Nokia E61 Review or How to get organized?
Quite a few significant events have happened to me in the last week, my yearly national service commitments, winning a Red-Dot, and managing to sell my home (another story on its own). Another significant event worth mentioning was the purchase of my new Nokia E61.
I have to declare that I think I have finally found the right phone for me. The Nokia E61 has the right blend of phone, personal information management (PIM) and miscellaneous functionality.
In fact this entire blog post was drafted on the E61 phone, with the pictures added posthaste. Well that was not entirely true as this file was some how corrupted during transfer to my windows desktop, possibly due to the different OS. Not only that, after managing to extract this data, I accidentally deleted this file. To cut the story short, after installing 3 different un-delete or un-erase programs we are painfully back to regular programming.
For the longest time I have always been a Palm OS man, starting all the way back as an early adopter of the Palm Pilot 1000. Unfortunately a few years ago, I have found the Palm OS losing site of its simplicity roots in favor for more multimedia functions probably to compete with Microsoft’s Pocket PC OS.
To me all I need for my day to day work is a calendar, to-do lists, memo and most importantly the address book. Thus I was never interested with all the new multi-media functions and my last palm I owned was my aging Sony Clie TG-50. This is probably why the E61 appeals to me so much; the layout is so similar that it’s nostalgic.
Since discovering the TG-50, I have always been a keyboard man, as using a stylus annoys me to no end. I often find styluses too dinky or hard to hold and perhaps because I’m left handed, icon orientation and comfort was always a problem. So much so I stopped using a fully touch screen PDA, and often used my desktop PC to enter data. Added to that my dislike of carrying 2 devices (a phone and a PDA) in my pocket, missed meetings were a common place thing for me.
Thus reluctantly I embraced convergence and migrated to a PDA phone simply because I needed, in my front pocket, a phone that could remind me of my schedule and contacts. However after using an O2 XDA mini and the HP iPaq rw6828, I found the Pocket PC’s mobile phone functionality horrible and very lacking. Connection drop outs were common, missed calls, unable to hear ring tones and poor phone functionality (poor speaker, lacking of a speaker phone and keypad function) are all good examples.
Thus I realize that no matter what convergent products can never be a perfect blend. They are either a PDA first and a phone second, or vice versa being a phone first and a PDA second. From my 2 Pocket PC phone experiences, I knew what I needed was a phone first and a PDA second, as my PIM needs is very basic and minimal.
So enters the Nokia E61 smart phone. Notice the term smart phone, rather than PDA phone!
Design and Features
The E61 has certain simplicity to the design that appeals to me, and it’s my first Nokia phone after almost 4-5 years.
Personally I was turned off from Nokia as a while back they had a range of over styled, over priced and under spec phones that saw a lot of their market share lost to Sony-Ericsson and Samsung. I myself moved over to embrace the clean lines and bright screens of the Sony-Ericsson phones, even if their operation system and usability was not as good as Nokia.
However with the N-Series and E-Series, I think Nokia is finally starting to do something right.
The E61 is not the sleekest of looking phones when compared to say the Moto Q, but the box built (i.e. out of the box) is a very tight and solid package with little housing flex. The stamped metal housing and the metallic color just screams business. You can just feel the quality of the housing and fitting of the parts when you remove the battery door for your SIM card and SD card insertion.
The phone size is pretty large, about 1.5 the width of most “candy bar” phones, thus causing one reviewer to describe the use of the E61 as “putting a piece of toast to your ear”. However personally, the thinness of the phone makes up for it and allows it to sit comfortably in the front pocket of your business pants avoiding the perennial “are you happy to see me” jokes.
The 320X240 landscape screen is both bright and detailed perfect for looking pictures, surfing the internet and a mini torch light in the dark!
The main feature of this phone is the full range keyboard, thus enticing some people to coin this phone as the Blackberry “killer”. The key’s haptic feedback is very good and do not require a lot of strength to engage it. However the keys are small and I could see people with big fingers having higher typo rates, but my ex-colleague who introduced this phone to me has Dutch hands twice the size of my Asian hands and has no problems with the phone. My accuracy in typing is about 99% most of the time.
