Don't be fooled by the pretty face
Aug 20, 2009
Review by tomstainer
Rated a Very Helpful Review
Pros:good looks, slim profile, solid build quality, sports tracker software
Cons:over-complicated and counter-intuitive user interface, non-standard plugs and cables, insultingly rubbish headphones
The Bottom Line: Avoid if you can, better alternatives out there.
Look and feel
Recommend this product?
Handle the Nokia E71 on its own and it feels like a slim, low profile mobile. It's when you compare it to other similar mobiles, such as the Blackberry Curve that you realise how clever the Nokia design is.
It's not actually that much smaller, but its streamlined look makes it look slim and sexy.
Build is robust and solid, all hefty metal finish, rather than the slightly bloated and creaky plastic construction of other competitors.
The look is very grown up with restrained class, very low profile USB-esque (see below) and charger ports and hard buttons. The qwerty keyboard is again restrained and attractive, with a less-is-more approach to additional buttons...steering clear of some manufacturers obsession with far too many gimmicky features.
The build quality continues with other nice details, such as the safety catches to release the battery cover (unlike the clunky crunch and slide of other phones) and the very neat camera lens, flash and mirror on the rear side of the phone.
Nokia only stumbles with its power button. A hideous, plastic red contraption which wouldn't look out of place on a child's toy. But this ugliness is in fact a warning that beauty is often skin deep.
We can all celebrate that mobile phone manufacturers have now agreed on an industry standard for chargers - which means we don't have to chuck out your old power packs and in-car units everytime you upgrade.
Hopefully this will spell the end of the ridiculous Nokia chargers, the plugs of which have got so small and delicate, you fear you're going to snap them off everytime you stick them in the phone.
Hopefully the new drive for industry standards will also force Nokia to standardise it's equally ridiculous "mini-USB" cables, a scam which makes sure you can only use Nokia cables and accessories - and if you lose the cable, are forced to buy a new one, rather than use a standard USB from another device. It wouldn't be quite so bad if, for example, the Nokia USB allowed you to charge via a USB port (or USB enabled in-car device), but no, that would harm sales of Nokia chargers of course!
The compatibility problem gets worse with the pitiful excuse for earphones they supply. The E71 is meant to be a high end product, which means its users would expect something a bit more than the free-in-a-cracker headphones shipped with the E71 (seriously, you might as well just dump these in the bin on opening the box). Nokia don't even think consumers springing for the E71 are worth foam earpads. And again, because Nokia use non-standard earphone jack sizes, you can't use your existing ‘phones to replace this rubbish.
Also in the box you'll find your expected PC (hard luck Mac users, nothing for you) suite, and an adequate leather (or at least leather effect) sleeve for the phone.
Nokia have stuck to their guns and certainly not reinvented the wheel for the E71. Quite literally. While others might be experimenting with scroll wheels or "pearls", Nokia sticks with its well-proved four way joypad. It does the job and gives a positive and firm method of selecting menu items and generally using the phone's features. Where it begins to show its limitations is when web browsing, where the clunky limited dimensional movement of the mouse pointer is frustrating and makes you begin to wish for a scroll wheel or roller-ball.
It comes with a full qwerty keyboard, again it's not anything particularly novel and we've seen this all before on the Blackberry and other smart phones. The keys are small and quite fiddly and typing is not as positive or easy as on other smart phones. Little details like the Blackberry's "double space" full stop shortcut seem to be missing and there's something about the layout of the various symbols and shift keys which seem to work against you when trying to type.
The screen is big and bright, but again, nothing remarkably different from most comparative smart phones on the market.
The menu system is frankly awful, annoying and counter intuitive. A "home" button will return you from applications (and application include things like your contact book and text messaging, apparently) straight to the "home screen" or toggle between the home screen and the "application view". This is fine, except when you toggle from applications in this way, they stay open and once more than two or three applications are open at the same time, the E71 starts whinging about lack of memory.
Accessing the menu of each application and "exiting" rather than hitting the home button solves this problem - but it will drive you up the wall when you forget.
