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Gadgets smartphones Software

Life with the Nokia E71

I’ve had my E71 for about 6 weeks now, and I thought that I’d write a few words here to let people know how I’m getting along. Would I recommend the E71 to anyone who is looking for a smartphone? Absolutely. Would I recommend it over the iPhone? That depends. If battery life is important to you, then certainly. If productivity software such as word processing, spreadsheets, etc, then yes again. I’d even say that the camera on the E71 is better than that of the iPhone (based on shots that I’ve seen on Flickr).

However, I have found the breadth of software available for S60 series smartphones to be somewhat lacking. I’ve spent ages looking for a native Twitter client (not J2ME) and I’ve only found one (WirelessIRC + Twitter), which is an add-on to an IRC client. The iPhone has lots of clients, many with their own twists on user interface. [Update: As of May 2009, there are a few more options, one of which, Gravity, is superb!]

Without going in to great detail of packages that I have tried and disliked, I do have an iPod Touch with which I can compare some apps. Generally, apps on the Touch are much nicer in terms of user interface. But I do know that battery life and a lacklustre camera on an iPhone would annoy me too.

However, I have a nice core of software on my phone that do most things that I would want to do whilst mobile. I have a phone whose battery lasts me 3 days of normal use (web browsing, Twittering, some music, some photos, updating the calendar, email) and I can coax more days out of it with less use.

So on the whole, I’m a happy E71 user, and hope that the phone lasts me a good 18 months or so before the next best thing is released!

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Gadgets nokia e71 smartphones

Nokia E71 Review: Part Three – Software

There is plenty of software available for Symbian S60 3rd edition phones such as the Nokia N95, and of course, the E71. Since acquiring my E71, I have tried out a lot of software, and after a flurry of installs and uninstalls, I have settled down to a core of programs that I regularly use (or have ‘just in case’).

Downloaded Software: Web service integration

Since the S60 platform has been around for a while, there are many excellent pieces of software about. Since I use many of the social networking and cloud-based services on the internet, I’m very interested in ways that I can integrate with them via my E71.

This list includes only software that I have downloaded, not preinstalled programs. These are nearly all native S60 apps, unless stated.

  • Skype (3‘s Skype client based on iSkoot, limited to 3 network)
  • Twibble (good Twitter client, J2ME)
  • Google Maps (works well with the internal GPS and can display KML files)
  • Google Mail (Gmail on the move, J2ME)
  • Google Search (add Google search to your homescreen)
  • Mobbler (superb last.fm client, with radio)
  • Socialight (Find out what’s been tagged near you, works with internal GPS, J2ME)
  • Yahoo! Go (nice way of browsing Yahoo’s services, including Flickr)
  • Fring (Skype, Twitter, SIP, Google Talk, etc)
  • CalSyncS60 (Sync your E71’s calendar with Google Calendar)
  • Jaiku
  • Opera Mini (Superb little web browser, J2ME)
  • Qik (stream live video to the internet from your phone)
  • FE Updater (update your location to Fire Eagle using the E71’s GPS)
  • Yahoo! Zonetag (geotag photos and upload them to Flickr, and update your location to Fire Eagle!)
  • NeoReader (barcode / QR code reader – read those funny squares you sometimes see)
  • JoikuSpot Lite (share your 3G data connection on the E71 via wifi – great for using with my iPod Touch)
  • Yahoo! Go (Flickr, maps, news, mail etc. Basically if you use any of Yahoo!’s services, download this! Also does location-based searches via GPS – very handy.)
  • Skyfire (amazing browser that supports Flash on the E71 – currently in beta. I’ve used it to watch videos on Vimeo and it worked really well)
  • Nimbuzz (a multi-talented instant messenger that supports Skype)

In short, this list of software allows me to use VOIP services (Skype is my service of choice), take and upload geotagged photos to Flickr, sync my calendar, stream video, find out where I am and how to get where I’m going, and keep up to date with what’s going on in the world via email and Twitter (and let people know what I’m up to, and where I am).

Supplied Software

The E71 comes with a bewildering range of software preinstalled. Picking some of the packages that I’ve found useful, here’s a brief summary:

QuickOffice 4 allows the creation of MS Office compatible documents on the move, as well as viewing existing ones. I’ve only used the Document side of this software, and it works pretty well. Basic formatting is straightforward, but to be honest I’d probably format a document later on my computer.