I did find some problems with the overlay of some symbols on the keyboard. For example I tend to use the exclamation mark frequently, but somehow the designers put it as a second tier symbol, and the question mark and “@” as a first tier one.
Furthermore typing on this phone is a two handed affair via your left and right thumb edges. It’s very difficult to use it in one hand as the width of the phone causes your thumb’s range of motion to travel to its extremities. 2 thumb typing is perfectly fine for a short chat message, email or a blog draft, but it does get tiring to type the longer messages or documents. Thus I had to move this post to my desktop for faster more comfortable composition.
Another down side is the lack of a digital camera in the phone. However I have found I did not have much of a need for one, and most of the time, I just Bluetooth pictures over for viewing. Furthermore I work in sensitive areas where photography is banned, thus this phone is a safe companion. Sneek peeks did have it that the next version, the E61i, will have a camera. It is a 3G video phone after all, and might be the one for you if a camera is a must.
Interestingly enough even though people call this phone the “Blackberry killer”, I actually don’t use the push mail functionality. It’s not because of the price (SDG$39.95/month), but I personally don’t want to be THAT contactable. Together with its WLAN functionality, I can jump on my home’s WIFI network, or any WIFI network for that matter, to check my emails without ever having to logon to a 3G network. This again makes the need for a Push Mail service for me redundant. The other things I use the keyboard for are SMS text messages, adding meeting and contacts into the phones PIM and writing memos.
Speaking of the PIM, the Symbian S60 V3.0 operation system is a dream. Some people have mentioned that it has a “steep” learning curve. I disagree. Together with Nokia’s legendary “human technology”, I found the operating system logical and very mobile phone orientated. Thus my advice is to throw out what you know about Microsoft Pocket PC and think like a phone, or else you will be confused.
The Symbian S60 PIM works beautifully with Outlook or Lotus Notes. Something I found lacking when I converted my Palm OS to Outlook. However as expected not all fields are transferred over correctly, and you might have some of your information in the wrong place or lost. Not to worry though, I got about 95% of all my data transferred correctly.
With customer centric customization in mind, Nokia has also made the Symbian platform as customizable as possible. You can switch menu icons around, re-arrange short cuts to different function, and install pre-built themes to customize your look on your phone. A great theme collection can be found here to start you off. All in all, I personally feel that Nokia has done a good job in creating a flexible OS design that allows you to really make the phone your own.
Hints and Tips
1) Before you Sync your phone, make sure you set it so that your Deskstop overrides the information on your phone. In other words make sure you select the option to delete everything on the phone before writing the information on to it.
2) Symbian’s PIM views memos and to-do lists different from Outlook or Palm OS. They are linked to a particular day or due date instead of viewing it separately. It’s pretty logical, if you think about it, as it views memo or to-do lists as items to action on that day. Thus before you Sync Outlook to your new E61, I suggest you add completion dates to all your memos or to-do lists. Otherwise when you Sync it all your memos and to-dos will be lumped onto the day you Sync it.
3) Not all software operators have Symbian certification, thus causing some of your downloaded software you install to fail. What you would need to do is go into the application manager and turn off the software certification. Don’t worry software that alters the Symbian OS will NEED to have software certification before it can do it. So we are safe either way.
4) Installation and removal of software is simple but has it problems especially if you are installing it into the memory card. If you are upgrading your memory card, I suggest you uninstall all your programs installed in the old memory card, and then reinstall it into your new card. Otherwise the system will not allow you to install the same program onto your new card.
Phew! This post has gotten a lot longer then I expected it to be. If you need any more additional reading or community help, you can either leave me a comment or there are quite a few great sites that focus solely on the Nokia E61 product. I do suggest you have a look to get a good fee and get it while you can! Please keep in touch and do share if you have any great adventures with you E61.
Further reading: e61life, E-Series Blog, myE61, All about Symbian, Techmundo 2.0 , and Darla Mack.