegance of the device. It is one of those phones that you just want to hold in your hand and feel its metal finish in your hand, very caressible. Stainless steel and heavy duty smooth plastic are used in the casing of the E75. The back battery cover is made of stainless steel (actually stamped inside the back cover) with a sleek lined feel.
I loaded up some videos after converting them on my MacBook Pro with the Internet Tablet tool and they place extremely well on the E75. I am finding more that I like about the E75 everyday and may have to buy the North American version with US 3G support when it hits the streets.
The E75 appears on the Nokia USA website as a pre-order device for $529, but I imagine other online outlets will have it around the $450 range at launch with the price dropping down to $400 or less after a couple of months.
Please send in any questions you have for me and I'll put together a follow-up post after a few more weeks of usage.