As Nokia's very first 3G phone with a full QWERTY keyboard, the US$500 E71 is an all-around improvement on its predecessor, the E61. It not only has a sleeker and more sophisticated curved design, but it packs a multitude of features ideal for both business and personal use.
This candy-bar phone is remarkably slim at 0.4 inch thick and fits as easily in your hand as it does in your pocket. And at a light 4.4 ounces, it won't weigh you down. Call quality on my end was generally very good, but some callers on the other end reported that my voice sounded tinny. I also noticed an echo in some calls. In the PC World Test Center's trials, the battery lasted 4 hours, 50 minutes--on a par with other 3G smart phones.
The E71's keyboard is smaller than the E61's, but a colleague with larger hands had no trouble using it. The raised, tactile keys enable quick and easy typing.
Nokia has made the sometimes confusing Symbian S60 platform more user-friendly by including customizable shortcut keys and a standby screen. You can access your home page, calendar, address book, and e-mail from the dedicated shortcut keys on the keyboard. These keys can be customized to launch another application of your choice. And holding down a shortcut key for a few seconds triggers a different action. For example, holding down the calendar key lets you enter a new appointment. You can add up to 15 shortcuts on the E71's standby screen. A new Switch mode allows you to create two separate standby screens to accommodate the business and personal sectors of your life. And finding a contact in your phone is as simple as typing the first few letters of their name.
The Web browser loads quickly, and pages look sharp on the E71's 2.3-inch QVGA screen. The d-pad offers easy mouse maneuvering, and Nokia's Mini Map feature, which zooms out to a full screen view of the entire page, is helpful for speedy navigation. Just find the section you want and zoom in.
Setting up personal e-mail is a snap, but business e-mail requires your IT department's assistance. The free Nokia Exchange client synchronizes your phone with push e-mail, contacts, and calendar appointments from Microsoft Exchange, but you cannot access e-mail subfolders--something I find baffling in a business phone. The E71 supports e-mail accounts from over a thousand ISPs as well as Gmail, Yahoo Mail, and Hotmail.
Many of the E71's applications, such as the Music Store and Push-to-Talk, are not available to American users. The inclusion of Nokia Maps 2.0 is a real gem, however. Turn-by-turn pedestrian and car navigation, voice guidance, satellite maps, and multimedia city guides are just a few of the features of Nokia Maps.
You can also share photos and videos via the preinstalled Ovi and Flickr applications, but given the camera quality, you might not want to. Pictures I took with the E71's 3.2-megapixel camera came out grainy and dark, particularly in bright environments.
The music players' audio quality is good, and it offers features such as an equalizer and balance control. Videos stored in the device's memory or on a card play smoothly in RealPlayer; however, flash videos in YouTube tend to skip frequently.
Unfortunately, the E71 comes at a steep price, as it is not currently offered by any U.S. carriers. You'll have to drop around $500 for it, so it is important to evaluate exactly what you want out of it. But overall, the E71 shines as a stylish device that does more than the average business phone.