Nokia Maps 2.0 is installed on the 2GB MicroSD card that came with the phone, and doesn’t need network access to view maps. So finding directions etc is straightforward and quick. GPS lock is suprisingly quick if you have a good view of the sky. I haven’t yet made extensive use of it, but from a superficial play, it looks pretty good.

Dictionary is a great little app for looking up words on the move, or if you download extra language packs, makes it an excellent means for translating foreign words when you’re on holiday.

Adobe PDF reader is great for viewing PDFs, and the built-in Calendar app is reasonable enough to work out what you have to do, when, and have it remind you. The best bit about it for me, is that I can use CalSyncS60 to sync it with my Google Calendar (which in turn can sync with other calendars), so that I don’t have multiple versions and cause myself any social embarassment!

The “to do” function of the calendar is a little weak, as all to-dos have to be associated with a date, so I prefer to simply use the Notes app to jot down lists. I’m getting rather handy with the E71’s QWERTY keyboard and predictive text now 🙂

If any reader has come across some good “to do” software for S60, I’d be happy to hear from you!

I’ve had fun playing with the Nokia Sports Tracker to measure how far I have cycled or walked, and to see statistics such as average speed, maximum speed (35mph so far!), routes, graphs etc. Results can be stored locally or synced with the Nokia Sports Tracker website (I haven’t got around to doing that yet – not sure if I want to!).

Web Browsing

I’ve spent many hours surfing the web via my E71 when I have been away from home. The built in browser is based upon the Webkit engine (the same used in Apple’s Safari browser) and, since the phone comes with Flash Lite installed, I find it works very well for most of my needs. Zooming in and out of a page works well, with results being nicely anti-aliased (smoothed). I sometimes reach for Opera Mini, especially if I roam outside of the 3G network – it’s nice to have a backup that has pages compressed at the server-side.

The screen is sufficiently large enough, and especially with it’s natural landscape orientation, to browse the web for hours without becoming too cross-eyed. A combination of Nokia’s browser and Opera Mini allows most websites to be displayed correctly while you’re on the move. However, I look forward to trying out the new Skyfire browser when it becomes available.

What software is missing?

I would love to see a better “To Do” manager, and a blogging client that is compatible with WordPress. For the latter I have tried Scribe, but sadly it didn’t work on the E71. I’d also like a native S60 Twitter app, as Twibble, great as it is, does seem a little slow and clunky. The Jaiku client is wonderful, but not many of my friends use Jaiku – a Twitter equivalent would be great.

Other than that, at this point in time, it’s all there.

Mac Support

As a Mac user, connectivity with OSX is vital to me. Thankfully, Nokia have made the Nokia iSync plugin so that contacts and calendars are synchronised on my Mac, and the Nokia Multimedia Transfer program to sync photos with iPhoto and music with iTunes. In short, with these two pieces of software installed, the E71 plays very well with Macs.

Pairing the E71 via Bluetooth allows you to set up the device as a modem for your computer, and it’s pretty straightforward to do. Since the E71 supports Bluetooth 2.0 + EDR (Enhanced Data Rate) connections with newer Macs are rather nippy indeed.

Conclusion

Without reviewing every piece of software that came pre-installed, and every program I have downloaded in huge detail, I’ll summarise by saying that I can do pretty much everything that I want to do online, on my phone.

While S60 software seems to lack the finesse and good looks of software on the iPhone, it makes up in terms of functionality, and in my case, price. All of the software listed here either came with the phone, or is available for free online. I can type up documents, send and recieve emails, use Skype and other IM services, take photos and send them to Flickr, update and browse Twitter, surf the web, listen to internet radio, find out where I am and what’s around me. I can leave myself notes and appointments to remind me what I have to do and when. In short, the E71 is a mini computer, QWERTY keyboard included.

Oh yes, and of course, I nearly forgot – you can make phone calls on it too… 😉

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Gadgets Photography

Nokia E71 Review: Part Two – The Camera

I’ve now had my E71 for a couple of weeks or so, and I’m still loving it.

The camera is renowned (from reviews that I’ve read anyway) for being between utterly average and really poor. These definitions are, of course, subjective. After a few weeks of use, I would prefer to call the camera “idiosyncratic”. It behaves with quite a mind of its own.

So rather than going through the camera’s interface (that can be found elsewhere), I’ll talk more generally about it.

