Review by Sunetra Chakravati,
9/7/2009 12:06:50 PM
Excellent keyboard, great interface for email in Nokia Messaging, fast GPS, mammoth battery life
Users of Outlook that aren?t on the Exchange server won?t be able to access Outlook calendars, lack of available photo-sharing services, third-party apps not as well integrated as on other devices
Let’s face it, business devices are no longer just business devices. Nokia’s E72 might be the successor to its cult smartphone E71, but ease of use and intuitive email are no longer enough to keep a phone on five-star status. The E71 stomped all over its competitors, but despite new features in Nokia Messaging and a touch-sensitive trackpad, the E72 doesn’t manage the same, thanks to a paucity of, well, fun stuff.
The E72 is sleek and stylish, like a slim, streamlined BlackBerry, and the full QWERTY keyboard is as tactile as in its predecessor. Between the keyboard and 2.36-inch screen are a plethora of buttons to get you to what you need – home (long-press to switch between open apps), calendar, contacts and email – as well as a D-pad, call, end, and two hot keys. Interestingly, there’s also an optical trackpad in the centre of the D-pad, likening this to fellow business star, the BlackBerry Bold 9700, even further. It doesn’t work quite as well as in the Bold 9700 though – though it’s responsive and accurate, the fact that it’s surrounded by the raised edges of the D-pad means that swiping across it is just a little uncomfortable. We also experienced some glitches in the menu system when the trackpad and D-pad had the same function – for example, when trying to select a location in a drop-down menu, both simply scrolled through the list of options, so it was nearly impossible to actually select a location and skip to the next field. Otherwise, the user interface is as simple and easy to navigate as you’d expect of a Nokia. A bar of non-customisable shortcuts sits on the home screen – while these lead to useful apps including messaging, clock, maps and memo – it would be nice to be able to add commonly used programs such as Facebook or Chat, like you can with BlackBerry devices. There is also a block of space reserved for notifications of email, calendar appointments and Wi-Fi access points, and we love the addition of dual home screens for work-based notifications and social life ones. Spec-wise, you’ve got all the goodies you’d expect – Wi-Fi, high-speed HSDPA internet, GPS, Bluetooth, and a microSD slot – but what’s a pleasant surprise is the incredible battery life. Even leaving Wi-Fi, push-email and GPS running, we were able to go two nights without charging.
You can’t argue with Nokia Messaging, the new email interface that debuted just a couple of Nokia phones ago. You can get push support on up to 10 email accounts, and choose to have all, some or none present on the home screen. For example, on our work home screen, we put our Exchange email and Hotmail, and on our ‘social’ screen, just Gmail. Nokia Messaging is full-bodied and you’ll be able to view all the folders in your email as you would on desktop. There is a veritable cornucopia of shortcuts to manage your email, and there’s a great feature where you can press the right key on any number or email in order to save or contact it, or on web addresses to head there directly. The keyboard is trim but fits in numbers and symbols that double up on alphabet keys. Unlike many QWERTY boards, all the common punctuation marks – question, exclamation, comma, full stop, quote, and even ‘@’ – get their own button each, making this one of the best pieces of hardware for messaging. In fact, we can’t fault the E72’s hard specs – its A-GPS is flawless and pinpointed our location to an accuracy of about five feet, no mean feat compared with the 500m caveat of some devices. Nokia Maps, in version 3.0, is as full as ever, with useful features in the ‘Explore’ option, which lists places of interest near your current or intended location, and the ability to plan multi-stop routes. If you’re using it as a sat-nav for driving, you can also choose dashboard view, which shows current speed, GPS location and altitude. The E72 also comes with a 10 day trial of Nokia Maps Premium, which offers extras such as live traffic info.
OK, so the E72 is a ‘business focused device’ – but if it’s going to have social networking features, then we’re going to judge those features. For example, the Chat app is curiously anaemic. You can use Gtalk for instant messaging and a couple of VoIP apps – but what about the more popular Windows Live Messenger, which is related to Hotmail anyway? Nor is it downloadable from Ovi Store, though you can get all-in-one IM program Nimbuzz. At least incoming chats are pushed to the home screen though, unlike the Facebook app specially for the E72 and E71. It’s not very well integrated as not only are notifications not pushed to the home screen, it doesn’t even automatically update in the background. Instead, you’ll have to manually open the app and hit refresh. Then there’s the photo-uploading service – or lack thereof. The five-meg camera is pretty decent with LED flash and auto-focus. Though its lens is nowhere near the beefiness of the N86 8MP, it took good shots in both daylight and low light, with only just a little overexposure on the flash. Once you’ve snapped a photo, you have the option to send it via MMS or email – which works well enough – or ‘share’ it. While you might reasonably assume this meant with the social network of your choice, or at the very least, Facebook, the only available service at press time was Ovi by Nokia, despite a misleading menu option to ‘add new services’. Speaking of, we found Ovi Suite as a set of services a bit disappointing. For example, if you use Outlook but aren’t on the Exchange server, you can use the Ovi Suite PC software to sync contacts with Outlook – but not calendars. It works as a backup service for contacts and media files, but little else.
With the deluge of high-end smartphones that pack as much power as good looks, having great hardware with imperfect software just isn’t going to cut it anymore. If we were able to easily find a third-party app to get Outlook calendars onto the E72 or access other photo-sharing services, then the deficiencies of Ovi Suite wouldn’t be half as annoying. Of course, taken purely as a business device whose primary feature is email, the E72 is fast and easy to use and its incredible battery life will win it plenty of fans. It’s just not a phone for everyone, but if you’re on the market for some intensive email, this is the top of the line. -Natasha Stokes