The E71 also has an annoying habit of insisting on taking you back to the wrong part of an application when you return to it, or bringing you to bizarre and illogical places when you hit the back-button. For example, on the home screen if you highlight and select your push email list it takes you to your inbox - makes sense so far - however if you then hit the "back" key, it doesn't take you to the home screen again, but to the Messaging menu. The phone will also remember, for reasons beyond me, which sub-menu you last accessed in the main application menu system and takes you to that first when you press the menu button.
Creating messages can also be a frustrating experience, with the phone insisting you are sending an email, when you've asked to create a text - or refusing to budge from a message creation screen when you want to check your inbox.
Making a voice call continues the frustration. While sound quality is fine, the process involved in extracting a number from your contacts is frustrating (and the same goes for sending a text message etc). First you select the contact book, which brings up an alphabetical list. Then you select the contact. Then you have to select the number, which brings up another menu asking if you want to call, or create a message. Choose "call" and another menu box springs up, asking if you want a voice call or video call.
Messaging is the same seemingly endless stream of menu items and often you'll switch on your phone to discover an unsent text still waiting because you forgot to answer a last question along the lines of "do you really, really, really want to send a text?"
Again, annoyingly, if you use the home button to get back to the main menu screen, rather than the exit button on the contacts book, next time you access the contacts, it will jump straight into the contact you were viewing - requiring an extra and unnecessary key press to get back into the list.
My E71 came with a "mini office" suite installed, which I assume is standard. It's not half bad and with the expected stripped down features, will allow you do view and edit documents from most of the major office packages on the road - but don't expect much and with that keyboard, you're not going to be composing novels on the train.
There is the now expected MP3 player, radio and media player built in and again, while simplistic, they tend to do the job. The Nokia also offers Internet Radio, Jukebox and Mobile TV, but launch these and you'll get a warning screen that they basically hoover money out of your wallet at a prestigious rate for use, so probably best ignored.
Again, any smartphone worth its salt these days would be embarrassed not to offer a GPS function and the E71 is no exception. Mapping and position updating are fairly clunky, but useful if you've got nothing else to hand. The GPS function is usefully used in a SportTracker application which works a little like the iPod/Nike running gadget - tracking you while cycling, running or walking and allowing you to upload workouts to a website.
You can download additional games and applications - for a cost.
Battery life has been fairly poor in use and once Bluetooth is switched on, even worse. On my phone - and perhaps it is a bug or a problem - the meter seems to stick on "full" for a day or so and then suddenly records the battery is almost empty. Even more annoying is the "battery about to die" noise which the phone starts to make every minutes once it is drained...probably a way of switching it off, but can't face wading through the menu system.
Odds and sods
I'm never going to cover every possible use of the phone, but some issues I've come up against in use:
Bluetooth - very eccentric and range seems particularly poor compared to other handsets I've had. Can only get a stable connection with my TomTom satnav if the phone is tucked into the driver's sun visor...anywhere else in the vehicle and it keeps dropping in and out.
And the E71 is not fully compatible with TomTom's, which means while you can make and receive calls, you can't benefit from the funkier functions such as hands-free SMS messaging.
Modem - you are able to use the Nokia E71 as a modem, using either Bluetooth or the USB cable supplied. Except if you use anything other than a PC laptop, in which case it's a case of working out a complex workaround using freeware, or not bothering.
At first glance you fall in love with the Nokia. But like a lot of relationships based on love-at-first-sight, it doesn't take long for the little irritations to drive you up the wall. Those glossy good looks won't last long after you've hurled the E71 against walls and to the table in disgust as yet again the designed-by-a-sadist menu system fails to get you where you want to go. Your love will be unrequited as well - Nokia seem to have again shown how little it respects the consumers who have been so loyal to its brand. The Nokia E71 just doesn't seem to have had that much thought given to the user experience and even worse, comes with accessories which are insulting and tie you into spending more money with Nokia.
If this wasn't a work provided phone and I had a choice, it would have been sent back and replaced. As it is, I'm stuck in an arranged marriage - for better or worse.
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