Let’s begin by letting this Flickr gallery do some of the speaking for me. Adjustments made to these photos range between none at all, to drastic. Most of them were done ‘rough and ready’ in iPhoto.

I’ll be tagging photos with “E71” for a while, so feel free to see what else I have taken over on my Flickr pages.

The phone that the E71 replaced was the 3 Skypephone, whose camera really is utterly, utterly awful (in the 1st generation phone at least). Bear that in mind when I say that I actually think that the E71’s camera is reasonable. I probably say this because I’m used to editing photos, and I don’t mind a bit of camera noise. I like to take arty (in the loosest possible terms) and unusual shots, and for the odd snap with friends, it fulfills those needs entirely.

I sometimes find that it takes an abnormally long time to take a photo, and often when this happens, it is very overexposed. However, in some of the occasions when this has happened, I’ve loved the results! In a way, since the camera is a bit of a novelty really, I love this unpredictability.

The Boot Inn

In low light conditions, there’s lots of noise, which according to some renders it unusable. I prefer to ignore that and use it to my advantage. I’ll make grainy and gritty photos instead:

Salisbury Gasometer II

I’m finding that the limitations of the camera is making me think more about composition, that’s for sure!

In the next post I’ll focus on some of the software that I have thus far installed.

A walk in the country
“A walk in the country” – The only adjustment was a slight desaturation. The lens blur is from the optics.

Categories
Gadgets Mobile

Nokia E71 Review: Part One

Last week I treated myself to a new Nokia E71 on the 3 network here in the UK. After suffering the crapness that is the text entry system on the 3 Skypephone, I was after something that would run Skype, but have an excellent web browser and keyboard.

I looked at many phones, but settled on an E71 for these reasons:

  • Excellent battery life
  • QWERTY keyboard
  • Decent Skype client (provided by 3)
  • 3MP autofocus camera
  • GPS
  • Symbian OS (smartphone goodness without Windows Mobile or Apple walled garden)

I won’t list all of the phones that I looked at, but suffice to say I looked at most of the advanced phones available today. I did settle on an N95, but the battery life would definitely have been an issue for me, being an itinerant fiddler when it comes to gadgets. If it has features, then I will use them. And I want to be able to use those features whenever I want, not think about what I can or can’t use because I want to make a call later. I talked to too many N95 users who too often looked depressed when I asked about battery life.

Anyway, I digress.

I will start my review with a summary, to save all but the ardent reader having to read any further. The phone is all that I hoped for given my budget. Visually, I think the E71 is a great looking device. I plumped for the white version, and with its steel chrome surround, and white LEDs, it’s very shiny. It feels solid in the hand, and there’s no creaking plastic to be found. It ticks all of the build-quality boxes that I had in the back of my mind.

Given that the phone has everything bar a coffee machine inside it, the battery life is phenomenal. As I write this, I have two bars of battery life left. Over the last three (yes, three) days since its last charge I have used just about every function for just about every purpose I could think of. And there’s still charge left. I have:

  • Taken 60 photos
  • Recorded 10 minutes of video
  • Browsed the web for about 4 hours using a mixture of 3G and Wifi
  • Twittered a lot
  • Sent some SMS messages
  • Made some calls (maybe 30 mins)
  • Used the GPS for about an hour
  • Used the streaming internet radio for about 30 minutes
  • Listened to mp3s while surfing the web (maybe about 2 hours)
  • Installed and played with 14 applications (I’ll list them in another post)
  • Played about with Qik (10 minutes)
  • Run Skype in the background for maybe 4 hours

Now, to me, that I have any charge left at all is somewhat amazing (actually, it’s just gone down to one bar as I write this). I’m fairly sure that it’ll last until I get home in a couple of hours to give it a charge. Now that’s what I call battery stamina.

I finally have a phone (well, it’s a mini computer really) that does the things what I want it to do, and has the battery life to let me do them.

I’ll be writing a series of posts about different aspects of the phone in the next few days, so stay tuned.

[Update – I took a couple of 3-4 minute calls on the way home, took a photo, and received a text on the 45 minute walk home. In the last call, the phone began to warn me about a low battery. When I got home I plugged it in to charge, and went to see if it was charged at about 8.30pm (Monday). I’d forgotten to switch on the charger! But the phone was still on, and had received a text! The thing seems to last forever. For reference, it had its last charge on Friday night.]