It’s been well over seven months since Nokia’s E7 was first announced. In the world of today, using the PC analogy, it would be the same as if someone had just presented a PC with a 1 GHz CPU and 256 MB RAM. The rhythm imposed by Android phone manufacturers themselves is so relentless and unforgiving that you’ll have a very hard time staying on the road unless you’re holding onto the latest trends. Even if you manage to present an all-around perfect phone, it’ll only get a week or so of glory, as newer, faster, larger, better ones will follow suite immediately.
Whether it wanted to or not, Nokia was forced to wait this long before the presentation of E7. The production problems that appeared with N8 and C7 were initially underestimated, but cost the company dearly in the long run. According to what we’ve heard up to now, there was a problem with a new way of welding components onto the phone’s main PCB. The problem wasn’t localised, and a smaller amount of phones had major problems stretching across the majority of the system. The only possible solution was a complete replacement of the phone’s motherboard. This was one of the main reasons behind the wait for E7, which was initially envisioned as a business model and the cream of the crop of the S³ platform. And while you can expect an ordinary user to leave his/her phone for servicing for a few days, business users can’t be bothered to do that.
Symbian has always been known as a solid business platform, and Nokia has had remarkable success with the E7x phone series, which remain very reliable and favoured devices to this day. In a business phone model, the QWERTY keyboard goes without saying, and its quality is one of the phone’s main features. Using the robust design seen on N8, especially the metal body, the Finnish manufacturer has managed to add an exceptionally good keyboard with 42 keys. There was even space for cursor keys on it, which eases work incredibly and makes it unnecessary to move fingers away from the keyboard and use the touch-sensitive screen. The keys have a very mild backlight, perfectly visible in the dark. There’s a noticeable “click” every time a key is pressed in order to eliminate any doubt as to whether you’ve pressed it or not.
As the screen is at an angle compared to the keyboard, the mechanism is one of the most important issues. The mechanism itself is fairly simple, with only one metal strip as retractor. Regardless of the apparent simplicity, the phone is extremely firm in both positions, and there is no leeway whatsoever. The display is AMOLED with Gorilla glass protection, with the addition of Nokia’s ClearBlack technology, which provides extreme visibility even under direct sunlight, while the colour quality is one of the better we’ve had the chance to see lately. Unfortunately, despite the display growth up to 4”, its resolution has remained at 640x360. For a business device, this is basically a fatal move. While the 3.5” on N8/C7 didn’t make this feature too visible, E7 really underlines all the drawbacks of a low resolution, which is particularly noticeable in Office applications, e-mail management and web browsing.
The front of the phone contains a menu button, just like the one in N8, but this time, it’s positioned in the middle, which is a much more logical position in itself. As far as the control buttons, the left and right contain locking and sound sliders, respectively, as well as a camera button on the right side. The volume control slider is one of the worse solutions on the phone, as it’s turned out to be quite difficult to handle. The top edge contains HDMI and 3.5 mm plugs, as well as a microUSB connector, which can be used for charging as well as data transfer.
N8’s 1200 mAh battery can pull of some two days of normal phone use before a recharge. An intensive usage scenario will reduce this time to a single day. As the battery is inaccessible, if the phone freezes, all that remains is the trick with holding the on/off button for eight seconds. This move simulates the removal of the battery.
The camera is an EDOF unit from Nokia’s C7, with a resolution of 8 MP. It’s hardly a winner in the photography department, while proving to be somewhat better in the 720p video segment. Unlike all previously tested S³ models, this one doesn’t have an FM transmitter, which can be useful in certain situations.
And while there isn’t much to reproach to the phone’s design and business looks, there most definitely is as far as the OS and accompanying software are concerned. Nokia doesn’t seem to have even properly tried to distance E7 from models such as N8 or C7. The only noticeable difference in the menu seems to be that the Office folder has replaced the Videos one, and that there’s no Games folder in the Applications section.
If you’re expecting worldwide push mail support, forget about it! Nokia could’ve reactivated this feature in the E-series at least, so that you can receive e-mails regardless of your location. This way, what you get is a very modest e-mail client that supports MS Exchange, for example, but not IMAP4 with the IDLE extension. For a business phone model, this is just unforgivable.
As far as the remaining software is concerned, QuickOffice is a good suite, but with an ancient user interface, while the Vlingo voice application is a nice addition, but with a questionable value (no support for minor languages, for instance). And that’s it! Everything else is exactly the same as in N8/C7. Although this amounts to a decent software bundle (far more than any other OS will provide you with), we believe that it just doesn’t cut it for business users who expect a higher level of optimisation for the sizeable amount of money they’re supposed to invest.
To emphasize just how illogical some software aspects of this phone are, let’s just say that the Nokia VPN application was preinstalled, but without a SIP VoIP client! Furthermore, both applications are just as difficult and time-consuming to set up as they used to be 3-4 years ago. Typical Nokia-isms.
Nokia has recently presented an innovative new usage scenario in which a mobile phone can be used as a multimedia player in case that it’s connected with an HDTV via HDMI. This innovative technology is currently available to N8 and E7 users. While this may be an eye-candy feature to see, its usability is far from obvious. USB2GO, which has debuted on S³ phones, seems to have got a far more serious treatment on E7, rectifying all the flaws noticed in N8. Not only can you connect flash disks and standard keyboards/mice to the phone, but also other mobile phones, even USB card readers.
Unfortunately, all this is just too little. If Nokia had managed to present the Symbian Anna update (PR2.0), some impressions might have been better. However, even in this case, there’d still be the problem of the low-res display, which remains the single biggest handicap of this phone. Nokia E7 will probably remain the Symbian team’s final contender. We can but regret the few serious flaws that have gone unnoticed in this device, as it could’ve been remembered as one of the best mobile phones of Symbian OS, slowly riding into the sunset.
|CPU||ARM 11 680 MHz|
|Memory||16 GB storage, 256 MB RAM, 1 GB ROM, no memory card slot|
|Battery||Li-Ion 1200 mAh (BL-4D)|
|Display||4.0 inches, 360x640, capacitive AMOLED ClearBlack, 16M colors, Gorilla glass|
|Connectivity||GSM, Edge (class 32), HSDPA (10.2 Mbps), HSUPA (2 Mbps), WiFi 802.11 b/g/n, BlueTooth 3.0 A2DP, microUSB 2.0|
|Camera||8 MP, 3264x2448, fixed focus, dual-LED flash, video 720p @ 25 fps, video stabilization, secondary VGA camera|
|Operating system||Symbian S^3|
|Size||123.7 x 62.4 x 13.6 mm|